Sunday, September 14, 2014

Losing One's Point of Reference Makes All Things Possible

"What's on the top floor?" she asked, peering up the twisting wooden stairway.

The owner winced. "Nothing safe. Nothing good."

"Well, then," she whispered, already on the third stair.

At the top, she stood alone, looking around at gleaming plank floors, mostly bare of furniture. Wide windows, no curtains, The light streaming in had a foreign, rushing quality; she'd never seen anything like it.

"We're at the very top, you know. We're going very fast."

She jumped in surprise. She hadn't seen the man sitting quietly on a cushion in the alcove to her right.

"The top? Of what? The house?"

He smiled, knowing. "The world." Nodding toward the window, he sat back and waited.

She was grateful she'd put her hands on the window frame, because the sight of everything flying beneath her at unimaginable speed shook her; she crumpled to the floor.

"How? How is this possible? How can you just sit there?"

"Because we are all traveling unbelievably fast. Always. We're just the ones who can see, you and I. Try again."

More cautiously this time, she edged to the window.

She was in the front seat of the roller coaster. In the engine of the train. On the back of an eagle.

"That we are standing still, safely on the ground, is illusion. No one is. But most of the time, we don't know to look out the windows. Sit with me a while. Try to hold both these thoughts in your mind: safely sitting on a rug on the floor, and at the same time precariously flying through everything we've ever known."

She sat with the small man. He inched closer so his knee was touching hers. They both sat perfectly still, racing at top speed through the universe.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tales From the (Massage) Table: "Doing" Love

No, it's not a typo.

I didn't mean "making love." I'm not that kind of blogger.
And I didn't mean "doing what I love."

I'm talking about what it feels to give a massage. I'm certainly not falling in love with my clients, or really even getting to know them enough to truly love them. Somehow, I feel that to love someone, I have to know them. But I am "doing love."

Recently, a return client came in (I've just seen her a few times over a year or so), and said that she just needed to chill the heck out. Stress! Frustration! Tension! She was frazzled.

You know that I grew up in a family of artists, right? So even though I'm a musician by trade (and, of course a massage therapist), I think in images often. As I stand outside my massage room, waiting to enter, I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths and empty my mind of images, of words, and I stand with my palms facing the door, letting myself focus on the feeling of my own energy in my hands. After a few moments of this, sometimes I feel the skin on my face prickle a little, sometimes my tongue. I have no idea if it's real or my imagination, but it's become a tradition for me. Focus. Empty. Wait. Feel.

The moment I walked into the room, I could feel her zingy, frayed breath. I stood by her head and centered myself again. My palms warmed and felt sparkly, and as I began the massage, she sighed and settled in. Eyes closed, it felt like she was a black velvet jewel box.  All I could feel on the outside was the fuzzy surface, but there was something inside.

Halfway through the session, I had her roll over so she was face-up, and I began luxuriating through the scalp and shoulder massage. I love this part, because by then, the client trusts me and can deeply relax. A thoroughly relaxed person is beautiful in the way no one can be when awake and alert. It's a pure beauty, a simple, glowing shine.

Working through her hair, I closed my eyes again, and and image began to form again.  The jewel box was opening, and inside was a star. The star was shining through the cracks of the jewel box, and I felt it like sunshine on my face, warm and healing. Her skin was fizzing with life, and my hands rejoiced. Her hair was energized and springy. Her shoulders were pliable. She let out a long, gusty sigh and fell into sleep. I could feel it when it happened. The floating thoughts and worries and wonders and busybusybrain fell away, and there was just space and serenity and childlike contentment.

When I finished at her feet a half hour later, I spent a moment suspended between her energy and mine. I hovered my fingertips over the tips of her toes and breathed deeply, feeling the double current running through me. Silently, I asked her to release me to my own self, and thanked her for trusting me. As though a magnet had been turned away, my hands floated away, and I breathed again. Just me by myself, in that breath.

Flicking my fingers at the sky just in case there were lingering threads connecting us, I opened my eyes and whispered to her that it was time to rejoin the world. She smiled and sighed happily.

That, to me, is "doing love." It's finding my own spark, my own current, and touching another's with the intent of doing good, and then separating again, each better off than before.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tales From the (Massage) Table: You Know What's NOT Relaxing?

In the parlance of the day, I shall write this in the form of an open letter.


In my recent quest to avoid almost certain repetitive-music-induced narcolepsy, I have been delving into a colleague's stash of "relaxation" CDs. After a few days of sampling the more frequently-used discs, I would like to submit a list of things that are not, in fact, relaxing to hear during a massage.

  • Loud, sudden, frightening thunderclaps that inspire a client to bolt upright and cry, "DAMN, THAT WAS CLOSE!"
  • Crickets.  I know, they seem like they'd be soothing.  They are not.
  • Monkeys. Really, does this need explanation? Actually, primates of any kind.
  • Dogs and/or wolves. And possibly bears.  Barking, baying, howling, and growling.  That caused my pleasant foot rub to seem like something out of a Goosebumps movie.
  • Percussion.  No matter how gently played, a hi-hat is disruptive. Also tom-toms, snare, triangle, and any other percussion toys.
  • Tornado winds. Scary.
  • Finally, cows.  I am not kidding here.  I know they're gentle and have big brown eyes, but hearing one mooing in the distance is disconcerting.
Thank you for your attention in this matter. 



Monday, April 28, 2014

Asking Questions vs. Asking For A Favor: How To Tell What's What

In  a recent mental argument I had with someone else (you know the kind -- where someone says something annoying/stupid/horrible in passing, you hear it and then you argue with them in your head for the rest of the day, even though you don't know them and will never have an opportunity to tell them what you think), I noticed that a lot of people think they are asking questions when they are really asking favors of people.
"So, SchweetieWumpkins, will you be joining me tomorrow for the fundraiser for Hard Shell Lobster Rights? We're running the bake sale."

"Um, no."

"BUT SHWEETIEWUMPKINS -- I want you there with meeeeeee!  I really thought you'd do it! "


"Seriously?  I asked you very nicely!  You're such a jerk!  Why won't you do it?"

"Because I don't f$(#ing want to! Leave me alone!"

--end scene--

In my head, I was scowling and muttering, "If you ask someone, you have to be able to gracefully accept that they might say no.  When someone is asked IF THEY WANT to do something, they are perfectly within their rights to say no.  No defense of their answer is needed. "

If, on the other hand, you really NEED the other person to do something for you, and you know you are not really giving them much of a choice in the matter, that is called 'asking for a favor,' and that goes something like this:

"Ok, SchweetieWumpkins, I have a favor to ask of you.  I'm doing this fund-raiser thingy tomorrow. I need somebody to cover the bake sale booth for a couple hours.  I know you probably wouldn't do this if I weren't begging, but Marge got sick, and she was going to cover noon to 2, and ... well, I need help.  What do you say? Could you do it?"

"Well, yeah.  I guess so."
 [OR:  "Shoot. No, I can't. I wish I could help you out, but maybe next time?"]

"Ok, thanks!"
[OR: "Ok, thanks anyway."]

---end scene----

I keep telling my kids that if you are truly asking someone a question, you simply MUST be prepared that the answer might not be what you want.
If you really need a certain outcome (like with a child who needs to get dressed), you tell them "You need to get dressed now."  Then you give them choices you can be happy with.  "Do you want to wear the blue dress or the t-shirt and jeans here?"
Acting like they have a choice when they don't is dishonest. *

What say you?

*Yoinked almost directly from Love and Logic TM.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

On A "Mom's Day Off" -- Pent-Up Thoughts

Be prepared for rapid changes of subject.

Juno the Pup

  • We have a puppy, in addition to our two older dogs.  Not my idea, but she's cute and relatively smart and well-behaved.  THANKFULLY.  

HOLY CRAP.  I really, really hope not.
  • I have been having piles and piles of anxiety dreams in the last several months, some of which combine my areas of typical anxiety dreams.  They include the usual: giving a performance wherein I realize I have forgotten how to play the flute OR my flute falls apart OR some other iteration of this problem.  Or I have lost one of my kids or they have been hurt or kidnapped.  Or my house is on fire.  OR every time I try to speak to someone, my voice diminishes, I lose my voice entirely, or they can't understand me.

  • I've been having sudden deep flashes of insight into life situations.  It's peculiar to abruptly see the best path to take, or to experience forgiveness, or to feel peace with a decision.  I keep thinking, "Really?  That's it? No angsty navel-gazing? Huh."
File:Silver ribbon.png

  • Recently, a client of mine asked me if I was just naturally so cheerful, or if I had to work for it.  I said that I think I'm just a "see beauty if at all possible" kind of person, and if you keep your eyes open, it's everywhere.  However, later in the morning, we discussed methods of combating clinical depression (medication, homeopathic stuff, exercise, meditation, therapy, etc.) and she said, "But you said you were naturally cheerful! How can you be both cheerful and depressed?" I had to explain (with some difficulty) that depression (when untreated, anyway, in my case) is like the ground level.  If it's mushy and gross, it can and probably will affect the pond that's on it, but it's still possible to float on top sometimes. Sometimes there are waves, sometimes it's so nasty that the water gets sucked down into it and you're just lying there in the mud, and sometimes it firms up and the water is nice and calm. But they're definitely not the same quality of thing.  One is surface and one is structure. One can also be sad, but be stable underneath.  It goes both ways. I think she was surprised by how readily I admitted to my depression, and how honest and unembarrassed I am.  I look at it like my thyroid deficiency.  It's chemical, and mostly treatable, and it sometimes affects lots of stuff, but mostly it's just there, part of my makeup. It's not something I did or that anybody gave me or did to me. And I don't hide my thyroid thing (although I rarely discuss it because it's pretty boring), but if there's somebody suffering with the kind of stuff I did before I got treated, I'll share my experience and suggest they talk to their doctor, because feeling bad/exhausted/gross when you have some thing totally treatable is a ridiculous waste of time.

  • People who pick on one stupid detail that is completely off-topic and use it as an excuse to push their own agenda:  annoying, but suddenly, much easier to just mentally dismiss these days.  Like one person talking about beautiful art from long ago, and how lovely the painters made the skin tones. Then another person reflects that "all the subjects in those paintings are morbidly obese!  And we shouldn't say/do/profess anything that promotes such unhealthy images!"  Oh, fer Pete's sake.  Can you not get past it for ten seconds and actually see the beauty of the colors? The sheen of well-executed light? Move on, Judgy McBoringson. 
  • Holy crap.  My feet are like hooves.  I need to get a manicure, or maybe just an industrial-strength sander.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Trying To Solve Things With Other Things

I washed the cord on the Kitchen-Aid mixer. 
Classic Series 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

I seriously went there.  I used a little knife to clean around the handles on the fridge and the stove.  I got on the floor and pried the gunk out around the baseboards in the kitchen. I did all the laundry.  I hyper-focused on cleaning for one whole day, and it was surprisingly satisfying.

I also have been contemplating yet another career.  

(Did anybody else notice that every sentence thus far has started with "I"? I'm annoying myself.  DAMN! I did it again! Ack!)

This has been a challenging several months, because I'm (apparently) trying to work through some (apparently) deeply-hidden opinions of myself by changing myself/what I do and seeing how I felt at each step.  The time I felt like I prioritized myself most (and valued myself) was when I was a student.  I always had a good reason to stop everything and focus on my own self and my education and development. It was glorious and satisfying. The feeling of deep, sustained focus was one that I value above many, many others. 

Perhaps that is what I need. A place and time to need to focus.

Teaching no longer requires that of me most of the time.  It's gotten too easy, too repetitive, too "Drop your jaw. Deep air. It's a C#!" I can't sink into that blissful space in my head where I find my center and I am poised there, weightless. Playing hasn't done that lately, because I have been distracted by the terrible condition of my flute (which, fabulously, is being taken care of at FluteWorld as I type this). When I am distracted, I have to think. Like, with the words part of my brain.  I think too much with that part already.

Who knew that FOCUS was (probably) what I have been looking for?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tales From the (Massage) Table: Doing The Work Of Angels

Recently, I met with a mentor massage therapist woman who is one of the most grounded individuals I've ever encountered.  She lives a completely different life than I do, in that she does not have the same reference points as I do.

I have kids, and am a teacher to kids, so my words and actions are being watched by them (and their parents), and I try to keep things PG.  She does not.

I'm into the modern world of TV, Netflix, cell phones, Facebook, blogging, etc.  She does not even own a TV, and just recently figured out how to text.  She's pretty bad at it.

She finds it easy to believe in many things that I can't yet bring myself to entertain, such as plant spirit healing, all kids of alternative and holistic therapies, lots of 'crunchy' hippie-ish stuff.

However difficult I find some of that stuff to believe, I can't dismiss the experiences I've had, and so I have to try to understand.

For instance, I've had the experience of being in a near-hypnosis state during a massage (giving one), and suddenly notice that I'm experiencing a thought or an emotion that was utterly out of the blue and not me-like at all, then the client will say or do something that reveals that the thought or emotion I had been feeling had been theirs.  Was I just picking up subtle clues from their still, quiet body?  How?  I have no idea.

So, getting to the title of this post, I was recently working on a lovely woman who was a new client for me.  She was holding lots and lots of tension in her upper back (which is typical for most folks), but as I worked and became more relaxed myself, I started thinking about children.  Toddlers.  And cold houses.  And fear.

Then the client shifted and started talking. She is a social worker of some variety, and she works with families with children from birth to age 3, and one family in her care had recently revealed to her that they had lost the heat in their house, and the mother was afraid to tell people for fear they would take her children.  So she was keeping them all in the living room around the fireplace, bundled in blankets.

This client had immediately begun to make phone calls, and within a day, they had their heat restored, had a social worker visit the house to make sure everything was ok with the kids, and they had been given vouchers for a local food pantry. But she was running that scenario over in her mind, being disturbed.

As I put hot stones onto her back, I found my mind repeating "you do the work of angels" to her (silently).  She gradually relaxed enough that she fell asleep, and woke refreshed and relaxed and feeling cared-for.

So, how do you explain that?  Is it magic?  Psycho...something?  Telekewhatever?  Does it matter?  Maybe not, but this stuff weirds me out sometimes. And other times, it seems as normal as anything else in my everyday life.

What do you think, though?