September 15, 2013

How to Be a Sobbing Mess

I was struck by your comment about seeing that moment of letting to and feeling safe. It's been a difficult year for me and I find myself craving the relaxation and tenderness of a massage. But I also know that the tenderness would open up the floodgates, so to speak, and I'd be a sobbing mess within minutes. Right now, not letting go is the only thing keeping me together.

What are your thoughts regarding clients crying? Have you had that happen to you? What is the best way for a client to handle the situation?

I responded:

Oh, of course! It happens all the time. There's nothing to handle, except of course you'll want a big box of kleenex to hand. (It's a sadly unprepared massage therapist who doesn't have a box of kleenex in the office!) It's not a problem. You cry for a while, maybe say whatever you have to say, sniffle & blow your nose, and the massage goes on.

What the does the massage therapist do? Sit quietly, maybe hold a hand in both of ours, maybe rock them a bit: it really doesn't matter. We listen. We do need to remember that we're not trained as talk therapists, and we're not healers, whatever our clients may say. Our job is easy. As Kristen Burkholder says, "Keep your heart open and your mouth shut."

I think some people are worried that they will dissolve into tears and howl for hours, if they get started. But however big a deal it is on the inside, on the outside it's usually just an upwelling of tears and a sob or two. I work in-home, so people can howl all they want, but mostly they don't. The tears come and go.

People warn me, sometimes. "I might cry this time." But often those aren't the people who do: often it takes people by surprise. I don't think it's always even very emotional: sometimes it seems more a purely neurological response, something the nervous system does in response to touch, as part of a long-delayed transition from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic state. In any case – it doesn't come as a surprise to me, or to any experienced massage therapist. And it doesn't wreck the massage; not for me, not for you.

In general, I would say: if you need to have a good cry, the sooner the better.

September 7, 2013

Three Fun Facts about Biological Clocks

Reading this book about biological clocks, and picked up these fun facts: 

1) there are light receptors in the eye that apparently are never used for vision: their function is to inform the clock center (there is one) about the amount of light. Blind people may or may not still have the use of these receptors: if they don't their biological clock won't synchronize with day and night properly. If they do, they synchronize as well as sighted people. 

2) It's a LOT brighter outdoors than indoors. Even on a dark day, lots more light showering down outside than in a brightly-lit room. The numbers really surprised me. If you're having trouble synchronizing your clock with the day and night cycle, getting outside as soon as you wake up will probably do you a lot more good than dimming the lights before bedtime. 

3) People vary, but most commonly, if kept in a space with nothing to reveal what time of day it is, most people will settle to a circadian cycle longer than 24 hours. So the system *tends* to run late. If you don't keep nudging the clock by getting that blast of light in the morning, the natural tendency will be to stay up a bit later every night.

September 3, 2013

Pin That Thought

Lots of lovely comments on my last post, from people wishing I was in their neck of the woods, so they could get a massage from someone who would accept their body as it is. I'm grateful for the comments and for all the readers who came this way from Go Kaleo -- a flood of people! But you know, the problem is not that I'm not in your neck of the woods, the problem is that you're imagining the therapists who are in your neck of the woods are any different. They're not.

Of all people, massage therapists may be the ones least susceptible to the media images, to that whole bizarre photoshopped world of sixteen-year-olds posed in adult costumes. We work on real bodies. We don't get our clients from Central Casting. The line in the grocery store this morning -- those are my next five clients. Every imaginable shape and size, at every imaginable age and level of fitness. You may feel that you should look some other way, but we don't. We really don't.

So if you want a massage from someone who accepts you as you are -- and a lot of you are clearly longing for one -- then call up the nearest massage therapist and make an appointment. Do it now. The person who thinks your body is not fit to show to a therapist is not the therapist; it's you. If you're a fan of Go Kaleo, as I am, you're probably in the process of making peace with your body. And if your first impulse is to think, "well, maybe ten pounds from now" -- hold it right there. Pin that thought to the wall and watch it wriggle. That thought is the enemy; that's the thought that's keeping you from treating yourself kindly. It's that thought, and not the ten pounds, that's in your way.

Wherever you are, there's a massage therapist who will honor and cherish your body as it ought to be honored and cherished. You just need to find them. I'm betting it won't be hard: in fact, I'm betting you'll win first time out of the gate. Take the chance.

September 2, 2013

What People Really Look Like

Women have cellulite, men have silly buttocks.

I’ve been a massage therapist for many years, now. I know what people look like. People have been undressing for me for a long time. I know what you look like: a glance at you, and I can picture pretty well what you’d look like on my table. 

Let’s start here with what nobody looks like: nobody looks like the people in magazines or movies. Not even models. Nobody. Lean people have a kind of rawboned, unfinished look about them that is very appealing. But they don’t have plump round breasts and plump round asses. You have plump round breasts and a plump round ass, you have a plump round belly and plump round thighs as well. That’s how it works. (And that’s very appealing too.)

Woman have cellulite. All of them. It’s dimply and cute. It’s not a defect. It’s not a health problem. It’s the natural consequence of not consisting of photoshopped pixels, and not having emerged from an airbrush.

Men have silly buttocks. Well, if most of your clients are women, anyway. You come to male buttocks and you say -- what, this is it? They’re kind of scrawny and the tissue is jumpy because it’s unpadded; you have to dial back the pressure, or they’ll yelp.

Adults sag. It doesn’t matter how fit they are. Every decade, an adult sags a little more. All of the tissue hangs a little looser. They wrinkle, too. I don’t know who put about the rumor that just old people wrinkle. You start wrinkling when you start sagging, as soon as you’re all grown up, and the process goes its merry way as long as you live. Which is hopefully a long, long time, right?

Everybody on a massage table is beautiful. There are really no exceptions to this rule. At that first long sigh, at that first thought that “I can stop hanging on now, I’m safe” – a luminosity, a glow, begins. Within a few minutes the whole body is radiant with it. It suffuses the room: it suffuses the massage therapist too. People talk about massage therapists being caretakers, and I suppose we are: we like to look after people, and we’re easily moved to tenderness. But to let you in on a secret: I’m in it for the glow. 

I’ll tell you what people look like, really: they look like flames. Or like the stars, on a clear night in the wilderness.

reposted in Elephant Journal