Nobody wants those cards back

We think death is what happens to other people, until it makes someone we care for vanish from our eyes, or takes one community member too many. (We’ve had our share here in Waldo County. Last week’s suicide is not resting easy with me, and hopefully never will. Sadness: the price you pay for putting down roots and getting to know people.)

Your youth might have been cast in the gloaming light of perpetual twilight or dawn, with gentle humor and romance and mild discomfort resolved in time for merry holidays, but live long enough and death moves out of the dark woods, into the backyard, and right up into a lawn chair at the neighborhood picnic.

Act like it’s not there, but it kind of casts a pallor on the festivities. What with that raspy breath and sunken eyes and everything. What a downer. Someone make more sangria.

Our bodies give us hints all the time but we are adept at ignoring those hints because hints slow us down. Here’s one such: your body doesn’t like to hold on to things. In fact, its whole purpose is to get rid of what it doesn’t need, through elimination: sweat, tears, mucous, respiration, menses, #1, #2, and going bald.

But we think holding on to things – be they physical, emotional, psychological – is a good idea. If we don’t hold on, how are we going to make them last?

What, says body? You’re not serious, are you? Make what last for what? Our body doesn’t know the date of its imminent end, but it’s hard-wired for letting go its whole life long. Death is merely the final act for the cell birth-death-birth-death it rehearses every day.

My client and I were comparing mothers: this is what women my age and older do, now: discuss our mothers as if we were talking of wayward children. Hers had sadly passed; mine was still very much alive, but both of ours had a lifelong habit of holding on to everything.

“SHE THREW NOTHING AWAY” my client bemoaned and I had to commiserate, as she regaled me with tales of entering her mom’s house and finding everything just as she had left it, which was now my client and her sisters’ task to clean up.

I had a one-up on her, though, which I enjoy pulling out at moments like these. It’s pretty bad.

“Yeah,” I said, “That’s awful. Hey. Did she ever send you back the cards you sent to her? From, like, years ago?”

“Oh my word. Yours did that??”

Yes, in brave attempts at de-cluttering, my mom will sometimes send me overstuffed envelopes bursting with magazine articles, newspaper clippings, the inevitable Christian tract (never mind I’ve been a Born Again since I was 8, she assumes I still haven’t heard the Gospel, otherwise why did I vote for Obama?), and copies of letters from former neighbors, some of which are quite interesting.

These envelopes then include a card or two that I sent to her, 15, sometimes 20 years ago. I receive these with the horror one reserves for reading one’s own journal from high school: extracted with thumb and forefinger, hastily scanned, hiked into the woodstove with a shudder.

If you send a card to someone, you don’t ever expect to see it again, do you? It’s the assumption, nay the hope, that once they have it they will dispose of it as they see fit. Possibly recycled, but even better flipped into a fire. Nobody wants their cards back.

Unwanted stuff — from our past, from the cluttered homes of our mothers — is one thing. The stuff we carry around inside, personally manufactured, tended, nurtured, kept alive over the years due to spite or ego or pain or some macabre cocktail of one or more stinging condition, is a whole ‘nuther. It’s the stuff that blocks the tender inconvenience of moving on, something our body is keen on, if we but let it do what it wants to do.

The body gets it. We don’t. It feels like a personal affront when we’re asked to let go. So we hold on….and on….and on.

I happen to think massage therapy is exemplary on a number of fronts – spiritual, emotional, physical, psychological – and, here, it also shines in all its beauty. There is no simpler method for helping you surrender emotional baggage, mental clutter and habitual tension than getting a massage therapy session.

Experiencing the professional, loving, attentive hands of another person detangling your nerves, spiraling out your stiffness and giving you cellular affirmation that, yes, you are going to make it after all, is an intervention of the highest kind. Your mind quiets, your body relaxes, and somewhere in that silence under your skin healthy things happen: you get off the table, and as you dress, voila. A certain plague has left you.

We really have a hard time saying goodbye, although it’s the most natural thing for our bodies to do. Professional touch, in the form of massage therapy (and other such modalities) helps us move from one place to another: from birth to life, through trauma towards calm, from frigidity to freedom, from loneliness to comfort.

We can let go because we’re reassured. The past is over, even if the past is only 60 minutes old. It’s left behind in the massage therapy linens we climb out of, free and clear, and able to try again.


Every Time We Say Good-bye

I have been considering endings, lately. What about you? August is filled with preparation for fall. Light lowers and hems. We start saying Farewell to heat, here in Maine, as well. There is great harvest and celebration, but it’s the beginning of the end.

As we say good-bye to someone, something, we can feel bad. Maybe we thought this happy thing was never going to end, but here it is, ending anyway. Maybe we couldn’t wait for this miserable event to be over, and now that it is, we have a lot more mixed feelings than we thought we would have, including sourness over having wasted so much time on something that ended up being a huge disappointment.

While saying good-bye, we can cling, or we can push it away.

But here it comes: close to going…

going away now…


The temptation is to fill an ending with the instant in-rush of next steps, next move, next next next. “WHAT’S NEXT?!?!” The grave’s not even cold. We get what we’ve been craving, and like toddlers we hold it for 2 seconds, let it roll out of our hands, and wriggle on, grabbing and tasting and exulting…but not absorbing. Or cleaning up the mess in our wake.

Sometimes there just isn’t a “next.” Something ends. And, in that completion, there is a borderless quiet that comes in and soaks us to our soul roots. We haven’t got “it,’ whatever it is, to catapult us into knowing, doing, saying or planning what’s to come. We aren’t inspired. We feel blank, fallow, still as glass, or snow falling in a field.

A massage therapy or Reiki, or other bodywork, session is hugely instrumental in teaching us how to say good-bye. As recipients, we present ourselves to a practitioner for healing, hope for the best, receive what we get, and then must arise and go forth. That lovely time is over before we know it. “Can’t I just stay here?” No, we can’t stay.

Courtesy Kevin Kratka Photography

Courtesy Kevin Kratka Photography

As practitioners, we see the session as a whole, but we also see each part of the person as a whole, and as such, we say hello/goodbye, hello/goodbye, constantly during the massage. Hello to your scalp! Goodbye scalp. Hello neck! Goodbye neck. Hello to your whole shoulder, whole arm and down to each finger! Goodbye to all that.

Hello wonderful beautiful incredible awesome gorgeous human being person thing!

Goodbye wonderful beautiful incredible awesome gorgeous human being person thing.

I like to end my massage therapy sessions by holding a limb or a pate, for a prayerful length. It reminds me of that long quiet, that vast unknowing, that comes at the end of all things: when you know it’s the end, and you don’t know what’s next. You know just enough to stay where you are, breathing, falling.

“To change what we are doing, we must stop what we are doing.” – David Lauterstein

“We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it. ” – Rainer Maria Rilke

“As you uncover God’s loving truth, you uncover your own, and as you uncover your own truth, you fall deeper into God’s mercy and love.” – Richard Rohr

What you just read is not my fault. It’s because my friend, colleague, co-conspirator and pants kicker Rowan Blaisdell talked me into it, and also, because I cannot resist a write-off: 31 Posts in 31 Days August Blog Challenge, Business Blogging School. Caution snuffed, perfectionism cast off like a smelly cloak: this is blog #14.

Lux Perpetua

I became a hospice volunteer because death was on its way. A rare life, mine: no one close to me had died, and then one of my clients perished. I was wracked for how it happened (ALS finally turned off the juice to his lungs), the loneliness of his end, his end in general, and the fact that I didn’t like him that much and wished I had liked him more.

For all these reasons, I cried for days and got tired of it. Someone steered me to our local hospice organization, since obviously I needed help. Connie took my phone call and listened to me blub; Flic listened to me blub too and then gave me a book or two to read. Two months later I gratefully attended the six-week training program run by Hospice Volunteers of Waldo County here in Belfast, Maine.

Touching people professionally has led me to wanting to touch them, no matter what: to be close to them, not as a last resort but first option: to see them all the way, when everything that sparks and animates them slowly leaks out and disappears. Words fail. Touch doesn’t.

Massage therapists can make great deathbed pals. We love humans, as a rule, and so we can be there for them even as they literally fall apart, with good will and gentle humor. We see what might be hidden, and hear what isn’t said. All of these things make us natural friends for the dying.

Most MTs are okay with vast tracts of silence: this is how we get our work done: it is also how a soul unweaves itself from its body, and by bearing witness we can make it easier for someone who’s trying to let go but who is afraid. Our very presence equates wholehearted endorsement of whatever happens.

It was my hospice training and subsequent volunteering that got me linked up with Gwen. She wasn’t a hospice case when I met her: just a house-bound elderly woman who needed someone to take out her trash and bring her a gallon of milk on Mondays. Connie and Flic heard about this and in their great wisdom decided she and I might be a fine match.

When I found out she had been a Pentecostal minister I wasn’t surprised: she had the confidence and repartee of a career woman, spoke easily and well from years of presenting the gospel. I was also not surprised because it seemed just my dumb luck: I am the daughter of a minister, myself, but left it all behind me years ago. Now I was assigned to attend a saint’s needs, weekly. I implored the heavens to be spared her inevitable proselytizing and prying questions.

Her generation still knew the social grace of the classic “visit,” and when you’re doing this, you sit and talk. Despite my attempts to hide my personal life from her, bits of it came out over time. She finally found out I didn’t go to church, and that Nate and I were living together, not married. In my experience with classic evangelicals (and Gwen certainly was one of these), if you don’t behave like what a Christian is supposed to behave like, you don’t get dibs on faith. They don’t take you seriously: you look too much like a sinner. Your little attempts at following Christ are pitied. I mean, c’mon. Can’t even get to church on Easter? For shame.

I certainly didn’t think my prayers would have meant a brass farthing to her, coming as they did from the likes of me, a veritable Mary Magdalene. Maybe, just maybe, she had that relationship with Jesus that I’d heard some people had, where the Almighty was forever breathing his holy light into her heart and speaking to her constantly in a language that only someone who prayed and sought the Lord as fervently as she did could possibly understand.

Maybe Jesus told her I really was a good kid and not to give me too hard of a time. The day she said “I pray for you every day. And I am so glad you pray for me. I need it,” I thought I was going to fall out of my chair. I fished around inside my purse, instead, and snatched out a hanky, because I realized I had started to cry.

Last summer, she spent a week in the hospital and after she got home, confessed to me, “I thought I was a goner there for a while.” I thought she might have been too. But she rallied, and in October we spent her 85th birthday together. I got her Chinese food, per her request, even though I knew it was wretched for her high blood pressure, diabetes, edema.

This past April she developed shortness of breath that wasn’t solved through medication adjustment. “It’s just a nuisance, more than anything else,” she consoled me, after I’d given her a look of unmistakable concern. Six days later Joyce, her housekeeper, called 911: she had found Gwen practically incoherent, not knowing where she was. Fourteen days later Gwen was dead. Renal failure.

While she was in the hospital I went to see her, but days went by between my last visit and her passing, and so I never did get to see her just once more. The word “rue” fully expresses the feeling I’ve had about that and continue to feel. I may never get over it, in fact.

Joyce, however, had been with Gwen the night before. “Even then, she was still telling me about the foot rub you gave her.”

She mentioned this casually while we stood next to one another at the funeral, and it wasn’t just the bright sun and heat of the day: my mind reeled. I couldn’t remember it at all: had I rubbed her feet? When? Why wasn’t it coming back to me? Then, suddenly it did: people were in her room making small talk. I had my full attention on Gwen’s dear face, slack and losing light, as she barely maintained consciousness enough to add a few words, and then fall back into a struggle-filled sleep.

Because words didn’t fill my mouth, my hands took over, as they are wont: her feet were closest to me: I held one foot at a time, gently working every toe, muscle and bone, down to the heel and back. At one point I looked up at her, and she was staring at me almost without blinking. Then she was out.

With relief I also recalled that some of my last words to her were, “Sleep well,” and “I love you.” And I know she had said to me, “I love you too.”

Through her loss comes the startling realization that I am glad to be sad. And I am willing to let my heart break over and over again as those close, closer, and even closer to me fall away and end. Wherever they are, there is now a bottomless silence filled with light that never fades.

Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail! – from the Heart Sutra

She points out her birthday cards.

She points out her birthday cards.

Going Deep

Two clients come to mind, scheduled within a seven-day span.

I liked Tony – had known him in a variety of capacities over the years – and welcomed him into my office for the last appointment of my week: 6:30 was the earliest he could get there.

“I’ve got these mid-back spasms,” he said, as we reviewed his information. “As usual the neck and shoulders.” In the nearly ten years I’d known him, he worked a bazillion hours a week, and liked to make sure everyone knew it. His back locked up on a regular basis. Did he do any self-care?

“What? Oh yeah. I need to do yoga or something.” He had been next door to see my colleague, Dr. Jane, for chiropractic adjustments. He’d been to a massage therapist in Brooks “but it wasn’t enough.”

“I like deep work,” he said, smiling through a bronzed face.

“Yes, I suspected as much,” I said to him. “And I bet you have a lot more tension in your upper chest and anterior/lateral neck than you realize. I’ll work the back of your head though your traps and down into your low back…why don’t we start with you supine, so I can get all that opened up first, and by the time I get to your back it will have relaxed a little.”

“You might not want to massage my neck,” he said. “Up on Hatchet Mountain all afternoon. Sun cooked it.” Oh, of course! The very muscles I was most keen on addressing were off limits: I could see the deep red all around the neckline of his t-shirt. Also, by this point his cologne had saturated the room and was making the back of my throat burn, almost like I had inhaled smoke.

He was in pain, though. I reminded myself: he needs you in this next hour. Do your best. Pray for strength and it will be given to you.

The session was exercise. I was not in peak form to be giving my all, not on a Friday past 5. Within the first few minutes I gave up using my hands: my fingers, which have been praised by a few clients as being full of strength, seemed as useful as pipe cleaners against the unyielding density of his musculature. It was like trying to knead out rebar.

His intractable tension, combined with entrenched kyphosis and lordosis, could not be addressed without full-body-weight slow work – mostly forearms, some elbow –  and finally, fists, as I gave the tapotement of a lifetime to his glutes, hamstrings and calves. I worked absolutely to and past my limit: damp from perspiration, shaky, peaked, but proud of myself, and hoping I’d made a difference.

“That was nice,” he said as I changed out the table linens and he put on his shoes. Nice? Hmm. That wasn’t quite what I had wanted to hear.

“I feel better. You can put me in as your 6:30 for the next few Fridays if you want!”  My heart sunk a little, as I had no intention of staying late regularly, especially for someone who was so much work…and made the air so hard to breathe. A small voice in me said, “referral?” but I ignored it. I could handle this guy, no problem. I wasn’t giving up yet.

When I called him a few days later to confirm his appointment, there was a lot of noise going on in the background.

“There’s a chance I can’t make it but I’ll let you know. I’ve just got so much going on that day. Yeah, and THIS time,” he said, “you can work on me as hard as you can!”

“Okay!” I said, gamely. “Keep in touch.” I ended the call, and was immediately consumed by a crushing combination of anger, inadequacy, self-pity and dread.

“Referral,” my small voice said, with force.

“Hi Tony it’s Kristen.” I was leaving him a message.

“Look, let me give you a number of a friend of mine who does really deep work.” (Wrings the living crap out of her clients, and does an excellent job of it too: you’ll love it! I wanted to say) “If you want to give her a try, awesome. If you want to come see me again, knowing the kind of work I do” (pretty damn deep and most people think it’s enough even if you don’t) “then feel free to call me back to reschedule…”

A few clients like this can deflate even an experienced MT’s confidence, and I’d had my share during winter: between their first session and their second or third –  when I had time to research their condition, discuss them with colleagues (Dr. Jane and I have done this for years, with mutual clients), analyze what I’d noticed in session and made plans for their next appointment – they would decide, for whatever reason, to cancel and not rebook. I was pretty sure Tony was one of these.

So I was braced for disappointment when another new client booked the following Friday. One of my regulars had given her my card.

“She said ‘this is what you need.’ And that you could help.”

“Let’s start at the beginning. What are your areas of pain or tension?”

“Well…I think it’s my heart.” She spoke with a Maine accent, so heart sounded like “haht.” Her eyes welled and chin wobbled.

Then came the story. I put down my pen and sit back in my chair when it starts: I figure nobody wants to pour their heart out to a preoccupied audience, and if I don’t take notes, at least I’ll listen well.

Within a nine-month span her two young stepsons had died, and her fiancé had left her so he could be with another woman who would help him pursue his “passions.” He saw fit to tell her when she was sitting on her second step-son’s deathbed. Both she and I agreed that it’s a mystery how a person could do that to another person in such circumstances.

“I’m doing all the right things” – talk therapy, eating right, exercising, even going to a chakra balancing workshop – “but something’s missing!” I passed her the box of tissues. My mind was churning, and my soul ached. I was running a list of modalities or techniques to use – more of this, less of that? Someone so clearly laden should be with someone more adept, with more skills, than me.

“What about a bereavement support group?” That just wasn’t for her, even though she had given it a fair try.

Any support systems at all? No one who she could count on.

She crying in heaving waves, and told me how much she hated it because “I feel like it’s all I ever do anymore.” Grief and anger seemed to be eating away at her from the inside, gnawing at her shattered heart. “I can’t work in my yard or in my house; I just don’t have the energy.”

“I feel stuck!” she nearly wailed.

Sometimes you get so accustomed to running the list of what you could be doing for someone, you almost miss the most basic and easy thing of all. In a flash, it came to me. (Thanks, small voice.) After a few more moments of consideration, with near pride, I said, “I think I know exactly what to do for you.”

She looked at me, eyes red and glistening. “Really…?”

“Yes,” I said. “You need a massage. You need affirmation, on a cellular level, that you are more than okay: in fact you are great. And in fact, you are worthy of being taken care of. For a whole hour. And I can’t think of any better way to do that than give you a good old-fashioned rub.”

Her eyes re-teared. “I just don’t know if I’ll be able to relax on the table. I know I’m paying you for a service, see, but I still don’t feel like I deserve it. I feel like…no one should have to touch me, I’m not good enough for anything or anybody…”

As she sobbed I reached across my desk and touched the side of her face with my hand, moved my chair next to her and put my hands on hers. This is not my protocol when someone is falling apart, but in this instance I couldn’t stand the pretense of professional distance. When someone is drowning you don’t proffer a twig from your royal barge: you go out to meet them in the churning cold.

Without looking at her I said quietly, “I want to touch you. I want to take care of you. I am here for you.”

So massage she did have. I could feel her whole energy field drinking it in: as I massaged and gave Reiki, she calmed, breathed deeply, and drifted. For me, the work was easy and blissful: I knew what I was doing, and I knew I could do it well. Who she was, was enough. And what I had to offer was enough.

“Unbelievable,” she murmured, and rescheduled.

It was deep work, and it was a delight.


Skootching skin around is what I do for a living. (A few other things too, but “skin skootching” could be a fine credit on an MT’s resume.) When I’m working younger bodies I feel like a baker, plying pizza dough into shape, or a sailor: unfurling sails, untwisting knots, riding the high seas of a session from beginning to end. Massaging older bodies feels like pushing soup around on a counter top. I never know where that skin is going to go: it fills me with tender amusement and gentle concern.

I touch an elder and the rest of them comes along for the ride. The warp and woof of the human slacks and unmoors with age, so that rather than sturdy oaks, we come to resemble willow trees that bend in the gentlest breeze, or barely hemmed pools, our parts oozing out around us and filling wherever we are. The cruel irony being, bones ossify and become brittle, like windshield ice. A good practitioner intuits the limits and bounds of the person they’re touching, even if the person doesn’t.

As a massage therapist I endeavor to touch wholly when giving massage, or as it’s known, “full hand contact.” It’s a skill I learned early on, thanks to a solid education at the Muscular Therapy Institute in Cambridge (now Cortiva?) and recently fine-tuned during my oncology massage training with Tracy Walton. The entire hand is at all times engaged with the client’s skin, and as you pass your hands around and over your person, you imagine every finger down to the tip, the whole palm, enveloping your client’s every nerve and curve.

There is an ethereal suction cup on the end of each finger, that holds each digit in place. Five rivulets of compassion and curiosity cascade down the erector spinae: this is one hand moving from upper trapezius to gluteal origins. Ten waves of love and light: this is the same gesture, both hands.

Receiving this kind of touch feels like you’re being smoothed down by a paw, or an angel if it had paws. Almost like a mare licking down its newborn: that much unhurried devotion and care. I have received it, and I know how good it feels. So it is what I endeavor to give.

It is my job to touch the whole person, and this is a good job to have, in early 21st century America.

I consider my ancient ones, again, because touching them requires an extra kind of attention. With older clients I feel like I’m chasing them around the table for the whole session. Full hand contact from wrist bone up to elbow, from bicep insertion to origin, over to the clavicle, and sweeping back down, means I’m trying to cup and capture their ripples and wake. So much of them spills out and away.

Touching them is an honor and a mystery. The more fully I wish to encompass them, the more they move from me.  Like going after fireflies on a summer night, or catching autumn leaves as they fall.

The massage takes longer because the parts eddy and fan out a little wider, every year. Eventually we all go this way, and finally stop, and disappear altogether….meanwhile I play catch-up and enjoy loving the massage oil into old, roving bones.

High Tech vrs. High Touch

Before we lose ourselves completely, I bow the knee to all humans who have gone before, who have seeded, swelled, risen up, striven and died in a cascade of millennia.

Now every thing we touch is powered and mechanized. We used to need each other: for everything: entertainment, solace, accomplishment, salvation, understanding and nurture. Now, we have to make the effort to connect: around the wires, cubes, tubes, cars, walls.

I see us in a great tinfoil crackle and spin, up and out of this world in a blinding flash of zeroes, ones, chatter and pixels. Finally: our brain has the victory it has always longed for: ABOVE. GREATER. Rising out of that body:  pesky, messy.

The house can be ignored, we tell ourselves and so believe.
So long as my needs are served.
So long as the house staff keeps it up.

Who is running things?

Who is truly at the helm?

There is no thought, no intelligence, consciousness, achievement or progress
without the vessel:  squishy flesh.

We should honor the vessel: naked and bleeding though it may be. We should. At present, it seems we’re enslaved by either the cold idealism of technological innovation — turning all of us into outfitted cybermen — or engorged hedonism.

How can we evolve in such circumstances? I propose it is not through intellectual grasping or genetic tinkering. We have everything we need, after all, and it’s not up and out: it’s in – and through – all those bits of us that we try to escape by being anything other than what we are:  gorgeous, temporary, fragile,  seamless bags of life and light.

We may be wandering into a great darkness ahead but we are not alone. We have each other, which, despite evidence to the contrary, has always been our greatest gift and the only thing that gives our own life meaning. And we are reminded, sometimes, of our intrinsic worth and perfection only when another human, wandering with us, tells us we matter through the devotion and encouragement of their touch.

Standing Mute in the Presence

Good intentions are a kind of soil. Tragedy sprouts alongside blessing. You think you know which are which. Weeds or medicine? It’s not clear, is it?

As  I reach out from myself and place my hands on my client, the sheer force of who they are comes into play. Let me tell you about her, the one I’m thinking of.

This month of August, she is on vacation here on the coast of Maine, visiting her mother and father, her sibling, her grandmother, and raising her children in the absence of her husband, when he comes up from their home in Boston and reunites with them on weekends. This scene is Typical Maine Summer: family reconnecting, traveling back and forth until the autumn and school, but that is most definitely where all pleasant, cozy, darling similarities end.

My client is not living the LL Bean lifestyle, is not making regular glowing posts on FaceBook bragging about the good time she’s having, is not going to look back on this time with warm nostalgia. She is living a gritty reality, and those kinds of things one spends time getting through, not commenting on.

Her mother is dying. Her grandmother is not well. Her sibling has Down’s Syndrome.  She is nursing one child and helping her other one potty train. Her Dad’s back is in bad shape. She is the rock.

She is seeing me for relief. This is her second session because after last week, the elongation and re-centering work I did was just a touch over the line. I gave her a 4 when I should have given her a 2.5.

I may or may not have been the catalyst for the dull ache she now has in her lowback and hips, that was not there before I did the work  she asked for – that we discussed before I got her on the table – last week.  I felt I was being careful: but as a body worker, when you take your client’s hands in yours, and you both go walking into the wilderness of a first-time session, everything this person has been holding in their body could come flying up and out and at you with a few well-intentioned but misinformed gestures, and at the end of the session the client could resurface with pieces of themselves all over the room.

Cupping my client’s heels in my hands, as she lies supine, cradled in the purple blue of the linens and paint color I’ve chosen for this room, I want to really make the difference for her today. Last week didn’t turn out the way we’d planned, and so now I stand in the grace-filled quiet as we begin together, all the more determined to heal what I may or may not have flushed out of hiding.

And – I understand that I can’t.

Every single person who reaches out with the bone-aching desire to help another knows this feeling, this moment when you understand your best intentions failed, and your now re-invigorated, over-sized best intentions (bruised from the ego-smiting, even more fired up to “make an impression”) are in grave danger of being woefully inadequate, once again.  Every doctor, teacher, pastor, social worker, vet, midwife, stands in the space between what they would like to do and what actually happens.

How can I make a difference for this exquisite being? Especially when she was perfectly fine until I came along? As I stand mute in the presence of not knowing what I can do, given what I’ve already done and what I’m about to do, I make firm contact with her heels, wrap my full hands around the calcaneus, take a deep breath in, and surrender.