Suicide and Perception, Nine Months Later

Note: Nine months ago my brother-in-law ended his life. This is a follow up to my previous posts on the topic.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255). They are available to take your call 24/7. International readers should visit the website for the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to find local resources. We care about you, friends.

***

It’s the day after Thanksgiving. I spent the holiday with my better half here in Las Vegas. I did some computer work during the day, then we went to a local casino movie theater to watch Interstellar. I won’t give anything away, but with lines like “love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space” and “no parent should have to watch their child die”, it’s no wonder I had tears streaming down my face by the time the end credits did their thing.

Sometimes it’s good to feel, and frustrating not to. Sometimes it’s agonizing to feel, and tenuously comforting not to. I have blocks of time when I will have “good days” (making progress with personal and work projects, feeling hopeful and like I can actually do things, pushing thoughts of Petey’s last days and his final act away from the forefront of my consciousness) followed by “bad days” (struggling to gain momentum as if I’m walking through quicksand, feeling like I’m wasting my time or my potential, questioning what the point of all of this is, dwelling on Petey’s absence, missing him, and thinking about the evil that some humans are perfectly okay with embracing). These days used to alternate in approximately 24-hour cycles up until a few weeks ago. Now they show up and stick around for multiple planetary rotation periods at a time without respite.

My recent thought patterns feature themes revolving around Petey’s death such as “there’s no possible way to fix this” and “I’m searching for meaning in this and finding none”. Today I felt sorry for myself (not something I’m proud of), broke down and asked Petey as if he were in the room “why did you do this to us?” —  truly not a fair question to ask because I know he was a kind, thoughtful and great guy, but frustration makes us think in strange ways. It’s difficult because I understand where he was coming from and what his intentions were, but I will never place the value of his reasons over the value of his life.

Yet, despite all of the disagreements I have with Petey in my own head and the stupid unanswerable questions I ask him aloud, the real question I want answered is “why did we let this happen to him?”, because that’s the thing I think I can find meaning in and fix. Still, the damage has been done. We can’t bend time, and we can’t tinker with permanence.

When my husband lost his brother and best friend nine months ago I figured I’d be the one he’d lean on for support, but his strength and wisdom keep me going on days like these. Tonight we talked about my struggle with depression that stems from searching for meaning in this devastating loss. He told me to savor the moment, to enjoy it like a bite of food that I just put into my mouth. To experience it slowly, letting the flavor unfold as it will — because for that block of time that is its purpose: to be experienced without meaning.

Here’s another look at the change in perspective that served me well tonight, perfectly illustrated in this scene from Louie where Charles Grodin enlightens Louie about the pleasures of pain, loss and love. Maybe you’ll find comfort in it as well. 

Even though it hurts tremendously, I am thankful for beautiful, heartbroken, walking poem epiphanies.

Transitioning to Self-Employment

Today marked the end of an era. At three o’clock this afternoon – after twenty-one years, eleven jobs and five-and-a-half-years of working the same one — I went from being partially self-employed to fully self-employed.

Now this might not sound like a huge deal to you, but to me? I held onto that last vestige of working-for-the-other-guy the way Dr. Oz holds onto his one o’clock time slot: mercilessly and with a smidgen of desperation. Over the last several months, as my own business grew busier, working at the resort spa morphed from financial necessity to psychological security blanket. I had always worked for someone else! Was I really ready to swim in the choppy waters of free market capitalism while depending on a child-sized flotation device labeled LIPOMI’S BUSINESS ACUMEN?

I knew I’d never know if I never tried. I knew I was suffering from burnout while juggling ten-hour Sunday shifts at the resort spa, appointments with my own clientele, and managing my continuing education business to the best of my ability given the complete lack of residual hours in my day. I was also becoming increasingly aware of the effect that death and grief can have on a person (me). It became almost painful for me to be away from my better half every Sunday, and I didn’t want to get to the point where I resented my massage therapy career choices. I love what I do; it gives me purpose. I hope I never lose that.

For better or for worse, all signs were pointing to “hey Andrea, dump the resort spa job”.  This option was made even more attractive when I received some timely external validation from marketing expert Seth Godin by way of his book THE DIP: I was caught in a cul-de-sac. A dead-end job was taking time, energy and attention away from other promising projects that needed me – all of me – to succeed. I may be slow to process information, but after being bludgeoned repeatedly by obviousness in its most obvious form, I knew what I had to do.

The email was polite and to the point. I gave my manager a little bit more than two-weeks’ notice. I only hesitated for five minutes before hitting “send”.

And here I am! Sitting at a Starbucks just down the street from my former employer with a refreshingly recalibrated focus on what matters most. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful for the opportunities that came my way while I was employed by other guys: steady paychecks, priceless experience, awesome clients, sweet coworkers, lessons, stories, inspiration and adventure…but all chapters must come to an end, and I’m really looking forward to experiencing this new one as it unfolds.

* Are you on Instagram and/or Twitter? Search for #AndreasLastDay to see more photos and videos from, ya know, #AndreasLastDay. *

Gratitude Challenge (Young Thumbs Remix)

 

two good parents

two good hands

karaoke

new wave bands

 

lovely partner

inside jokes

almost healthy

not quite broke

 

friends who get me

sibling smiles

trek on netflix

next gen style

 

loyal clients

my own spa

dave gahan’s tight pants

martin’s bra

 

young thumbs readers

i love you

you’ve been tagged now

you post too!

 

iheartyou

 

(Seriously, guys. Things have been kinda heavy for a lot of us lately. I really want to know: in all of your big-hearted splendor, what are YOU grateful for?)

 

On Bullies, Adulthood, and Knowing Better

Hi. I’m Andrea, I’m thirty-six years old, and I was bullied the other day.

Six days a week I work out of my very own office. One day a week I work somewhere else, with other people. This is where it happened. Basically, without going into too much detail, a group of women who hang out in the break room every day decided they would enact a new appointment booking procedure whereby (despite my having seniority and being one of the original employees who opened the spa) I would be the last person to book because I deserved the least amount of appointments because I only work there one day per week. (Please keep in mind this has never been the booking policy here, and most likely never will be. Also, keep in mind that these women are all massage therapists, same as me, and do not have any authority over anything.)

Although I am not typically the target of this group, the ever-mired break room crew has been making the work sitch crappy for various coworkers of mine for years. Through the magic of mob mentality and safety in numbers, they take appointments from others and manipulate the book like a game of massage therapy Tetris, the ultimate goal being more appointments in less time so they can make their money and leave early. (We close at 7pm, and God forbid they book a 6pm.)

This crew talks about other service providers and staff members behind their backs constantly, and on rare special occasions, to their faces. It’s very Mean Girls, and I’ve never been OK with it. It’s negative, stressful and draining, and sometimes it makes what should be a great experience working at a beautiful facility with a highly skilled team a flat-out nightmare.

You may be wondering how your humble narrator reacted when blindsided by the mob on this fateful day. Sweet Jesus, it wasn’t pretty. As much as the break room crew was hoping to get their jabs in and head for the hills, I no doubt surprised them when I said we were “going to talk about this now”. And then the ugly cry of a million emotional shit storms emerged, I blubbered some colorful language (not directed at any people in particular, mind you), and basically said if they didn’t want me to work there anymore, they should just tell me. In fact, it went down very much like this emotional episode that I blogged about last month. Then I holed up in my massage room for the next forty-five minutes and sobbed like a wee babe.

You know what was the worst part of this whole debacle? I thought these people were my friends. Writing this down now, I realize how little sense that makes. “Why would I be friends with meanies?” is the first question that comes to mind. The answer is that I see the good in people as much as I possibly can. I remember the times when they’ve been generous, or sympathetic, or funny, or supportive. But now that I see their toxicity and insecurity with new eyes, I question their motivation behind everything, ever. I do not like feeling this way.

In chatting with a bunch of self-employed massage therapist buddies since this went down, I’m struck by how much the avoidance of coworker drama has to do with their decisions to go into business for themselves. Some of them have tried working for/with others, and have experienced workplace bullying firsthand. Some would honestly like to give spa employment a try, but they’ve heard so many stories about workplace bullying and drama that they’re hesitant to go there (and maybe, sadly, rightly so). Spa drama is such a widespread problem there’s even a training course out there meant to address “dangerous drama levels” in the workplace – taught by massage therapist, continuing education provider and spa consultant Eric Stephenson. Imagine that!

Although this post is focused on a sad day in the life of this blogging massage therapist, I’ll grab the opportunity to point out some other irritating examples of bullying in adulthood that I’ve been noticing as of late:

  • wife bullies husband (put downs, guilt trips, extreme negativity, unnecessary conflict and drama)
  • boss bullies employees (abuse of power)
  • manager fears being bullied by bully employees
  • adult child bullies parent or parents (financial gain, manipulation)
  • crooked, shady townspeople bully other townspeople (control of information)
  • grandmother bullies the entire family (pick a reason)

And it makes me sick.

I don’t know what the solution is. I’ll freely admit I was an unhappy teenager. I was judge-y, scowl-y, and mean to a lot of people who didn’t deserve it. In adulthood I now understand that I was depressed, paralyzed by anxiety, painfully insecure, and trying to find my way out of a bad situation in the best (albeit misguided) way I knew how. Now I’m sorry for causing hurt, and I know I can never get those wasted days back. At some point I realized that dumping more negativity on top of my already low self-esteem was a stupid idea, so I evolved. I wonder: Do other meanies want to be happy? To stop hurting others? To evolve?

For my own good, I should probably just give up on trying to understand how other humans think. Instead of wasting time wondering “why did picking on that person ever seem like a fab idea to that other person?” I should be hitting the gym to get my obturator internus in competition form, and learning to play Tiny Tim’s Greatest Hits on the theremin. Yet I continually attempt to make sense of nonsensical human behavior. I guess I feel the need to be more knowledgeable today than I was yesterday, so I can convince myself that I’m making progress as I convulse around our little world in a manner not unlike a marionette suspended by woefully tangled strings.

I can’t promise you we won’t be blessed with a visit from a bullying internet troll, but I like to think of The Young Thumbs as a relatively safe place to discuss general goings on that don’t sit right with us. Do you have a story to share or some wisdom to dispense? Feel free to unleash it on the comments section below (because unlike humans, The Young Thumbs comments section does not have any feelings, and kinda likes the abuse). <3

Bless Your Heart – An Online Silent Auction of Love

Special thanks to Leslie Forrester for putting together this post and organizing the online auction. I am often awed by the love in our little community, and honored to be part of this effort. -Allissa

laura allenMassage Therapists are generally nurturing people, and it’s hard to read about a serious bout of illness in someone I’ve come to know and admire through my time as a professional massage therapist (especially one who is addicted a little bit to social media} and not want to help.  Laura Allen is a titan of the massage therapy industry, well known and well honored.  She’s a colorful person, with a no-nonsense attitude and an unmistakable twang when she speaks (her most viral video is about toxins & massage and isn’t for the faint of heart) and when she performs with her band, Cuz.  From her own bio on the website of her spa in Rutherford, North Carolina (THERA-SSAGE), here’s the briefest summary of her history:

Laura Allen is a graduate of Shaw University and The Whole You School of Massage & Bodywork. She is the author of four textbooks and a cookbook. She is a regular contributor to trade journals, an internationally known educator, and one of the most well-known bloggers in the massage profession, with blogs appearing on the websites of Massage MagazineMassage Today, massageprofessionals, and numerous other sites. She’s been honored by the American Massage Conference, inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame and also received the Government Relations Award for her reporting on legislation and regulation in the field of massage therapy. In 2013, she was honored with the Media Award at the World Massage Festival, and was also the Silver Award Winner in the Practitioner Case Report contest sponsored by the Massage Therapy Foundation.

Well, Laura has been sick.  She wrote a blog post with lots of details, but there’s been more than one hospital stay and multiple conditions, and this is the second time in two years. Laura lives hundreds of miles away from me, so I can’t offer to massage away some of the hurt (might be contraindicated anyway). But every last one of us can help Laura!  She’s out of work for medical reasons, which brings tons of extra bills, and we want to give her a hand, so here are some ways that you can contribute by showing Laura the lovingkindness of massage from the comfort of your own home or office:

Buy one of her books! You can choose from her latest, a book about her views on the journey to embracing evidence based massage, a great guide to creating or recreating your massage practice, a book for massage educators, a cookbook, and more.

Check out this Silent Auction here. Some friends in the industry have donated classes, resources, handcrafted items, etc. to benefit Laura Allen and raise some dough for her during the recovery process.

The auction will begin at 5 pm EST on Monday 9/15/2014 and will end Sunday at 9 pm EST 9/21/2014, but you can go ahead and register now so you don’t forget to look and bid.

Donate money:  We’ve made it as simple as possible by putting a donation button on the silent auction page.  So you can donate at the click of a button, via paypal.

Share this post and make us go viral in the world of massage!  Forward it to school owners, people in the hierarchy of your professional organization, or other industry professionals.  Like it, +1 it, Tweet it, email it, link it, pin it and love it, and you’ve done something good for someone who has done so much for all of us.

Leslie Forrester is the owner and solopreneur at Quality Life Massage Therapy, located just outside Tampa, Florida. She has used these and other networking techniques to fill her practice from scratch in just two years. You can find her on linkedin, Facebook, and at www.QualityLifeMassageTherapy.com

Obviously

Last week I spent several days exploring Salt Lake City, Utah. The trip was straightforward and the vibe was laid back – until my brother-in-law and I drove by this billboard and I was left in a catatonic state of bewilderment. Maybe I’m missing a crucial SLC cultural reference or something, but I think the purpose of this advertising gem is to inform grown adults that they should get contracts in writing. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

contracts

Photo by my lovely and very patient bro-in-law, Derron Willison.

I live in Las Vegas, where you can’t drive down the I-15 without spotting at least six billboards featuring artificially busty swimsuit models promoting strip clubs, three billboards advertising shooting ranges equipped with machine guns, two for medical marijuana, and the random billboard that has something to do with cheating spouses and injured genitalia. For me, these aggressive advertising tactics form a soothing cocoon of cheap motel mattress comfort and prophylactic protection. The messages may be R-rated, but it’s home.

Anyway, back to the contract billboard — it got me thinking. Maybe there really are adults out there who don’t know that they should get contracts in writing. Maybe they’ll see this partially-obscured billboard as they careen down the streets of Salt Lake City on their haphazard journeys to enter into gentlemen’s agreements over the custody of their children, and they’ll brake suddenly and shout “Eureka! There really IS a better way!”, and lives change exponentially for the better.

My presumptuous nature isn’t limited to the realm of large scale highway advertising, mind you. I often assume that massage therapists and other assorted spa and salon professionals know a lot of things, only to find out later that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Here are some examples of things I thought were obvious to everyone, but clearly aren’t (based on observations made since entering the massage field a decade ago):

  • Double dipping your dirty hands into a jar of product that’s used on multiple clients is NOT okay.
  • Double dipping used wax sticks into hair removal wax that’s used on multiple clients is NOT okay.
  • Reusing porous, disposable items (nail files, foot files, buffers, sponges, natural bristle brushes, etc.) on multiple clients is NOT okay.
  • Flipping or stacking sheets so your next client has “clean” linens to come into contact with during her service is NOT okay.
  • Using essential oils on your own open wounds that may come into contact with a client (in place of a proper non-porous bandage) is NOT okay.
  • Touching a client’s open wounds or scabs during a massage is NOT okay.
  • If you handle your oil bottle throughout your massages, not cleaning it off between clients is NOT okay.
  • Dropping implements on the ground and using them on a client without properly disinfecting them first is NOT okay.
  • Interrupting a hands-on, paid-for massage to perform energy work that was not requested or expected is NOT okay.
  • Talking to a client as if you’re a nurse/chiropractor/mental health counselor/spiritual guru/witch doctor when you do not have these qualifications is NOT okay.
  • Taking a smoke break will mean you’ll smell like smoke for your next client, even if you can’t smell it. This is NOT okay.
  • Using bathroom spray instead of a professional disinfectant solution to clean reusable implements is NOT okay.
  • Texting while performing a service is NOT okay.
  • Reading The Young Thumbs while performing a service is…NOT…okay.

Please add your own obvious tips to the comments below, and keep an eye on those billboards.

Suicide, Six Months Later

Note: Six months ago my brother-in-law ended his life. This is a follow up to my previous post on the topic. I want to express my appreciation to everyone who has been supportive of my family throughout this difficult time. Thank you.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255). They are available to take your call 24/7. International readers should visit the website for the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to find local resources. We care about you, friends.

***

I like Robin Williams in everything. I was raised on Mork & Mindy. I’ve never seen the man suffer a bad or boring interview. The most recent thing I saw him in was an episode of Louie where a guy they knew died and they went to his funeral, and then to his favorite strip club. The scene ends with Louie and Robin promising to attend each other’s funerals, “whoever dies first”. He had an imaginative, brilliant mind and was important to a lot of people in a lot of ways.

But I’m numb to the news of his suicide.

I’ve been having a very hard couple of weeks. Anxiety. Depression. Mood swings. The works.

Yesterday some careless asshat hit my lit sign outside of my office, hurling it to the ground, sending shattered glass everywhere. I wasn’t there at the time, but when I returned from lunch my super sweet office neighbor relayed the afternoon’s events — at which point I flew into a swear-fueled rage that quickly morphed into a public sobbing fit, my head on her shoulder, tears soaking her t-shirt.

“What can I do to help?” she asked, her arms engulfing me in a much-needed hug.

“Just be my friend.” I sniffled.

Because that’s all anyone can do.

 

Thank goodness for office neighbors like Jamie and Patty. They can fix anything.

Fixing what’s broken with a little help from my friends.

 

I’m not posting this for sympathy or responses. I just need to get it out, as our feeds blow up with RIPs and the tragic nature of it all:

People of the civilized world, take the grief you’re feeling at this moment and multiply it by a million. This is how it feels to lose a loved one (not a celebrity, not a movie star) unexpectedly and by their own hand. You probably can’t even fathom the idea right now, but it could happen in your own family tomorrow. Would you see the clues? Or keep yourself at a mental distance, locked in the safe room known as denial?

The shock of “losing” Cobain in the ’90s didn’t prep me for shit. The shock of a close friend losing his partner three years ago didn’t prep me for shit. I held my friend’s hand and cried by his side for months — years — as he attempted to pick up the pieces and get on with life…yet I didn’t learn a damn thing.

Last week I finally got up the courage to watch The Bridge, a documentary about suicidal folks who jump from the Golden Gate. It was intense, and I agreed with and could relate to a solid 85% of the friends and family members interviewed in that movie. This documentary is depressing as hell, but real and fascinating at the same time. The regrets, vulnerability, ignored signs – everyone’s story is different, yet eerily similar. Watch it and you’ll understand why I walk through my days with a renewed sense of hypervigilance: if you’re a member of my tribe and something sticks out as an odd behavioral change, I’m going to question it. I may come across as crazy, obnoxious, and possibly affected by PTSD, but that’s my new normal and I’m not sorry.

Robin, you were a bright star in a dark world, and I thank you for going there — you just weren’t an integral part of my life. My numbness isn’t intended as disrespect, but as my husband so perfectly explained as I struggled to put thought into words, “Petey meant more to me.”

And he was funny, too.

Facebook Burnout and the Need for Feed

Facebook my dear, I have so many wonderful things to thank you for. You’ve allowed me to get to know and become actual real-life friends with people who live across the continent, across town, and in my backyard. You’ve introduced me to a passionate community of evidence-based massage therapists, sassy bloggers, inspirational creatives, and empathetic virtual friends who are prompt with a kind word of encouragement when I’m feeling venty and clawing at the edges of insanity.

Remember that time you told me about the Depeche Mode tribute band that was playing at Voodoo Lounge? They were sooooo goooood! Or when you clued me in to the free performances of Teller’s ‘Play Dead’ at the Rio? I mean, that guy ate a damn light bulb on stage. A light bulb!

Darling Facebook, you make crowdfunding possible, and oftentimes vastly successful! You are a wandering searcher’s muse and a coupon code addict’s wet dream. Your messaging capabilities make it easy to contact peeps in a jiffy, and Facebook events are the ultimate in convenience (assuming all desired attendees are suckling at your networky teat). I can inflict my instagrams on both you and Twitter simultaneously with minimal effort. Foursquare check-ins, too! (Or Swarm, or whatever they’re calling it today. To my shame, I’m still firmly entrenched in fiscal first quarter 2014.)

Sweet social network of choice, you’ve been great – you really have – but as is the sad case so often in this life, all good things must come to unfriend.

 

tissues

 

Now before you go all weepy on me, let me explain: it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve got an intensely obsessive personality, and your constant barrage of information overload has led me to develop the unhealthy habit of spending countless hours idly trolling your feed, for, geez, I don’t even know what. Distraction, I suppose.

The free magic shows and Dave Gahan-esque dance moves have gotten lost in a sea of the mundane, speckled with rare buoys of profundity. I sincerely appreciate the thoughts, the emotions – the people – behind these blips, but I’m just no longer cut out to be one of the lovelies manning the radar. Life beckons, and pressing tasks call.

Facebook, if it’s alright with you, I won’t deactivate you at this point in time. I’d like to continue to be tagged in posts and photos if need be, messaged when my input or assistance is required, and invited to join fun events that are of interest to me. I will continue to participate in a few choice Facebook groups, and will continue to maintain my business pages. I hope you won’t take offense when I share this blog post on my wall. I really hope you won’t brand me an ungrateful twat when I confess I just installed News Feed Eradicator on my laptop, and that I’ve unfollowed essentially everyone on my mobile app, save George Takei.

What’s that, you irresistible blue and white dealer of human commodification? Oh no, I’m not trading you in for Snapchat or the next Twitter, if that’s what you’re afraid of. You can rest assured I’m reassessing virtual boundaries across the board: instead of being overcome by the onslaught of curated life snippets y’all hurl at the masses on a moment-by-moment basis, I’ll be out there embracing my own corporeal experiences like a mofo, external validation be damned.

 

thumbsup

The things you thought couldn’t change

 

I’ve been having problems with my eyes. I assumed it was because my vision was getting worse. This is a decent educated guess since the acknowledgement of my vision getting worse has occurred on an annual basis for almost 30 years. I’ve been having trouble with computer screens and print and such. So I figured I was getting to the bifocal/reading glasses stage of my life. This made me unhappy, obviously.

I’m cool with the gray hair. I’m cozy with the appearance of little wrinkles around my eyes and mouth. I’m managing the whole ‘harder to lose weight’ thing. I’ve been reality-slapped with the ‘men my age tend to not date women my age’ experience of singleness at 39. I know these things to be true. And none of them ruffle my feathers too much. But reading glasses? C’mon.

So I went to my Eye Guy. He did the exam. I waited for the news. I held my breath and he said, “I think your vision has improved. The contacts you have are over-correcting.”

Say what now? That can happen?

Yes. That can happen. It could be because my nutrition has improved dramatically since I saw him last. (My diet is no longer made up of food served to me through my car window.) Or it’s a weird fluke. But it happened. He gave me a lower prescription to try for a few days and it’s working well.

So there’s that.

Just over eleven years ago I was stuck in a little hell of employment, getting my soul destroyed daily at a retail pharmacy job. I needed to get out but I had no idea where to go. A series of events led me to a massage therapist. I asked questions, I checked out a school. I applied, interviewed, I enrolled.

Through most of the 18 month program I figured I would end up working at a spa or chiropractor’s or some place where I was an employee. I had zero interest in owning a business and handling all the hassle that goes along with that. Zero. I did not like to be in charge. I did not like handling extraneous paperwork or thinking about zoning permits and the buck stopping with me.

I interned a bit at a chiro’s office the last few months of massage school. I just followed him around and did some spot treatments here and there. My presence in the office was well-received and after a few days we cleaned out a room and I set up real massage space. I started giving massage at a student rate, people scheduled. Then scheduled again. And on the Sunday night when I graduated, I had a handful of clients in the book for the next week, all ready to start paying full price. I accidentally started a business. I liked the clients (and their money) and didn’t want to try to persuade them to see me at the spa I was working at part-time. So I just did the things I needed to do to get a massage business going.

I never thought it would result in me running a successful practice (for nine years now). Or moving to my own space and subletting out to two other therapists. And teaching business and marketing. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So there’s that.

I could put an “Anything is Possible” graphic here. Or maybe a deep thought about impermanence from a popular buddhist. But we tend to avoid that superfluous flowery shit over here on Young Thumbs.

I’ll leave you with this:
We have no idea what is possible.
Go build a massage business in an RV and drive from client to client.
Go teach massage to caretakers at an orphanage. In Vietnam.
Or score 3 bibs in the Boston Marathon to benefit the Massage Therapy Foundation.

Go do epic shit.

medium_photo

^ Here’s your inspiration. Courtesy of qsprn.com because he’s a badass. A generous badass.

PS- And the ‘men my age tend to not date women my age’ thing? I may have found an exception. 

Interview with an MT: Lauren Cates Talks Oncology Massage

Recently, Lauren Cates was kind enough to answer a few questions about her massage practice. Lauren, who lives in Arlington, VA, runs Lighthold Massage Therapy, a practice that caters to all types of people, but that also specializes in oncology massage and end of life care. She is also the program director of Healwell and the President and Founding Director for the Society of Oncology Massage. Recently, after watching a video of Lauren going around the internet (below) I contacted her to pick her brain. She is incredibly smart, funny, down-to-earth, and doing important work. In short, she is pretty much what I want to be when I grow up.

Click here for a text transcript of the video.

A:  How long have you been a massage therapist, and what led you to pursue oncology massage training and specialization?

L: It was 9 years in February since I graduated from massage therapy school. My pursuit of massage therapy training was a complete accident, if you believe in accidents, but my pursuit of oncology massage specifically has at least some vaguely traceable path. Shortly after I began the 18-month journey that would be my training in massage therapy I had the unique and humbling opportunity to be with my grandfather at the moment of his death.  I actually didn’t know, at the time, that he had cancer.  I was employing my nascent massage skills working with him in his hospital bed when I watched and felt him take his last breath.  Death and I had always had this sweaty palmed, churning guts kind of relationship, so I was surprised by how natural it felt to be a part of this very human, very death-centric moment.   There was no lightning bolt of moment of “Eureka!  I shall go forth and do oncology massage!”, but there was a feeling of wanting to pursue massage in that kind of environment with people who were at these places of physical, spiritual and emotional crossroads.

A: What type of training did you find the greatest benefit to prepare you for working with oncology patients?
L: Honestly, (as if I’ve been lying to you all this time) I have been very lucky to have great technical teachers in the form of massage therapists, nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals and I couldn’t do what I do without that foundation, but the absolutely most valuable training I have received is the training in how to fully embrace and love myself. Until I was guided by some kind and skillful teachers of mindfulness, compassion and forgiveness, I had never really met myself and that was standing in the way of how useful I could be to the people with whom I worked. When people are faced with a potentially terminal illness, their eyes can become like mirrors of your own soul. You don’t want *that* moment, when you’re at the bedside of a person with cancer, to be first moment you really see yourself. That was happening to me over and over and it was burning me out…until I pulled back from the work for a bit and went deeper into myself. Being at home with myself is, hands down, the most valuable thing I think I bring to my clients.
A: Is there any aspect of the work that you didn’t expect going in? What has been most surprising to you?
L: Working with oncology clients…and all manner of humans with health challenges…has made my life exponentially more joyful. You can’t lie to yourself about how you’re spending your time and if you’re spending it well when you work with people who are faced with being “out of time” and who don’t have a chance to go back and spend it well. Today is truly all we have and my clients remind me that that sentiment is not a bumper sticker…it’s real life. I have seen that I *will* regret it if I work too hard. I *will* wish I had spent more time with family and friends if I don’t do it now…so I do. I do it now…much more than I did before I met so many amazing people who are trying to make sense of how they’ve spent their time.
A: In what ways does Oncology Massage differ from, say, your typical Swedish Massage?
L: There are so many ways in which the internal experience of giving an oncology massage differs from a “typical Swedish Massage”, but on the surface, if you were watching an oncology massage happen, you may not notice most of them. Oncology massage is about cancer. It’s not about massage. If you’re already out in the world doing some type of massage therapy and then you pursue oncology massage training, you will still do the kind of massage you used to do…you’ll just do it with a greater awareness of the effects of cancer treatment on the human body. You’ll be thinking about lymphedema, blood clots, bone fragility, skin changes from radiation, surgical sites and scar tissue, sensation issues from treatment and any number of other considerations that will make you adapt, adjust and alter your work to provide a session that is supremely client centered and so much more than “just working lightly”.
A: How do you connect with the people who need your services?
 L: Shameless self-promotion. In my practice, I actually don’t do any official advertising. I have built my clientele on word of mouth. I do some community education events at cancer support groups and other events where people affected by cancer gather, but mostly I just do what I do and word spreads. The oncology community, in my experience, is an intensely loyal community. If you decrease a person’s neuropathy or nausea or headache or sense of isolation, they become a human billboard for you because they want their friends with cancer to be free of those issues, too.
A: What advice would you give to a therapist interested in pursuing this field of work?

L: Learn your facts. Know the anatomy. Know the physiology. Know the treatments…and then set them down and go get to know yourself. Snuggle up to your sadness, your shame, your humanity, your mortality. The better you know all of those not-so-popular parts of you, the more likely you are to be of service to people in ways you never imagined.

A:  Any further thoughts?

L: If you’re thinking about working with oncology clients, get training. Please, please, please get training and develop a deep sense of humility, curiosity and openness. The illusion of control will be laid bare in front of you if you’re paying attention…and you’ll be grateful for it.

Courses and trainers can be found on the Society for Oncology Massage website,  www.s4om.org. S4OM is also hosting a 4-day conference for the oncology massage community this fall in Sarasota, FL.

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