Spring is in full force. All the trees now wearing their new leaves. As I worked in my garden, I found myself watching a pair of mockingbirds in courtship. How their wings fluttered a certain way as they moved from tree to tree in some sort of dance. I had not realized what a vast array of songs they could sing. It was like listening to an old AM radio station. A throw back to when music was not played by any specific genre. Such an unexpected delight.
My corona anniversary date came and went without much ado or time for reflection. What I did notice was that this past year has required an insane amount of flexibility. Some days and months going from 100 mph to a complete stop and then back to 100 mph. It has felt like whiplash to me. My inbox became overflowed with appointment requests from folks who now feel safe after they have gotten their vaccines. I can honestly say, “I did not see this coming.”
So, as I revisited each client’s chart, I found it had been almost one year to the date since our last session. What a homecoming March turned out to be. A welcome back of so many to the bodywork table. It has also made me realize how different each of our pandemic fatigue looks like. How we all grieve for different things that we have lost over this past year. How there are just so many days when it is hard to find any traction to get things done and some days you just have to root yourself down.
Here is a poem I return to in times when I just need to stop for a moment and take notice. It has truly helped me thru things I have not been able to process this year. It is my hope it will offer something similar for you.
Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been longing to see.
Your hand opens and closes, and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence
is in every small contraction and expansion,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as bird wings.
As always, in gratitude to you for taking a moment to check in with me.
It is difficult to believe a whole year has gone by since everything changed. I am really grateful that so many of you have reached out to schedule bodywork after getting fully vaccinated. Being a front-line worker, I too opted for the vaccine as soon as it was offered. From what I have witnessed, I sure hope it can offer protection to us all and especially our most vulnerable populations.
I would love to say that things have gotten easier, but this virus is mean and nasty, and it loves to linger. In the past three months, my heart has broken more than in all my 30 years of this work. From my vantage point, things might be starting to stabilize, yet we are still on lockdown wearing full protective gear. The N95 mask often leaving marks on my face that last all day. The complications from this invisible assailant seem endless.
With this said, I wish to clarify that Austin Body Therapeutic Center will continue to require face coverings for both practitioner and client. The well-being of my clients and my community remain my top priority.
“The disease has not abated; it is not done with us just because we are done with it.”―Dr. Erin Carlson
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It's simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Colin Firth/Geoffrey Rush- photo by Weinstein Company
I’m always behind the curve when it comes to seeing the latest movie, so yes I did miss The King’s Speech while it was in the theater. Due to the wonderful buzz among everyone I know who saw it, I was quick to watch it on DVD. And it did not disappoint. You may be wondering why this is relevant to my bodywork practice, or then again you may be right there with me. The story line ran such a strong parallel with my own belief system that besides being glued to the amazing cinematography, I felt like I was watching my own professional story unfold.
In case you haven’t seen the film yet, here is a quick glance without giving all the good parts away. This British historical drama is about the Duke of York soon to be King George the VI. To help the Duke overcome his stammer his wife seeks out Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist, known for his unique yet effective methodology. Logue believes there are emotional triggers that underlie the onset of most speech impediments. Initially the Duke will not discuss personal matters and only wants to work on the mechanical problem at hand. Logue agrees, and they work together on muscle relaxation and breathe control, but Logue continues to probe into the psychological roots of his stammer. The King eventually tells about the difficulties of his childhood at the time his stammer appeared: his strict father; repression of his left-handedness; painful knee splints; a nanny who mistreated him and “It took my parents three years to notice.”
I absolutely love the structural part of the human body and continue to find relevance in the study of anatomy, and other coursework to help me make sense of this amazing system. But I know that behind every pain and injury there is an emotional story as well. So when clients’ report pain or numbness somewhere, and they can remember the exact moment it came on, I find myself drawn as much to what was happening in their life that day, as the idea that the pain resulted from ‘I was just putting on my shoes.’ Besides the actual mechanical pain process, I like to look at what they may be holding on to….An inability to forgive someone, bitterness about how the pain has changed their life, anger about something someone said or did. The list can go on but I, like Logue, have come to believe that wellness comes from healing both the mechanical and the emotional. We may find that on some days trying softer may get us further ahead than trying harder.
One of the more delicate parts of my job is discussing radiological findings with my clients. These tests have become the gold standard to rule out serious medical conditions. They are also used to figure out why someone has pain. This can bring great comfort to people as they now have a clear cause, and yet great distress to others because their tests are normal and they still hurt.
So in truth, how much weight should a scan hold in the overall picture of your pain? Here is the case that really challenged my own outlook. On his first visit, this client came into my office with his written MRI report in hand. Luckily the medical terminology wasn’t written in layman’s terms, so he wasn’t able to judge the severity. He was comfortable with his doctors’ assurance that it was arthritis, and at 60 years of age he personally felt like that was to be expected. At that time, I had fifteen years experience under my belt and was pretty sure I had never read a scan so daunting. It could have taken the prize for ‘the worst stiff neck imaginable’, if awards for this were actually given out. I remember thinking can a neck like this ever move normally again.
What began with so many doubts, turned into an incredible journey. It broke down barriers in my belief system that needed to be challenged. I had a big aha moment when I came to realize that an image is one thing and the body’s own ability to heal is quite another. Had I relied solely on what the scan said, with major arthritic changes at each and every level of his neck, I would have feared moving forward. The beauty was that his body was ready for relief from a year of headaches and an inability to look over either shoulder. It became clear very quickly, that his neck just needed a little guidance.
If I was a betting woman, I would have lost, as I didn’t hold faith in his full recovery. Thankfully he proved me wrong and this one man’s success has completely changed my outlook. I no longer judge a client by their imaging; instead it is just one small piece of the amazing puzzle called the human body. With this said, I recommend that you don’t judge yourself by your scans, and see if a brighter outlook doesn’t appear.
As a bodyworker, I come into people’s lives when something is amiss in their body. Over the years, I have been blessed with assisting a lot of incredible people on their path toward wellness.
Recently, I was reminded how important this can be when I received an enormous hug and the gracious words, “You were my turning point. After our session, I knew I had the tools to get well.” These rewarding moments are why I am so committed and passionate about my work.
But it also stirred up even more questions for me. How many people recognize when they are at a turning point? How many people stop there and are fooled into believing this is the end point, and ultimately get re-injured? How many people never find their turning point, and continue to stay in a vicious cycle that ultimately doesn’t bring wellness.
Ah, always more too ponder! It’s a great reminder to pay closer attention to your body, so that you can feel this change. I sure appreciate my clients’ for the lessons they share with me every day.