She called me a ‘colleague’.

10500381_10152393222673521_8849407867161948206_nWe lost Dianne Polseno today. It’s a heartbreak for so many of us who learned from her and laughed with her.

Dianne was my very first teacher at massage school. That first day of Anatomy & Physiology class, I had no idea the impact she would have on me. I had no idea that sitting in the front row was one of the smarter things I would ever do. I had no idea that 18 months later I would be giving her a massage, the final practical exam needed before I graduated, and she would hug me and it would mean the world to me. I didn’t know that when she called me her ‘colleague’ it would change the way I thought and felt about myself.

Dianne taught anatomy with a passion. A PASSION. With verve and love and sense of amazement and wonder that never diminished. I struggled in that class, but she made it worthwhile. She got me excited and challenged me. Her sense of humor made it fantastic.

I was at the tail end of that A & P class when I went to Dianne’s annual Cadaver Workshop. She blew me away. We were shown a whole new level of respect and honor for the human body, in all its intricacies and wonder. It changed us, as people and practitioners.

And the ethics classes. Oh, the ethics classes! “We touch people,” Dianne would say. Loudly. Repeatedly. It stayed with me. I say it in my head all the time. I say it out loud when I teach. So simple and obvious, but the most complex and important idea for us to absorb.

On a personal level, Dianne taught me so much more. She told me I was smart and capable. She called me on my bullshit. She comforted me when I was feeling beaten down, and made me laugh so hard I nearly peed myself while in an exhibit hall full of people. When she was diagnosed last year she said in an email, “Keep me laughing, Blue Streak, okay?” Sending her absurd, hilarious emails of dancing cats and texts with inappropriate jokes for the last 7 months was an honor. A silly, wonderful honor that made me laugh, too.

I love this industry. I love my profession. I love that as a whole we are generous with our time and money, that we support and fund so many causes, massage-related and beyond. I love that we all came to massage in a different way. Some came for a flexible schedule, some to be their own boss. So many massage therapists found massage through their own illness or caring for a loved one. In so many ways, it doesn’t matter how we got here. We’re here. We’re here together.

I love that we argue and battle over standards and education and everything else with such passion and excitement. I love that we care enough to fight. And even more than that, I love that we care enough to forgive, rebuild bridges and start again. Because we touch people, and that matters.

I love that many of our leaders maintain a hands-on practice, in addition to the myriad of other work they do. I love that we have great leaders in our profession who are not actually hands-on practitioners, but they get it. They get it. And they fight for us. They work hard to make it possible for us to do this work.

At the end of the day, we all touch people. We all give massage. We give it a chance, we give it a future. We give it context, proof and credibility. We touch people.

We are able to do that, and we do it very well, because of great teachers, friends and colleagues like Dianne Polseno.

She spoke at my graduation from Bancroft, and at the end she said, “I am so proud to now call you my colleagues.” That scared the hell out of me. I felt I could never live up to that statement. But over the last seven years she taught me that I could.  I have never been so honored to know that someone was my teacher, my colleague, my champion, and my friend.

We’ll be feeling this loss for a long time. I take solace in knowing that I carry with me all that she taught, and I will work hard to be worthy of that knowledge.

(PS- This is the kind of absurdity I sent Dianne, and she laughed. Hard. You could probably use it right now, too.)

Added 11/19/2012: I am very proud that the AMTA Massachusetts Chapter has created a scholarship fun in Dianne’s name. You can learn more and get donation instructions here. 

(This post originally appeared on the now-defunct, but has found a new home here.)

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