First Step

My Dear friends, patients and colleagues,

Professionally, for almost the last year I have been very quiet. Not even mouses are stirring in my houses. Well no that’s a lie, my houses have been turned upside down. I turned 30 last November, and in the summer before I realized some really big, scary, painful things and understood that some really big, scary, painful changes were needed to fix the big scary painful broken parts I had unearthed in my life.

My first point here is to say thank you to anyone who managed to stand by me through the hurricane of my personal life renovation. It saw me move 3 times in the span of 6 months, close one business endeavour… and then another… and relocate my practice to Ancaster ON (patients… THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR PATIENCE!!!). I can’t really begin to express the gratitude I feel for those of you who stuck with my practice, with me, through the chaos. In school, you’re taught to keep your personal life from your professional life. Honestly? I dunno how to do that. My professional life is personal to me. I care so much about you and the practice we have together. I do bring you all home with me every night and think about you, analyzing how my work is effecting you, if we are reaching the goals we have identified, if there is perhaps something we are missing and generally how I can improve the service I bring you to. I think about your stories and wonder if you are doing ok. I celebrate your victories when you share them with me. You have no idea how many times I am nearly jumping out of my professional costume to give you hugs and squeal with delight when you tell me that you just did that thing you were afraid to do and got through it better than fine. Actually, I’m pretty sure I do squeal.

This last year has had me take a long look at myself, my direction, and apply some of that analysis to my own goals and the action plans I have laid out for them. To be honest, the biggest most important truth and change I realized was that much of my life plan had been dependent on what other people thought, wanted or needed of me. Little thought was put into what I think, want and need of myself. Personally and professionally. I made many personal life changes, and some of the professional life changes I needed to. Mostly, I just needed to step away from the helm of running a ship I didn’t have the energy for. It’s a lot for one little person to run a whole business. Truly, it’s like 2 full time jobs and a few part time jobs too. In the wake of my personal life shake down, my professional life had to change too. I needed a rest, so I moved my practice to a place where someone else did all the worrying and I could just show up and do what I love.

This has given me the time and space to collect myself and really start putting thought into my professional direction. What do I want to practice? How do I want to practice? And who do I want my practice to serve? When I first ever in my life thought of being a massage therapist I was probably 14, standing in my kitchen with my mom telling her “I just want to help people feel good.” Much of my life I struggled with depression and the constant feeling of just barely keeping my head above the water. Never totally drowning, but never getting to put my feet down on solid ground. It’s strange when you realize that solid ground is actually scarier than treading in the deep water. You see, I’m a stress addict. I thrive in chaos. When the bleep hits the fan, that’s when I shine. I can tread (metaphorical) water for years. Give me stability and I get sea sick. This last year I have been learning how to stand on solid ground and be ok with that. Surprisingly, it is difficult. I suppose people who spend a lot of time of boats know intimately what I am talking about. Anyway, learning how to stand on this solid ground has given me a lot of perspective and the space to really start considering those questions, and ultimately, what do I want?

Stress, anxiety, depression, these things, these states of being… they suck. They absolutely serve important purposes, and over time I’ll talk about that but for now, we can all agree that feeling stressed, anxious and depressed most of the time just plain sucks. You feel sick, lethargic, irritable, foggy, your guts are always a mess, your body hurts, and emotionally you’re exhausted. Waking up can feel like an accomplishment… and maybe even a disappointment. When I said to my mom in our kitchen 15 years ago “I just want to make people feel good” I meant that; when we touch each other, when we share physical support with someone, we feel better. That connection inspires a sense of hope, trust, and togetherness. Touch reminds us that we are not alone, that there are people around who can and will support us. Touch is the very first sense our body’s develop. I suspect that even in utero, touch exists. Touch is important because it helps us sense the world around us, interpret it, and decide what to do about the things we encounter. Our bodies are basically gigantic nerve endings intended to receive information, and then respond. The information I intend to send when I give a massage is support, care, attention, compassion, safety. These are the building blocks for calm and relaxation. At least, in my opinion. When we feel supported, cared for, that people are paying attention to our needs and showing us compassion, we can feel safe. And when we feel safe, we can start to consider how to conduct ourselves to build up and out of wherever we are.

I realize that all that maybe sounds a bit wishy washy, or that I’m giving a lot more credit to massage therapy than perhaps it is due. But I ask you to consider children and the very elderly. What one thing do they often seek when afraid or sad? What one thing has been shown, over and over in research, to improve the quality of their daily lives, even improve their physiological health? Touch. Feeling connected to another person is such an ingrained part of being a human being it’s nearly inescapable. That’s why massage therapy is such a powerful tool. And that’s why I practice it.

I can do the rehabilitative stuff, and it’s important work.  It’s important to know how to assess, analyze and apply correct techniques to an injured body to help him or her grow to the physical state s/he seeks. But it is no longer what I want my practice focus to be on. My focus has always been, how do I improve your life experience? Injury and physical pain are stressful, so to treat stress absolutely I work with physical injury and pain with direction to rehabilitate. But my work is not just for the physically injured. My work is also for those of us who, like me, are trying to learn how to get out of the deep water and walk on dry land. My work is also for the stressed out and depressed.

Together we can rise.

That is where I am going.

Here marks the first entry in my journal and the first step to building the kind of practice I have always wanted. My vision is clear, my goals are set and the steps are identified. It’s only onwards and upwards from here.

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Fleeting

IMG_2200 copyMoments are so fleeting.  They really do pass, march on into history while I pursue the future, transient through the present moment as it passes, marching into history.  Moments are so fleeting.

Just 2 days ago I was standing under the lighthouse that marked my final destination at the end of a three day journey along the coast line of Lake Ontario.  I’m uncertain that I have ever lived my life with so much presence, immediacy and simple joy as I did for those three days.  Untethered, total freedom from worries or concerns.  Most of the time, much of my mental space is filled with worry about how my body looks, am I eating the right food, calorie counting, how much money I am making or not making, bills I remember, bills I have forgotten and then suddenly remember, family ties, my closest relationships, am I “showing up” properly with the people around me, am I in my integrity… am I doing this right?  Mostly I can either ignore the chatter or observe it.  Sometimes I am carried away.  But traveling by bike for 3 days brought all my attention to the exact moment I was in.  More of the thoughts were quite simply weeeeeeeeee! as I rolled along the waterfront.  Sometimes a burst of wow as a truly beautiful view emerged from around a bend.  The very rare this is so hard usually followed by this is so fun!  Day two saw a lot of my crotch is uncomfortable but even that was fleeting (if not frequently reoccurring) and unable to detract from the wow and the weeeee.

My mind, body, spirit, time and purpose all felt exactly mine.  No demands placed on any of these vessels of experience other than my own.  I don’t think I have ever been so liberated in all my life.  I was free to determine my pace, when to stop, what views I wanted to pause at, how hard my body worked, and where my thoughts would roam.  Slave to my mind no more, to be honest, I mostly thought about nothing.  Even the monkey in my head was content to just enjoy the view and taste the wind.IMG_2329

Day one, passing through Oakville, we came across a dead woodpecker.  I stopped beside it’s body and wished I’d brought my bone collecting tools but, then again, didn’t want to travel 3 days with a dead animal in a plastic bag.  So I satisfied myself by plucking some of it’s feathers.  Symbolically, woodpeckers carry the meaning of going to the beat of your own drum.  Finding your own rhythm.  What better omen for a self powered trip?  We were truly existing out of time, moving to the rhythms our hearts chose without much regard for the thoughts, feelings or concerns of others.  Toronto came and went with some beautiful bike lanes and interesting views.  The Scarborough Bluffs happened upon us rather suddenly with a very steep climb we had to walk up and then… were gone.  Pickering was brief.  Petticoat Creek was brimming with nostalgia and I wish we could have lingered a bit but the open path called and the trumpet to adventure was ringing in my ears.  Petticoat Creek is a day trip all on it’s own.

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The trail from Scarborough to Port Hope is a cyclists dream.  Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa have all done a fantastic job of manicuring their water front trail, with beautiful cycling lanes.  I don’t remember ever really having to ride with traffic until we left Oshawa and then it was merely on some country roads.  The views of the lake were stunning; in Hamilton and Toronto, for the most part the water is considered disgusting, unsafe and the lake as a whole gains this reputation as being a sewer pit.  Granted, in the GHA, and likely much of the GTA, the water is unsuitable for swimming due to the contaminants that have been dumped into it.  But away from the GTA, the water is beautiful.  I have wonderful memories of swimming in Lake Ontario at the old cottage in Brighton, one of the stops we made on day three.

The road from Port Hope to Brighton saw us climb many hills, pass through some beautiful, small town city centers at which I could have spent an entire day, and detour to The Big Apple.  An apple product lovers dream.  We ate pie, had coffee and took some goofy pictures.  I bought some silly memorabilia and then… on the road again.

We detoured through Brighton down to where my family used to have a cottage.  Nostalgia rose with a wave of grief.  I had not been to that land in… A long time.  I can’t really remember, perhaps 8 years.  Much of it has changed.  The view is still the same.  The sound of the lake on the rocks below is still the same.  The water level is still as high as usual this time of year.  The quiet was still the same.  The trees in the woods behind the lot… the same.  Scattered around the property were wild turkey feathers.  I had never seen a wild turkey there before though there must have been some.  These were collected and stowed away in my pack, with the woodpecker’s gift and a pair of Grouse feathers I found before reaching the Big Apple.IMG_2271

And then a short spin to Presqu’Ile.  Up until this point it hadn’t really hit me how far we had traveled, where I was, where I was going, where I had been.  Everything was so present moment that crossing this threshold rather surprised me.  I became emotional as I kept repeating to myself… I did it.  I actually did it.  Me.  I can’t think of many times in my life I have felt any great pride in an accomplishment.  This was comparable to finishing college and receiving my final grade.  This is the second time in my life that I have made a very clear statement to what I can truly accomplish if I just determine to do it, no holds barred.  As we passed the first sign indicating that Presqu’Ile was just ahead, I wept, my eyes brimming with tears.  I looked around at the marsh as it looked back at me and heaved several big sighs.  When I looked down at my Garmin, we had just covered 300.5km.  I did it.  I rode more than I had planned to.  For longer than I had thought.  And I felt great.  A lovely woman on a bicycle saw us arrive at the gates and offered to take our photo.  A great moment of pride captured by a kind passerby.  We rode into the park, and to the lighthouse where I walked the last few meters with the Garmin in my hand right out to the very edge.  I did it.  The ride was over, the moment passing, marching into history as I rolled into the future on the vehicle of a transient point in time.

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This is my greatest take away from this whole thing.  We can only accomplish what we tell ourselves we can accomplish.  The story we tell ourselves about who we are determines how we are in the world.  And that is an important distinction.  How you are in the world is not the sum of your character, it does not define who you are.  Your actions are choices bred by the thoughts you have.  Strung together they create the arc of your story.  I do not believe in fate; I do not believe that there is such a thing as a predetermined destiny.  Our only destiny is choice.  Do you choose to act truly as who you are, or do you choose to act as who you think you are?

For most of my life my story was this; a fat, weak bodied female who had been raped.  Broken home statistic.  Depressive and anxious, mistrustful and suspicious.  Incapable of accomplishing big things.  Unimportant.  Untalented.  Would never be impressive in any capacity.  Unworthy of pleasure, desire of having needs met.

My story has been changing.  I have been coming to truly see and believe that what we set our minds to become our destinies.  What we believe ourselves to be is how we end up being in the world.  I am worthy of having needs and desires, and worthy of seeing them met.  I am the instrument to my own ends and what I set my mind to will be done if I keep my focus and direction unwavering.  I am more than a woman who has been raped.  Rape is hardly a footnote in my life story.  I am capable of dreaming big things, devising plans to achieving them and doing the work, however hard, to  seeing those plans fulfilled.  I am important because I matter to myself.  I am talented by the simple fact that no being can be without a purpose at all and purpose is grown of talent.  My emotional state does not dictate who I am and though I may encounter depression and fear, I am big enough to interpret their meanings, manage them and move forward with or without them.  I can learn to trust and place suspicion where it belongs, in my tool kit for decision making alongside information gathering, analysis and intuition.  I’m a powerful creature capable of things I have not yet even dreamed of.

Life is an open road on which you may travel however you wish, to where ever you want.  So get your story straight and ride.

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Success

Last week, we did it.

Two months ago I finally took a big plunge, stated out loud to a lot of people that I was going to ride 260km along Lake Ontario’s Waterfront Trail and raise $500 for a local sexual assault help center.  The ride hasn’t happened yet (we leave in 4 days!), but the fundraising has.  It was kind of incredible.  We hung around $350 for a while until I realized that we were just $150 away from the goal.  Suddenly the donations came rolling in seemingly all at once.  Like a bunch of people got together and collectively decided that was the day to do it.  As I wrote my Gramma an email about the whole thing, I had to keep updating what the actual sum left was.  By the end of the email there was just $95 left to collect.  I think maybe 2 days later we had the whole thing.

Two days after that another $100 came in.  Not only had we reached the goal I set, but surpassed it.

In addition to all the contributions, people shared the story.  My story.  That was probably the best part.  You see, when i first decided to do this, I choked on the fear of “what if no one cares about my story?  What if my story, my struggle to over come, means nothing?”  It stopped me dead and I probably cried because who can swallow the thought of your life story, the transformation you conduct by your own hands, meaning nothing to anyone at all?  Despite that fear, I pressed on.  Courage really is, only ever, born in the moment of terror.  We really can only be courage when we are afraid.  I mean really, where’s the courage in doing something that doesn’t scare you?  That’s not courage, that’s confidence and they two are different, though not inseparable.  Confidence has it’s roots in courage.  Confidence happens when we do things that scare us, with courage, and discover that we can live through it.  Even if we fail, confidence can be built by getting back up again.

So anyway.  I’ve reached my goal and in 4 days I will be departing from my home on a big journey.  I am a bit afraid, and a bit confident.  So you could say I am experiencing confident courage.  I’m good with that.

There is still time to donate too.  The fundraiser closes on Monday June 22 at 12:59am.  We will have been home, by then, for at least a full 24 hours, probably sleeping and moaning about how sore our legs and back and butts are.  I will be updating, as much as I can, over the 3 days we are out via my cell phone.  And I will do my best to put in a post ride wrap up Monday morning so my followers, contributors and community can be a part of the last stage.

If you want to be a part of the gravy train – as I said, we have reached the $500 goal and now, the rest is a beautiful river of gravy for SACHA, the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton Area) – then please visit the campaign page.

Thanks for following me here.  This story of mine is beginning to change.  Every day I feel less and less like a survivor and more and more like someone who is thriving.

Onwards and Upwards…

Pleasure > Desire > Goals > Road Map To Success

Sometimes we get trapped in ways of thinking, believing and being.  We tell ourselves, “I can’t because of…” and we find an excuse or reason, usually born of some error or injustice from our past.  Or we point to the outside world, the ugly parts and blame Them for our failing to take action towards what we want.  The most honest obstacle is simply not knowing what we want.  It can happen.  I can see instances in my life of achieving success because I knew what I wanted, clearly in my mind and I could see a way through whatever obstacles would come.  And I can see instances in my life of simply having no idea what I wanted, or that I even wanted something.  And yes, instances of blaming my history or the big ugly world we live in for why I would not do a certain thing.

Changing that is simple.  Getting out of the trap is simple.  It’s a matter of changing your mind, saying no to the attitude, consistently, and pondering the other side of things.  It’s the “consistently” part that is difficult (at first).  It’s the being firm enough with yourself to expect better, and being gentle enough with yourself to slow down a moment and let your bewildered head catch up a bit.  Taking the time to comfort yourself when you’re scared, catch your breath when you’re tired, and step carefully when you need to.  As long as you are moving forward, it’s all good.

Once upon a time, in two key areas of my life, I had no idea what I wanted.  Truth, I didn’t even know I wanted things in those areas.  I thought it was just a matter of “put this peg here, any old peg, and voila.”  I was wrong though because I liked purple star shapes to go in my purple star shaped holes, not green round pegs, not red hearts, not brown squares.  But purple star shapes.  Not knowing what you want can be a tricky thing to overcome, especially if you don’t know that you even can want something.  But there is a simple way to figure it out.

Pleasure.

When I first began that journey about 3 years ago I started simple.  What brings me pleasure?  What do I enjoy, deeply, from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet?  What fills me up with all the mojo I could ever ask for?  Slowly the answers came to me – trees, rocks, looking at big wide fields at the tops of hills, long bike rides in the summer along back country roads, collecting feathers, butterflies and skulls, writing in simple journals with cheap pens that have nice flowing ink, clouds in the sky, birds singing, snuggling in, being alone, hiking, visiting new places in nature, the stars in the sky and sharing all these things with someone special.

I am now at another stage of that journey.  I didn’t really understand what success in my career meant.  I didn’t really understand what I wanted out of my career.  I didn’t have a picture in my mind, a goal, a target, and spent a lot of time thinking from the perspective of not being *something* enough to get there.  I spent a lot of time thinking about things from a position of not having instead of from a position of pleasure and enjoyment.  But I get it now.

I take pleasure in figuring out what my patients need from me.  I take pleasure in seeing how much better they feel after we have worked.  I take pleasure in making my notes of observations for my sessions and connecting the dots.  I take pleasure in communicating with my patients and even my non-patients.  I take pleasure in collaborating with my colleagues and peers, discussing our cases, or our businesses.  I take pleasure in listening to them talk about the direction they are going and their ideas on how to get there.  I take pleasure in sharing with them my direction and ideas.  I take pleasure in helping them see more clearly and their helping me.  I love to brain storm with people!  I love to see their successes and I love to share mine.  I do enjoy that pat of congratulations on backs and shoulders when someone – you or I – has accomplished what was intended.

And now that I know what brings me pleasure… The next step is to set out what I want.  And it’s simple.  I want the above paragraph.  I want that.  I want to walk in to work every day and greet the people I work with and know that I trust them as much as they trust me, that we are part of a team all pulling in the same direction, that we are building together towards something great.  I want to feel mutually supported, that we are holding each other up so no one has to sleep in the mud.  I want to feel equal to my team mates, complimentary, that my unique gifts and talents are integral to the whole thing. That if any one of us was not there, then something vital would be missing.  I want to be a part of a buzzing network that suits my more introverted style – personal and small introductions to important people so-and-so says I need to meet, or whom have been told they need to meet me.  And I want all the patients I see to be people who have been called to my table, one way or another.  They are there specifically because I offer what they need; because we can and will help each other grow towards being our best selves ever.

And yes, it is all very simple.  But let me be clear, simple is not the same as easy.  I suspect that quite often, some of our most difficult tasks are the simplest ones set before us.  They are difficult only because we must change how we are being.  We must change our perspectives, our attitudes, our expectations.  And we must be clear in what we want, where we are going, and open to however the road will take us there.  We must learn to be flexible enough to flow, but strong enough to stay on target.  And we will have to learn how to deal with feeling defeated.  Defeated is not the same as beaten.  Many lost battles pave the way to won wars.  Success is usually just a few beats on the other side of defeat and if we can open ourselves up to some great stroke of insight, we can usually find those next steps to get past that hard part.

Simple.  Not easy.

Turning our minds away from the negativity takes work.  It takes some serious sticking power.  And let me be really clear here, knowing how to see the negative, the pitfalls, the dangers is super crazy important.  One needs to know how to smell trouble before it arrives on your door, so you can either avoid it or, if it is inevitable, how to be ready for it or, if it is one of those nasty surprises, how you might be able to roll with it somehow.  Seeing the problems is important.  But drowning in them is pointless.  One also needs to be able to see the successes, the beauty, the ease.  One also needs to be open to, and have faith in, the way through showing up when you need it.  If all you can see is the pit fall you will never see the opportunities.  And they really are everywhere.  People who say all they get is bad luck are people who are blind to the help that is everywhere.  Seeing the positive, having a dash of optimism, is just as important as the other side.  One must learn how to balance the two.  It’s just about being aware of as much as you can be.  Being aware of who and what is in your environment and taking steps to influence the things you want to come to fruition.

Pleasure is the perfect place to start.  Discovering what truly fills you up makes such an incredible difference.  It gives you a guide post, a marker to look to when you are unsure if something is good for you.  Does it make you feel full of beauty?  Does it make you smile helplessly?  Does it bring tears of gratitude to your eyes?  And does it always make you feel this way, from beginning to end and even in memory?  A yes to these questions is a good indication that this brings you pleasure, and is something you want.  You can play here, in the space of discovering what pleases you, for your whole life.  In fact, you should.  Pleasure never gets old or tired, and as you grow, develop and change, you will find pleasure in new things that did not exist for you before.  Pleasure asks only one thing in return, that you be brave enough to be vulnerable.  That you provide for yourself enough courage to open up to the world, just a little bit, to sample what it has to offer.  Not all at once, either.  Just a little crack to let in a little goodness, a little sunshine.  The sweetness is here waiting for you to reach out for it.  After that, it’s a hop skip and jump to meeting your goals and tasting success.