At the start of the year I wrote that I believed 2015 was going to be a big year, with no knowledge or concept of the idea of what has developed over the last 12 months. This evening a week ago, Bristol Massage Therapy hosted it’s very first party and although it passed in a whirl, I did stop several times just to savour the moment.
To be surrounded by so many wonderful, interesting, beautiful people who all mean a huge amount, who have been part of the growth and development of Bristol Massage Therapy, and of me … quite overwhelming. I had wondered about saying a few words, but the opportunity never arose. I guess the truth is that I didn’t let it! I don’t like the idea of being in the lime light … I’m definitely more comfortable in the background. But someone once pointed out that at 6’ blending into the crowd isn’t really an option for me!
Over the past week I’ve known that although I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of giving a speech, I do want to acknowledge the occasion. I want to thank everyone who came to the party, taking time to come and support me, support Bristol Massage Therapy, and celebrate what we have achieved in 2015, particularly at such a mentally busy time of year. Looking around the rooms last Thursday I was honoured to see the silver thread of connection that brought us all together.
I guess that this is the speech that never was …
Part of what I love about my job is that I get to work with people, with wonderful clients who come to an appointment and get a chance to tell their story, or part of it at least. It is a real honour when someone books an appointment with me, and invites me to share their life for that time – even if it is just the once – talking about their body, their experiences and their life. I hear people speak from the heart. Of pain, of fear, of love, of challenges, of life, of death. What an honour and a privilege it is to witness the stories, to share something so precious.
This year has been a huge year, for me, for Bristol Massage Therapy but for many of you too. Change has been an ever present companion throughout 2015, and whilst it is incredible to witness these life events for everyone, this does bring it’s own challenges. As the year ends, there are three people I won’t have the opportunity to work with again, whose stories have ended. In the great tomes of our respective life books, we may only have shared a line or two, but as I touched their bodies they touched my heart and I am keenly aware of their absence, both for myself and for their loved ones. But death and life come hand in hand, and having completed my pregnancy massage qualification, several clients have given me the honour of working with them throughout their pregnancy and then introduced me to their babies!
One of the things that I really love about Bristol is how ‘small’ it is. Nearly everyone has heard of the concept of six degrees of separation, but I reckon our city puts it nearer two or three! From the time I started both my Personal Training and Massage Therapy training courses here I felt as though I had come home. Perhaps this isn’t surprising when you learn my grandparents met at The Victoria Rooms, and my parents used to live in Cotham! Maybe it has something to do with growing up in Bath and there being a similar ‘feel’ but I’m convinced it’s because this is where I am meant to be.
I love those chance conversations, meetings and opportunities that feel as though they fell right into your lap. I take them as signposts that I’m still heading in the right direction, but sometimes it feels as though I can’t move for tripping over them! They make me feel incredibly lucky, and have formed a huge part of my story here in Bristol, particularly when it comes to the role of massage in my life. I’d like to share one of those instances with you if I may.
As many people know, I was working as a full time personal trainer when I finished my massage course and, like many others before me, started to build my massage business through word of mouth doing home visits. I loved it. Typically I’d fit my massage work into the evenings when I’d been on an early or mid shift at the gym, so I’d hop into my car, arrive, unload, set up and get to work. At the end of one massage a few months after I qualified, there was a horrific noise of something plastic snapping. In starting to get off the table my client had leant his whole weight onto the headrest - it had broken. I felt quite sick. I apologised profusely, busied myself in packing up and with a quick look at the headrest knew that it was most likely irreparable. I swallowed hard, smiled, reassured him all was fine and not to worry, how sorry I was again, and left.
The next morning, one of my personal training clients could see I was troubled by something and for some reason I started telling her about my broken head rest, my concern over the quality of my table, about not knowing when I was going to be able to replace it. “I’ve a table you could borrow if you’d like.” Just like that. It turned out that one of the previous chapters of her life had involved being a massage therapist, and when she changed career she’d kept her table so it was just waiting to be used again. I almost bit her arm off!
There are so many instances of chance conversations, coincidental timings, serendipity at work. I feel incredibly lucky each and every time something like that happens, because it reinforces to me that I’m on the right track, I’m doing what I am meant to be doing. Many of these type of occurrences led to the inspiration behind my decision to expand Bristol Massage Therapy, to seek exceptional practitioners that I need to trust to deliver the kind of care, compassion and nurturing touch to you, our clients, who put faith in me, in us, to make you feel something more.
Each person attending the BMT Christmas Party was an honour to receive – taking an evening out of arguably the busiest social week of the year to come and show their support meant such a great deal to me. There were colleagues, clients and friends, looking around the room I felt such connection with each person. Everyone in attendance is forming part of my story, and part of the story of Bristol Massage Therapy. Without you, I wouldn't have even been standing in that room, let alone talking myself hoarse!
Several years ago I was working out what I wanted to do, and two phrases popped into my head:
- “Make magic happen”
- “Enable people to be the best they can be in their bodies”
It doesn’t matter why clients initially come to have a massage. Sometimes it is recommendation, sometimes luck, a gift voucher, or Google. Chronic pain, desperation, the need for space, relaxation, peace, or guidance on helping take control of some small aspect of life. Part of my ‘interview process’ for potential practitioners is to ask them what their area of expertise or specialist interest is. Some answer with a segment of society, others with a particular technique they adore using. As egotistical as it sounds, my answer to that question is that I believe I am an ‘exceptional generalist’. Why? Because as much as I’m a body geek and love my anatomy, and as vital as that knowledge and understanding is … for me it’s not about the symptoms. It’s not about the chronic pain, the sciatica, the knee replacement recovery, the headaches. It’s about the person underneath, the impact these symptoms are having on the client's life. On your life. I love my work because I deal with people, their stories. I take pride in helping clients to feel better in themselves, whatever is going on. This, for me, is making magic happen …
I cherish the trust each person places in me, in us, when they book themselves or someone they care for an appointment with us. It is a privilege to be chosen to care for them, to listen to them, to nurture them. I am really excited about the changes that have been taking place within Bristol Massage Therapy in the past 12 months. They weren’t foreseen last year, so who knows where we will be next December, but I’m just going to keep trusting, keep listening, keep talking, keep working.
Wishing you all a magical Christmas, and a healthy, happy & peaceful 2016.