Time to Go

“Oh crap,” I said to myself, as I entered my waiting room and noticed that my office door (the actual door, not the outside door leading to said office) was closed, once again.

This had been happening for a few weeks, ever since some new tenants had moved into an adjacent office and were using the space on weekends when I wasn’t there. I would come into our waiting area on Monday, and sometimes my office door was closed, which I was accustomed to leaving open and hoped others would just let be.

Nope, for whatever reason my office was too a) purpleyblue b) healyfeely c) herby-smelly d) filled with rabbits for someone’s taste. Never mind all that, I thought, as I approached my door to open it. I’ll just go in like I always do.

There was that bump that happens when you go to open something that’s supposed to swing wide, and instead you end up mashing yourself into it. No! “You’ve gotta be kidding me,” I said aloud, plus a few other unprintable things, as I jiggled, thumped, noodled with the door knob and body slammed the door a few times.

Nothing doing. No budge. I was locked out of my own office.

Before I go too much further I would like to point out that in the past few years I’ve been aware that it was time for me to do something different and also my landlords, Jane and Gary, were ready for me to do something different. They wanted my space back, contingent on them selling their house.

“But it would be better if you found something sooner rather than later,” said Jane kindly, and I agreed. I wanted to be the one who was informing them I was leaving, not them telling me I had 90 days. Neither of us wanted to me to go. But time to go, it probably was.

MassageOffice.1I had been fighting it all the way, which meant ignoring it mostly. (My favorite way of fighting something.) I was not in the mood to be shown there might be other things for me out there.

So here I was, 7 minutes away from my 1st client showing up, frantically calling my landlord who — bless him manifoldly — has been available nearly all the time and almost always right away. While he extricated himself from a job he had in another town, he suggested I try an allen wrench (neatly tucked above the door: I never knew!) to pop the lock open and see if Jane — who was straight out with clients of her own — could open it for me.

She came over. I tried, and she tried. My client arrived, and he tried it too. “You know,” he said, while he reamed the allen wrench around inside the doorknob and we hovered close by, hoping him being a pastor would work a miracle, “before I got saved I could have had a door like this open in no time.”

The miracle we needed finally arrived. Gary had to work a few allen wrenches, not just the one he’d stashed. I sat with my client while he told me about the 2 funerals he’d officiated at over the weekend and some juicy tidbits about his Italian uncles.

In the midst of all this, I (multi-tasking perenially) texted the other tenants, whom I’ve known for years and who I’ve been friendly with. “Have you guys been closing my door on weekends? If you have I’m locked out right now.”

I was pretty confident it was them, and so was surprised when I heard back: “No, we haven’t touched your door. Sorry you’re locked out! Is Gary there?”

Well, that was a fine how-de-doo. Now I really had NO idea how this door had closed itself AND locked itself too. Right before the door got opened I had a horrible thought that maybe someone had opened a window and gotten into my office and was still in there…?! But when the door popped open and we craned our heads around inside to make sure everything was ok, it was all status quo.

This is not a riveting story, the case of the locked door. Did the door get unlocked? Yes it did. Were my fellow tenants lying to me about closing my door (and accidentally locking it in the process)? Maybe, because it hasn’t happened since the incident. Did I lose any business from it, was I exposed to untold suffering because (heaven forfend) my office door was locked? No, I was not.

What’s interesting to me is the timing; I am, now, indeed, moving to a new office as of July 1st 2016. My office — my sanctuary, haven, home away from home — had been closing itself off to me for weeks and I hadn’t gotten the hint. Finally, for whatever reason, and by whomever’s hand (hand? energy?), it locked me out.

GO, it seemed to be saying. GET OUTTA HERE. As Elizabeth Gilbert says at the end of her FaceBook posts: Onward.

I have been crying a lot, as I look around me at the place I’ve called dear, knowing I have to say goodbye. But, those tears dry up more quickly and I breathe with a little more strength and resolve when I recall that it’s time for going. My office told me so.

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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.

To market, To market

I was asked in a previous blog why I haven’t written about how I market my business, and how I have accrued my client base. Honestly I only have two bits of advice and they aren’t what you think they are.

I have a successful massage therapy practice, by all standards. I work in a small rural town on the coast of Maine, the great frozen north, getting warmer all the time. In my busy season (July through early October) I see on average 15-18 clients a week. The rest of the year, I average 8-12 per week, barring blizzards, flu or everyone going on vacation all at the same time.

August/September I’m flush. March/April I’m broke. It’s a success.

I’m blessed with drive, stamina, a good head for business, and, by far the most helpful thing of all, I was an English major in college. Which means I can write killer brochures, web content, newsletters and holiday postcards.

(*note – this is the only real marketing advice I will give: IT’S IN THE WRITING. Clients test drive your work long before they ever meet you in person: GET A GOOD WEBSITE. Here’s mine. I always ask new clients “How did you find out about me?” and I get two answers “Someone in town told me about you” and/or “I found you online and I liked what I read.”)

I am my own boss, employee, janitor, marketing director, educational consultant, administrative assistant, dishwasher, community outreach director and bookkeeper. It gets schizophrenic.

Here are two of my brochures, my biz card, the cards of others I recommend, and a good luck rabbit I got in Philly a few years ago.

Here are two of my brochures – one for my massage therapy practice, the other explaining the benefits of oncology massage, my biz card, the cards of others I recommend, and a good luck rabbit.

I work when I don’t want to. I work packed, intense days where I sit down only for 2 reasons: to work someone’s head/neck/upper chest supine, or to use the john. I give myself holidays off, but I still do 10, 12 hour days on occasion.

I wanted a massage practice and after 13 years full of doubts, fears, fatigue and tears, I have it. I now want new things for my practice, but I aimed the arrow and hit a bulls-eye. Blessed be. Here’s how it happened:

If you want clients, you have to work. For me — and maybe this is because I come from a long line of glum tireless Anabaptist farmers – there is no stronger incentive than being poor to sink everything you’ve got – your whole mind, body and spirit – into your practice, and make it happen. I have a dark side. This is one of the ways it serves me.

Nothing but massaging lots of people, as much as I could, even when I didn’t think I could, over and over, with consistency and ardor every time that client came in, made things get better. That means: seeing clients. Which only happens if a) they know you exist b) they can get in touch with you c) you respond to them and d) get them scheduled.

It’s work. Massaging someone is bliss; but getting them in your office and on your table is work. For every fifteen business cards you hand out, maybe one person will contact you. Get used to disappointment. And keep putting yourself out there.

If you have other options, you’ll take them. If there isn’t anything else, then you will stick with what you’ve got. Is massage what you want to do? Don’t let anything deter you: not your spouse’s plentiful income which makes your work unnecessary, not calls from your previous employer, not your deep desire to just be left at home puttering among the flowers.

Sometimes that gets decided for you: I had nothing else: no easier career, no part-time work that really satisfied, and no one to bail me out if I failed. I was a server at a popular restaurant in Belfast, Chase’s Daily, for four years.  I needed that work bad, to help me while I built my practice, but I knew eventually I had to quit.

In the movie “Living in the Material World,”  Olivia Harrison says, “What’s the secret of a long marriage? You don’t get divorced.” This is true of long-term relationships: with another person, a creative endeavor, or a career. You show up. Even & especially when you don’t know why.

Eventually the clients come, and the money, but actually you became a smarter, humbler, hungrier, and devoted person in the process, and THAT’S what people respond to: who YOU are. That’s an irresistible magnet, and it pulls people in faster than any marketing plan.

If there’s something inside you that always says, “yeah I love this,” hang in, dig in. You’ll love it even more in a short while. Even and especially during those short contemplative moments on the john.

How Little We Know

Here we are, the “end” of summer, and some of us wax nostalgic already for the season gone by. Never mind there’s still plenty gorgeous warm days ahead: we’re longing, pining, for all that’s gone, for all we didn’t do.

If you’re not careful, you just become a waxer and a piner. As if there were some L.L. Bean catalog photo spread that we’re all subconsciously aiming for. It slowly creeps into every facet of your life: all the fresh blueberry pancakes you didn’t eat. All the hot weekends you didn’t make it to the beach. The live music you missed along the harbor. The full moons, the rising suns.

Maybe because you were working 10-hour days all during June, July and August, huh? Maybe because your mom got real sick and you needed to be with her: a lot. Maybe you adopted a puppy, and puppies need care 24/7. Maybe you just don’t like crowds. Anyway, it’s over now, and you didn’t “have it all.”

Ahhh, alas. Alack.

Bummer, dude.

But don't make it sad, Cricket. I don't feel that way.

But don’t make it sad, Cricket. I don’t feel that way.

Over the years my practice has grown and I’ve been seeing more clients. It has taken a lot for me – with all my OCD, type-A, perfectionistic tendencies – to unload the shotgun of my ambitions. There’s nothing like seeing 5, 6 clients at a crack (which I don’t recommend for the long term) to get very serious with yourself about releasing immature notions of “getting it right.”

You cannot hold a fixed standard of perfection and meet each client successfully. Perfection is not what you do to a client, or even, who you are as a practitioner, but it’s only happens when the client has arrived in the room: only available for measure and observation in the moment when the two of you are conversing, negotiating, explaining, learning. Perfection is wholly immediate: not a split second earlier, or later.

So getting ramped up for seeing people: over-analyzing their issues or what you didn’t quite do enough of last time – or if they’re a new client, being more anxious than relaxed and happy at the prospect of meeting them and finding out what you can do for them – is not a substitute for being present to them during intake, massage, and finish-out. I’ve mentioned this before in a previous blog, but it bears repeating, mostly because I need reminding: Worry is not a substitute for paying attention. Neither is being all perfectionistic-y.

Also can I just say? Which I’m entitled to saying because, here again, I need to remind my ownself: playing teacher’s pet no longer entertains or amuses as one matures (or, at least, it shouldn’t). Most of us were lauded for our overweening efforts at getting straight As, or shots on goal, or the blue ribbon, when we were young. In the big-girl world, nobody likes a smart-ass, but that doesn’t keep us from still trying reeeeeeally hard: those of us whose perfectionism hasn’t died, only gone underground.

We’re not fooling anybody. It comes leaking out around the edges as addictions, excuses, anger and peevishness, and procrastination. As waxing and pining. If we think we have to get it right – first off, right out of the gate, every time – we’ll lay down an innumerable amount of barriers to prevent ourselves from even attempting the smallest introduction to the very thing we long to embrace: a project, a piece, a person.

Get to it.

Your client doesn’t want you to get it right.

Your client wants you to pay attention to them.

And, by the way….that goes for the rest of your life too.

So – WAKE UP! Guess what. It’s almost September. Open your eyes, your heart, your schedule, and don’t miss a single. Blessed. Minute. Even if you’re lying in the bright autumn sun for hours, not moving a muscle. Listening to old love songs. Resting. Like you deserve it or something.

Perfectionists live lives of sameness, wondering why new things never come. Perfectionism is the enemy of good, and good enough. But in an elemental way, perfectionism is the galactic enemy of action itself.

Bob Sullivan

and

All people long to write (this is natural and right) – but we become timid, anxious, perfectionists…The creative power does not come from ambition. Ambition injures it and makes it a nervous strain and hard work. Writing is not a performance but a generosity. Write to enlarge the soul. Work freely and rollickingly as if you were talking to a friend who loves you.

Francisco Stork

and

Maybe it happens this way
Maybe we really belong together
But after all, how little we know

— “How Little We Know” sung by Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not” by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael 1944

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 #22. (okay, I’ve missed a few.)

Once a Server, Always

Just now I had dinner at Chase’s Daily, Belfast Maine’s claim to culinary fame. I worked there for years, while building my massage practice. Being a server and a massage therapist is not mutually exclusive, something worthy of a blog post sometime.

Tough experiences bring you close to others who work at your side. If you can get through them together, you bond unbelievably. I know this is a small stretch, but there is a similarity between serving at a very popular restaurant in Maine in the summer, and boot camp. They are nearly equal, in terms of hours spent laboring in heat, under constant pressure, running like a madwoman, and being yelled at.

Although not from staff or owners. If I had to have a waitress experience, I was the luckiest to have it at Chase’s, for once I proved my mettle and that I wasn’t going to flake out on them, the owners (the Chase family) adopted me as one of their own. And if your employer is for you, who can be against you?

It was incredibly stressful working there in the summer. We would always get tourists who saw anything that happened there as an impediment to them having a good vacation, and they were (and are) breathtakingly rude. But I did it for four years: I did it for the Chase family, and my amazing co-workers, and the fantastic baked goods, entrees, and the art hanging on the walls (Perimeter Gallery).

I did it because I love Belfast, and Chase’s is in the center of town. You can see Alexia’s across the way, and the lights of the Colonial Theatre blazing down High Street in the dusk of evening…like tonight.

Middle Eastern salad, with yogurt dressing. All veggies from the farm.

Middle Eastern salad, with yogurt dressing. All veggies from the farm.

Every time I go into Chase’s now, I become infused with love. I can’t help it. I get hallooed and hailed and hugged by my ex-co-workers but forever pals. The owners nod and smile and inquire as to how I am. I ask kindly for a seat, but they know what I want: the end stool at the far portion of the counter where I can keep an eye on the kitchen, to harass Freddy if he looks up, and in general make audible yummy noises.

Even the littlest one, Romi, wanders out from behind the bake pan cooling racks and puts her arms around my waist. She can reach that high now: I first knew her when she was a toddler. Now in grade school and with freckles, she looks up into my face, close as can be, and says pitifully, “I waaaaved to you just now, but you didn’t seeeeeee me.”

“Well,” I said. “I see you now. Hello sweetie.” <<hug>>

Any of you who have ever waited tables know: once a server, always a server. It came over me in a crushing rush, while I sipped my red wine and sucked on warm olives: the kitchen, where I did everything, even sanded down and painted that washstand one March during their annual spring cleaning.

The cups that I organized. The coffee pots I washed, the espresso machine I cleaned. The grated cheese I refilled. I knew where every single one of those things needed to be, and where to get more of them should we run out.

And serving. I could hear that food needed to be run: could recognize server names, and translate the caller’s timbre from “urgent” to “This is VERY urgent, someone come get this food NOW.” I was so close to the pick-up window: it was everything I could do to not go over there and run a few plates out to the dining room myself.

But it wasn’t my place anymore. The urge had to remain so: just an urge. I had left two years ago, when I turned 40 and realized I was either going to go into massage therapy full time, or I wasn’t. I took the leap, but I did look back while leaping.

It was a part of my life that was over. Things come to an end, but you forget everything about it that drove you crazy. Only the love remains.

This has something to do with massage therapy, in that I have lived and worked in a small town for nearly 15 years, and while I have clients who are always discovering me, I have a significant amount in my “Inactive” file. For whatever reason, I was seeing them, and then I never saw them again.

Unless at the grocery store, or standing in line at the market, or by chance in another town. The temptation is, because I knew them so fully once, to behave as though I know them fully now. But I don’t. It’s no longer my place to inquire too vigorously, or personally.

In these encounters I know we both feel a little awkward, but it’s best to just be together in the moment, and not wait for apologies or promises. They don’t owe me a thing: their life and mine no longer intersect meaningfully: only just now, like this, looking at one another and smiling.

There is nothing else I really feel for this person: I have no agenda for them, no fear of why they left, no hope of their return to my office. Only the affection I felt for them once, and therefore always will feel, remains.

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 #18.

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…

gone.

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.