Death is a scary thing. And yet it is one of the most uniting things that human beings can experience because, let's face it, there isn't one of us yet who hasn't died. And, like it or not, I don't expect that to change any time soon.
As I've begun to expand the number of clients I see who are either currently facing cancer or living with a cancer history, I've been intrigued by some of the reactions I get from people, often by other massage therapists. I've been asked, how do you do it, isn't it depressing? Don't you get scared? Why do you want to be faced with illness so often? And honestly, every time, each of these questions has taken me by surprise. I guess to me it seems so obvious. But perhaps it is my reaction that is surprising to many and not the questions they ask. Perhaps I do need to offer some insight to my personal reasoning and let you form your own thoughts on the subject.
I began to explore the niche of oncology massage right after graduating from massage school. My family has its share of both survivors and those lost to various cancers and I guess the idea just intrigued me on a personal level. At the same time I found myself working with a dear friend who was all too quickly dying from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. I'm not gonna lie, it was scary on all fronts. I had to learn how to be strong and supportive and professional for my friend while dealing with my own emotions of losing him. Through my training for oncology massage I had to learn about types of cancers and corresponding treatments and all the good, bad and the ugly that can accompany both. And of course, with all of that, I had to start to face my own fears about illness and death. I had to look all of that information square in the textbook and recognize that yeah, it could happen to me. It truly could happen to any of us.
So maybe there's the easy part of my answer. Maybe that is one reason why I do it. Because if and when it comes for me, I hope I have a support system the size of Texas that not only includes family and friends, doctors and nurses, and a host of really poisonous drugs to beat the crap out of it, but I also hope there are people who are willing to face their own fears to be a support to me. Me the whole person. Not just the part of my body that needs to be treated to live, but the whole entity of me that needs to be treated to survive and live well, or perhaps even, to die well. If you look at it that way maybe the reason I serve others dealing with cancer is because I hope my time and efforts, if needed, will some day serve me back.
I'll admit there is another reason, less karmic, more in the here and now, and to me it seems even more selfish than the first.
There is a show called "The Big C" where the main character is dying from cancer. That's the premise of the show. Morbid eh? But you know what? It's not. In my view, this show captures the sadness and the scariness of dealing with a life threatening illness, but it also shows the humor and love and hope that can still exist despite one. And with almost every episode (especially the further in you get) I watch and find myself laughing and crying and feeling frightened and scared and hopeful and humbled all at the same time. And those feelings, having all of those seemingly conflicting feelings in the same moment, makes me feel even more connected to my life and the rest of the human race. It breeds gratitude within me and helps me to appreciate this life that I have right here and now, in all of it's messy emotional glory, regardless of what may come.
And so that's the other reason of why I am in oncology massage. The reason that wasn't the initial draw but is what has drawn me further in. To me it is an honor and a humbling experience to serve someone who trusts you enough to be a part of their life while they are living it: good, bad, or ugly. I laugh with these people and care for these people, and sometimes, on the inside or after I go home, I might cry a little too. I have only lost one client to cancer out of many who are currently beating it or are now considered healthy and cancer-free. So does that sound depressing? To share a human experience with someone that let's me leave a session wanting to cry and laugh and pray and hope all at the same time? Maybe it does to you and I can respect that, but not to me. To me it is a gift. It's not for everyone, but right now it is definitely where I fit.
To all of my clients who entrust their time, their bodies, and themselves with me, whether you are fighting the Big C or blessedly, perfectly healthy, thank you. You give me the gift of enhancing my life every day by sharing yours with me.
With joy and ease,
Unbeing dead isn't being alive.
~ E.E. Cummings
If you would like to learn more about how therapeutic massage might help you or someone you love who is facing a life threatening illness, please contact me and we can discuss your unique needs.
It seems trivial but for a while I found myself searching for an email "tag line". You know, that sign off that people often have, be it "regards" or "warmly" or even the most formal "sincerely". When I was in the corporate world I often went with "best" and in my personal life I adopted "be well".
In the world of bodyworkers you often find these to be a bit more elaborate or much more personal. I admire the people who are comfortable signing off with "love," regardless of their relationship to you, but I'm honestly just not there yet (outside of those to whom I would actually say "I love you"). One of my favorites already belongs to a friend - "all things good" - so I really don't think it would be appropriate to snitch that one! The grandest I've seen is "basking in the vast ocean of pleasantness", which began to make a whole lot more sense once I entered the world of the Trager Approach (intrigued? more about Trager to come in a future post!).
What if mine isn't catchy enough? Or what if it isn't relatable enough? "Be well" is fitting and lovely but I suppose I was hoping to find something that feels more personal. And so I tinkered. And I thought. I thought about what is it I'm trying to communicate to people with this closing. What am I hoping to send out to them from within myself? And I started to realize what I have come to experience as I've transitioned into my new career... the consistent feelings of joy and ease.
Life is easier and more joyful now then it was a few months ago. Not because this work isn't hard sometimes but because even when it is, I am still at ease, and filled with joy. It's scary to know that there isn't a steady paycheck coming in but still I greet each day joyfully, even the ones without a client scheduled. It can feel overwhelming to know that I am the only one responsible for what I get done as a self-employed entrepreneur, yet I can still find ease knowing that I will ultimately figure it out in the end. And on those mornings, or in those moments, when I'm not sure what I'm doing or the fester of doubt creeps in, I can remember these two words, these two feelings, and I am able to pull them out from deep within and find the ease and joy again.
Will an email signature really make a difference for the big picture? Will my friends, family and clients "get it"? Maybe, maybe not. It seems a little silly to put so much thought into something that could be wrapped up with a simple "thank you." But to me this email closing feels powerful. It feels representative of a new phase of my life and so I have embraced it.
This is who I am now and I'm learning to not only feel it within but to also express it wholeheartedly. To accept it. To celebrate and share it. Life can be joyful and life can be easy if we let it. Not every minute of every day, but yes, at some point each day this is the way I feel. This is what I hope to share with others, through my work and through my presence. So this is what I'm wishing you - both joy and ease in some part of each and every day. Forgive me if this seems a bit of an unconventional way to say "sincerely" but it's what I feel and for that I'm grateful.
With joy and ease,
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world...
- Louis Armstrong
It's a common question. You meet someone and are making small talk and they are trying to get to know you. It can be a large part of how we define ourselves. It makes sense that it always comes up. You know the question.... "Nice to meet you, so what do you do?"
Being from DC I'm used to this question. It is the nation's capital after all, and it's full of important people and people who think they are important and work seems to matter around here, a lot. Until recently it never really occurred to me to think too much about my response. But not too long ago I realized I was experiencing a major shift in how I would come to answer this question.
I have been really lucky to have a variety of great jobs in my lifetime. Some have paid well, some have been a lot of fun, and some taught me valuable lessons, even at the cost of my stress levels. But up until recently if you asked me what I did for a living, I would give you a simple answer of "oh I do xyz for company abc" and move on to another topic. Because that summed it up. The job, be it finance, or retail, or human resources, was just that, a job that I performed. Something I "did".
As I was going through massage therapy school and still working full time in my office world, I found myself having to give two explanations. "Well, you see, I do human resources and employee relations for a small government contractor, but I am also a massage therapy student and plan to move to that profession full time, hopefully soon!" It was such a subtle shift. Do you see it? I only had to change one word and it happened subconsciously.
I am a massage therapist. For me, massage therapy is not something I "do", it's actually who I am. I AM a massage therapist. This work I do has become a piece of what defines me. I can go on and on about the things I've learned and am continuing to learn. I can endlessly discuss anatomy (or more likely just start rambling at length about some body part until I get a deer in the headlights look and realize I need to wrap it up). I find myself staring at people as they walk down the street, mesmerized by their walk, trying to figure out what is causing that slight catch in their left hip or noting the very fine gastrocnemius definition of the woman in high heels (sorry there I go again!). And all of this fills me with giddy excitement.
For the first time ever, I not only have a job, I have a calling. I have entered a profession that I love and something inside of me has actually shifted. That is purely amazing.
I hope this doesn't sound discrediting to all of my old jobs because they did have their purpose. In fact, I know I wouldn't be here without them. And for every person out there getting it done with a job that's "good for now", well, good for you. It doesn't make you less of who you are. It's just that this somehow now makes me more of who I am. I am a massage therapist. And for that I am profoundly grateful.
With joy and ease,
If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are- if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
- Joseph Campbell
I recently realized that I have been standing in my own way of achieving one of my goals. It's something that happens from time to time, and it often goes unnoticed, but this time I was lucky enough to take a step back and see that the roadblock holding up my progress has been, well, me.
I've never blogged before but when I recently rebuilt my website I decided I really wanted to give it a try. I purposefully chose a site builder that had a simple blogging page that I felt would allow me to easily get started. And start I did. I drafted several different blog posts over a pretty quick period of time. I have continued to jot down ideas for future posts as they jump into my brain and I even begin crafting them in my head excited at the prospect of sharing these ideas with others. And yet here we here are, June 25th, and until now, I haven't posted a single thing except "Coming Soon!" and that was almost a month and a half ago. So what's that all about?
I'll admit it. I'm terrified. And intimidated. The world is full of really good bloggers, both personal and professional (I'm friends with several). They are witty and engaging. They bare their souls or share expertise from their field and their writing is something for even this former English major to envy. So how can I jump into that same pool and expect to have a presence that matters? It became easy to find excuses not to hit "publish" on those drafts or to find other things that really needed to be done first. I would get around to it. But I didn't. Until today.
You see the problem with standing in your own way is that deep down you know you also have the power to get out of the way. In fact you are the only person who has the power to move forward whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. So let me digress for a minute (I promise I'll bring it back around).
I've had a long time goal of becoming a better bike rider and commuting to work on my bike. I bought a bike a couple of years ago, a really sweet hybrid, and I rode it around my neighborhood all of about a dozen times. In two years. One day not too long ago I realized that the only way to become a better bike rider was to actually start riding my bike. So I did and today I completed my third official commute to work as a "cyclist" (ok maybe I can't go that far). I even did that AFTER riding to and from yoga class. So that was a double whammy commute in one day!
I'm not gonna lie, it's not pretty. I would love to be one of those leisurely beauties in a dress cruising down the road with their hair blowing in the breeze and flowers overflowing from their wicker basket. Nope, I wear my helmet and my pants are rolled up kind of funky because I learned about what happens when pants get caught in a chain. I know I'm not a great rider so I don't go in the street unless there is a dedicated lane, which puts me on the sidewalk a lot constantly stopping to let pedestrians have the right of way. I'm not the badass cruising down the street like a dolphin shifting between water and air with effortless ease. But I am riding. And with each ride, I get stronger, I go faster, and I'm more confident in my abilities. With each ride I am more comfortable on my bike and how I fit into everything around me. And on my ride home today, feeling pretty proud and accomplished, that's when it hit me. It's kind of like riding a bike.
So here I am. This is my first official blog post. My hope and plan is to share information about massage therapy, self-care, a bit about who I am and who knows what else. I love the work I do and the people I work with and I believe this blog may provide a valuable outlet for me and (hopefully) an interesting resource for others. And I hope that with each post I share I will become more confident in who I am as a blogger and how I fit into this world around me.
So I ask that you give me a chance as I begin to navigate these bloggy waters and hopefully we will discover wonderful new things together. I appreciate your support and invite you to stay tuned...
With joy and ease,
Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone. -Robert Allen