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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