On Getting and Receiving

I read a book.
I earned a degree.
I appreciated a song.
I watched a movie.
I shared an idea.

I got a burger at Wendy’s.
I got a parking ticket.
I got a migraine.

I got a massage.

Maybe it’s just a little thing, but how did massage come to be spoken of as a passive activity, something that just appears in our lives, occurs without our interference, and then vanishes again, like an itch or a coupon? I got a gallon of milk for half off. Nice, huh?

To receive is not to give up autonomy. It’s half of an interaction. When a phone line goes bad, we say, there’s no reception. We understand that that conversation has ended, and try again later, somewhere new.

Being an active recipient of massage doesn’t mean you have to chat. It can mean focus, meditation, deep breathing. It can mean speaking up when you’re uncomfortable, or asking for what you need. Being an active recipient of massage can mean making a conscious decision to give your body into someone else’s care, allowing yourself to daydream or even sleep. But it means owning those choices, knowing that they contribute to this process that you’re engaging in with somebody else, this process called massage. It’s not something that happens. It’s not something you can get.

to receive

I don’t know what kind of language we can use to communicate this understanding. To share, to experience, to explore, to feel, to enter into … none sounds quite right. Maybe receive is the best we have right now, with its undertones of to welcome, to take part.

But whatever language we choose, let’s try to find creative ways to acknowledge that our clients are not just consumers, but partners, and save get for the flu.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist and recent Midwest transplant to Dallas, Texas. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you like her writing here, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc

Seven things about massage therapy I learned from teaching toddlers.

You think you learned everything you needed in massage school? Forget that. Here’s what six years of working with two-year-olds taught me about being a great massage therapist.

1. Taking turns matters.

You will get your chance to relax, to deal with your personal problems, to break down, to chat about your interests, to cry. But while you’re giving a massage, it’s not your turn. Learn to be patient.

2. It’s mean when you won’t share your toys.

There’s no room for trade secrets in this business. You’ve got two hands, some oil, and a human body in front of you. The rest is just gravy. Playing hard-to-get with your colleagues because you see them as the competition, slapping a trademark on your particular take on deep tissue massage, refusing to mentor students and new therapists for fear they’ll steal your ideas … it’s petty. You’re a special snowflake, okay? Anybody else trying to be you is going to spend a lot of energy and end up with mediocre results.

3. Poop happens.

Also drool, snot, sweat, and period blood. Latex gloves and bleach, my friends. Latex gloves and bleach.

4. Everything can be interesting.

If you’re bored, it’s not the world’s fault, it’s yours. There are ants on the sidewalk, clouds in the sky, and glue sticks have an unusually satisfying flavor. Searching for the causes of a headache is like reading a good mystery novel. Find the wonder. Just because you don’t see it yet doesn’t mean it’s not there.

5. Eventually, somebody’s going to throw a tantrum.

A tantrum is an outsized reaction to a real or imagined problem. If the problem is real, it’s important to fix it. But know that the fixing won’t necessarily stop the tantrum right away. The nice thing about tantrums is that they’re exhausting. They can be scary while they last, but nobody can keep it up for long.

6. Everybody changes.

You will change. You will grow. You will pick up new values and new vocabulary, and learn to do new things on your own. Your body will do things you never anticipated it would do. The same is true of your clients. Expect it.

7. Everybody likes to have their back rubbed before a nap.

Seriously, everybody. Some quiet music, a soft blanket, and a back rub. There’s nothing quite like it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Any toddler understands the value of regular massage. Maybe it’s time we learned that for ourselves.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist and recent Midwest transplant to Dallas, Texas. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you like her writing here, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

Enemies

ninja killing pirate

“If I had an enemy then my enemy is gonna try to come and kill me ’cause I’m his enemy” -The Black Eyed Peas

Pain is not your enemy. Hunting it down and beating it into submission will not help. Getting angry when it refuses to respond to your treatments will not help. Pain is a symptom and a signal, and sometimes an unfortunate fact of life. But it is not your enemy.

Money is not your enemy. Blaming your career and personal problems on its unwillingness to flow your way will not help. Being unwilling to spend any of it thoughtfully and intelligently to advance your career or your personal life will not help. Money is a tool and a part of society. But it is not your enemy.

People soliciting sex are not your enemy. Calling them creeps and perverts will not help. Getting angry about the fact that they’ve accidentally called someone who doesn’t sell sex will not help. Prostitution exists everywhere, whether it’s legal or not. But it is not your enemy.

Your competition is not your enemy. Trash-talking them in front of others will not help. Putting effort into destroying their business instead of building up your own will not help. Competition means you have to work hard to stand out. But it is not your enemy.

There are two problems with making false enemies out of situations, people, and things:

  1. Vanquishing enemies is a full-time job. Just ask any superhero.
  2. Enemies have a habit of fighting back.

If you can’t get past the need to do battle with your foes, find the ones that are actually out to do you harm: your complacency, your insecurity, your unwillingness to try something strange and new. Whatever it is, make a plan for kicking its ass. When you do so, you might find that the very folks you considered your enemies turn out to be your strongest allies. Mr. Do-you-do-light-sensual-massage has certainly helped me land a punch to my unassertiveness, and money is a great cheerleader when laziness comes to call.

That’s the nice thing about giving up on old hatreds. When you pick your battles, there’s a great chance you’ll actually win.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist practicing in a nonprofit chronic pain management center in Cleveland, Ohio. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you liked this, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

photo credit: Dunechaser via photopin cc

On Ignorance

When I was really little, I believed Canadians didn’t attend church. I knew that my family didn’t go to church because of my father, and my father was different from other people’s fathers because he was Canadian. Furthermore, I had met quite a few Canadians, and none of them attended church either.

The fact that my grandmother’s house in Montreal was right next to a Catholic church didn’t phase to me. (Also, not only did I eventually figure out that my extended family was not representative of Canada as a whole, but I also learned what “Jewish” meant. Look how far I’ve come!)

Sure she’s cute, but can she drive a stick shift?

The truth of the matter is, we all start out ignorant. While the fact that I confused nationality and religion in Kindergarten certainly caused some laughs, nobody got angry at me for what I should have known. Our tolerance for ignorance usually decreases with age: it’s okay for an 11-year-old not to know how to balance a checkbook, but we get annoyed if they still don’t know by 22. While the opposite is sometimes true when talking about new technology, most of us set age-based standards for wisdom.

You should use the toilet by 3. Learn to read by 6. Do algebra by 15. Understand the electoral college by … probably never. 

Unfortunately, these assumptions on our part can hurt not only our businesses, but our community.

When I was 26, I read LMT on a business card and had no idea what it meant. I got annoyed with the person. What the heck were they trying to convey, the fact that they knew the alphabet? Why wouldn’t they just tell me what they did? I wasn’t stupid, but someone assumed that I would see that their business was a spa, make a list of possible spa occupations in my head, somehow match one of them up with the letters I’d been given, and decide they were the person for me.

They lost my business.

When we assume that very young massage therapists can’t do a great job because we were ignorant at that age, everyone loses out on what might have been a great professional relationship.

When we assume that just because a massage therapist has years of experience and a well-known practice, they must also have a firm grasp on ethics and professionalism, we can get ourselves into sticky situations.

When we’re furious that someone doesn’t realize there’s a difference between a massage therapist and a prostitute, we effectively stop that person from ever coming to us with a back injury.

When we get angry at new massage therapists straight out of school who’ve been taught that massage flushes lactic acid from their muscles, we lose a chance to educate and to foster the growth of a potential advocate for scientific literacy.

There are lots of blameworthy characteristics in the world: dishonesty, untrustworthiness, egotism, greed. We do what we can to avoid dealing with people who show those qualities, because there’s not much good that can come from it.

But ignorance? Ignorance is a shockingly easy fix. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have schools, we wouldn’t have newspapers, we wouldn’t have blogs or libraries or advertising, for that matter.

So take a minute for the ignorant. Explain your techniques to a client. Explain why your decision was the ethical one. Write out “Licensed Massage Therapist” instead of leaving your business card a wash of alphabet soup.

Just because we’re bodyworkers doesn’t mean we can’t be knowledge-workers as well, so get rid of your “shoulds”share what you’ve got. Potential clients, students, colleagues, (and possibly the occasional churchgoing Canadian) will thank you for it.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist practicing in a nonprofit chronic pain management center in Cleveland, Ohio. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you liked this, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

photo credit: ` TheDreamSky via photopin cc

Between Science and Woo: My Hospital Adventure

I work in a little-bitty clinic, basically a storefront, filled with donated furniture, ugly carpeting, and a whole lot of love. It’s a casual kind of place. But recently I left work early wearing a suit and heels, to head to the biggest, fanciest, best-known hospital in town: The Cleveland Clinic.

Why was a very junior massage therapist from a very tiny organization visiting a hospital with its own zip code? (44195, I’m not making this up!) I was attending an informational session about their Healing Services program. While the program makes use of massage, it is not organized by massage therapists. Maybe that’s why they’ve managed to sidestep the ongoing battle in the massage world between the forces of Science and Woo.

On one hand, there are the folks who like to talk about evidence, efficacy, and therapeutic outcomes. These are often the same folks who push for massage in he world of healthcare. On the other side of the divide are the people who prefer to base their practice off of their own intuition and experience, and may or may not incorporate energy work into what they do. These folks are perfectly happy to get the results that they get, and aren’t necessarily concerned with whether or not they can chart their results objectively or pass peer review.

As massage therapists, we’re familiar with this dynamic. So what are the factors that allow one of the biggest names in healthcare to incorporate massage, Reiki, guided imagery, aromatherapy, meditation, Healing Touch, counseling, and a hodgepodge of other techniques into one coherent program?

The first is the distinction between Healing Services and other departments. When your work falls under “patient experience” and “spiritual care,” what’s the goal? That the patient feels cared for. In that context, there’s no doubt at all that each of these techniques can be equally valid, depending on the preferences of the patient.

The second is the question of billing. Massage and other offerings available through Healing Services, which are open to patients, families, and staff, are not billed for the way a rehabilitation-focused massage might be. The forms for notetaking are different, so a person offering Reiki, for example, isn’t limited to just checking a box labeled “emotional support.” This allows for greater freedom in modality while still tracking the results that matter most with in the context of the program.

The third has to do with money. The Cleveland Clinic has sufficient funding to offer these services at no charge, because it is only a small piece of what they do. When money is being exchanged for treatment, there are ethical questions about whether or not something  has been shown to have an effect. But in the model being used at the Clinic, the only important factor is the individual’s subjective experience. Given that reimbursement for services will soon be tied to positive patient experiences, this still makes financial sense.

I don’t know whether the various factions in the massage therapy community will manage to find a place of unity anytime in the future. But it is reassuring to know that there is a place where nurses, chaplains, and yes, massage therapists and energy workers of all kinds can come together and find a little patch of common ground. That it’s happening in such a prestigious place is an added bonus. Maybe if we take a step back from wanting our faction to be all things to all people, we can find the niche where we’re most effective, and learn to work together towards a healthier, happier world.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist practicing in a nonprofit chronic pain management center in Cleveland, Ohio. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you liked this, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

Massage Conference Super-Secret Packing List!

I’m leaving tomorrow (or tonight, if my husband Jef has his way, he likes to drive at night) for the AMTA National Convention. Last year was my first year attending, and I loved almost every minute of it. I learned a ton. Not just about massage therapy, either. I learned a fair bit about attending conferences in general. And one of the most important things I learned was what to pack.

What do I bring with me, anyway?

If you’re curious about the basics, there are lots of great guides to packing for professional conferences, and I highly recommend looking a few of them up if you’re a fellow procrastinator and haven’t put your own list together yet. “Business casual” clothes, your various and sundry mobile devices, business cards, all that kind of stuff. But there are also things that never seem to appear on these lists, even though they can improve your conference experience dramatically. Why people are keeping these things a secret is beyond me, but here are some of the items I won’t show up without.

Super-Secret Packing List!

  1. A pair of jeans. Yes, yes, professionalism and all that. But you’re not going to be in workshops (or meetings, hi delegates!) all day. Eventually you’re going to want to hang out. And if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t quite feel like a human being in dress slacks, don’t torture yourself by attempting to chill out in the evening in fancy shoes.
  2. A tote bag. This seems counterintuitive, since you know perfectly well you’re going to get a bag when you arrive. But if you’re going to want to buy things from vendors, (or if you’re an instructor stocking up on freebies), one cheapo backpack is not going to cut it. A tote can be thrown into your other bag and take up very little room until you need it.
  3. Your appointment book. No, most of the people you meet will not be local, and have no interest on jumping on your massage table once you get home. But what if you want to set up a phone appointment with your newly-discovered mentor or BFF? If you’re one of those pen-and-paper folks, keep that book handy. Digital people, I know you couldn’t be surgically separated from your schedule if your life depended on it, so feel free to ignore this advice.
  4. A shawl. Ladies, it’s true that you’ll warm up at the dinner dance once you’re getting your boogie on. But do you want to freeze until then? A nice shawl doubles as a scarf during evening outings, so it’s totally multipurpose and well worth the few extra inches of suitcase space.
  5. Snacks. This is a conference, not seventh grade. If you find your blood sugar tanking during a lecture, just eat something! Nuts and raisins are great if you’re trying to be a good example. Dark chocolate peanut M&Ms are good if you either don’t care about being an example or would like to share with me. If you’re a tea drinker, bring your own bags. The tea at most hotels is rubbish.
  6. Water bottle. For washing down the above. Bottled water is such a racket.
  7. Nail clippers. This is the sort of thing people who write about conferences in general (as opposed to massage therapy conferences) never mention, but the last thing you want is to realize four days into your week off from work that you’ve grown talons and have nothing to trim them with!
  8. A good book. By Saturday of last year’s convention, I was seriously overloaded on social interaction, and desperately in need of some introvert recharge time. So I curled up on the sofa with a young adult novel and didn’t speak to anyone for a couple of hours. It was exactly what I needed.
  9. An old-school notebook and pen. It’s just handy, especially when you end up working in a group, whether it’s formally or on your own time. “Does anybody have paper?” gets asked all the time. “Does anybody have an iPad?” just … doesn’t.
  10. Questions. This is your one shot to ask all sorts of people who know all sorts of stuff all of the questions that have been nagging you this entire year. So, naturally, you will forget them all as soon as you’ve arrived. Write them down! Carry them in your pocket. And when you run into that special somebody, ask away.

Have you been to a massage conference before? If you made some unconventional packing decisions, dish! What was a waste of space? What wouldn’t you be caught without?

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist practicing in a nonprofit chronic pain management center in Cleveland, Ohio. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you liked this, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

photo credit: Highways Agency via photopin cc

Evolving Roles

When I first decided to become a massage therapist, I didn’t think about what kinds of roles I wanted to play in the massage world. I was going to give kick-butt massages, and maybe write about it on the side. Wasn’t that basically what everyone in massage school planned to do?

But the more time I spend as a part of the massage community, the more aware I become of the huge variety of roles massage therapists play:

  • business owner
  • community health educator
  • teacher
  • author
  • researcher
  • volunteer
  • mentor
  • retailer
  • organizer

Superhero belongs on this list too.

These are only the very beginning, and yet we rarely talk massage therapists about the many paths of service that are open to them. Why?

Of the roles I’ve taken on since becoming a part of the massage therapy community, the one that took me most by surprise is student advocate. It occurred as a side effect of blogging while still in massage school; I felt obligated to stand up for myself and my fellow students, to remind the world that we were no less an important part of the massage world than those who had long since left their school days behind. Whether we like it or not, today’s students are the future of the profession. In my role as their staunch supporter, I feel that I owe it to us all to make sure that they enter the professional world with the very best we have to offer.

Part of this means helping students to move forward through their educations with open eyes, knowing what kinds of roles they might take on in their careers, and what shoes they might someday have to fill. This knowledge can affect not only their educational choices, but their aspirations and level of connection to the field.

The next time someone asks you about your experience as a massage therapist, take just a minute to step beyond the clients and the daily laundry, and outline the other roles that you and those around you have taken on over the years.

You might be surprised and find that you’re more than you think you are. Open up the doors and show people the wider vistas of what a massage therapist can truly accomplish in this world. It’s a beautiful view. Why not let everyone know?

 

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist practicing in a nonprofit chronic pain management center in Cleveland, Ohio. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you liked this, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

 

photo credit: gorickjones via photo pin cc