March 6, 2012

Why we do what we do

There are many reasons why I decided to become a massage therapist. In many ways I’ve been a body wor
ker since I was quite young, exchanging back rubs with my younger brother, and training him to walk on my back, until he was much too big and unwieldy for it. When I first sought a more “traditional” path, University and a career in business, the stress led me to a regular schedule with professional licensed massage. Soon, I found myself dreaming of a daily life with ambient light and soft music, all as a backdrop to helping people feel better and leaving me happier than when they arrived.

Over the years since realizing that goal, I’ve had many opportunities to enjoy the Truth of that choice. At l
east weekly, and more often daily, I am privileged to have an interaction with a client who had no idea that they could feel better, who stands a little straighter and moves a little freer than an hour ago. There is joy in helping a new athlete achieve their goal to run their first marathon, or to assist a new parent in being able to lift their child without pain. Occasionally, though, there is an experience that seems to run deeper, into depths that only the clients know, and rarely share.

Muscles have memory, not only for the patters of physical activity we engage in, but also for the stressors and emotions that we quite literally *internalize*. Sometimes, when the physical tension from stress is released a client will have an equal release internally of the emotions related to it.

This had happened on occasion throughout my career, and had always been an opportunity to practice empathy and respect, preserving boundaries of professionalism and comfort, giving space for the client to have their experience without unwanted interference. Sometimes, I would be a sounding board to what was coming up, offering sympathy without judgment.

Then there was the day when I met Consuelo (not her real name), who was brought to see me by her son, to receive her first ever professional massage. Consuelo had taken a hard fall, cracked her patella, and suffered severe whiplash, but had no insurance to pay for treatment. In her mid 70s, she shuffled in, obviously in pain. She spoke very little English, but had been instructed by her son, a previous client of mine, as to what to expect. He gave me an overview of her condition, which she confirmed by pointing to areas of discomfort.

The truly amazing part came later, when she was on the warm table and started to relax. She responded tentatively at first, not sure how to react. Then, as she started to feel better, breathe more deeply, and her muscles began to unwind she began what became her mantra for the rest of the hour.

“Thank you, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am. Oh, thank you, ma’am!”

The intensity with which this statement was delivered really struck me. The pure gratitude and simple appreciation came through so clearly that it brought me the impression of someone who had done so much for others (as exemplified by her loving son waiting in the lobby) and very little to take care of herself. I started to tear up at the thought, all the while grinning to myself and replying to her in soft tones of reassurance.

When I began to work on her hands, I came to a spot where one of her fingers was twisted due to an older injury. Immediately her head popped up from the table. “First husband, in Philippines,” she said, “bad man, twist back! I left!!” This was nearly shouted.

“Sounds like you did what you had to do. Good job.” Was my reply.

Something about Consuelo’s openness, her vulnerability, and her courage really struck me. I haven’t seen her since, but for that one day she and I were Very Good Friends. After we were finished, she dressed, and we had a brief outtake discussion, we walked together out to where her son was waiting. She had impulsively hugged my waist as we walked, and did not let go. She told her son I was “magickal” and “beautiful” and I told him that it was the other way around. His mother was amazing. He had to agree.

I smiled about Consuelo for days after that, renewed in my resolve that I am in the right profession.

Written by Melissa Holm, LMP at Dreamclinic, Inc.

1 comment:

Sprtsgirl said...

Beautiful story :-)