Watching the 2016 Olympics has been inspiring: the older I get, the more I can appreciate the facets which comprise an Olympian, and what makes them somehow other-worldy. The drive, the passion, the unwavering determination to ’sacrifice’ those things which seem important to me (like gin or motorbike holidays!), but which would distract them from their focus. Indeed, it is that very single-minded focus that I find so admirable, so daunting, & just so alien.
Those who have supported Bristol Massage Therapy for a few years will have noticed the absence of newsletters of late, with our last missive going out in April. Since then, there have obviously been news and views, but I’ve found myself unable or unwilling to write. I couldn’t understand it: I've had thoughts and opinions (well, who hasn’t this year with Brexit, international tragedies and the ‘entertainment’ that is the American election), but I just couldn’t write. I’ve been aware of lots of factors drawing my attention away from the business of building and maintaining Bristol Massage Therapy, I knew what I wanted to write about, to express, to share, but somehow I just couldn’t.
Over the past few years of being self employed, I have come to realise that around the end of summer / beginning of autumn I start to take stock of the preceding 12 months. Even I know I’m starting early this year, but 2016 has already been really rather “interesting” in a number of ways. These include, but are not limited to:
- One of my parents had a big health scare … and we learnt that a diagnosis of viral pneumonia could be cause for celebration
- My other half had a huge motorbike accident, resulting in 24 hours in intensive care in Slovakia and a new found respect for concussion, as well as the capacity of the human body to undergo incredible forces, and heal
- I’m now an aunt!!
NB please don’t think I’m heartlessly revealing secrets … all relevant parties have approved this article. After all, they are my family and they support me ;-)
But, why couldn’t I write? I was struggling with this for a long time. Why wouldn’t I knuckle down and focus on some of those tasks I’d been putting off? Why was I happy not writing a newsletter and saying hi to all our lovely clients? How is it that some people strive for this level of success? Going for gold no matter what, whilst others, like me, bob along quite content with going with the flow? Who knows, but isn’t the diversity of humanity amazing?!
What I've found even more irritating is that quite frankly I really enjoy writing. I love the business of building and developing my business, I adore writing newsletters and articles, and find it to be a creative outlet. Here I was, in the doldrums, concerned that when I felt the words dry up I was going to struggle to get back into anything.
Then I had a lightbulb moment … massage itself is creative.
Each time a client enters the room, I have no idea what they will ask for, want or need from the appointment. Indeed, sometimes neither do they. It is the role of the practitioner to be guided by the client as to the direction or focus of the work, initially through verbal communication in the consultation (although sometimes the non-verbal communication is a lot more forthcoming!) and then through the connection of touch. This is where the magic can really start, so long as the practitioner continues to be present with the client throughout each moment of the work.
I’ve often described massage as a dance, with the client’s body providing all the information the practitioner requires to meet their needs, so long as the massage therapist is attending closely enough, and trusts that the real expert in the room is the one on the table. I know that they rehearsed like crazy, but the image of Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers dancing together in the number Isn’t This a Lovely Day (To Be Caught in the Rain) from Top Hat comes to mind - Fred leads, Ginger follows and mirrors, true mastery - and great fun!
Back to the point. I’ve never worked with a massage routine, to me it suggests that one body is very much like any other and the same moves, the same strokes, the same holds will have the same results. Nah! We may have the same bones and muscles, but we are all unique, having experienced different knocks, bruises, breaks, holding histories, emotions and life experience in our bodies. To my mind, we are too different to require the same “massage by numbers” that a routine suggests. Instead I let go of all concepts of a routine massage, routine client, routine appointment as I started to train to become a massage therapist because I would rather work with each client as they are, on that day, in that moment.
“Letting go is always the ultimate gesture of the creative process” ~ David Lauterstein, The Deep Massage Book p. 23
Go with the flow
Turns out I’m starting to get quite good at this ‘letting go’ malarkey. Having realised that I still have more than one creative outlet in massage, I decided to give myself a break and stop fretting about ‘not writing’, not being productive and allowing my To Do list to grow. I allowed myself to focus on what really needed my attention - not writing articles or newsletters, fretting about the Bristol Massage Therapy website or a number of other roles that I have. This has been a time to support my family, the wonderful team of BMT practitioners, and my clients.
Going for gold
The incredible human beings taking part in the Olympics, and those competing in the forthcoming Paralympics, have a level of focus that I truly admire, but don’t believe I wish to emulate. Commentators talk about the sacrifices that these athletes make for their careers, but the athletes themselves don’t see it as a choice - it’s their calling. They are driven to fulfil their dreams, which require outstanding levels of dedication. I once listened to a podcast where an Olympic swimmer worked out that in the year leading up to the games, he swum the equivalent distance of the circumference of the earth. In a pool. On his own. Length after length, just looking at the black line on the bottom of the pool. That dedication makes me shudder.
Perhaps that is why we hold such reverence for these super humans. We know that what they do is extra ordinary, in a way we’ll never be able to fully understand, yet we admire and respect.
As I’ve been writing this article, the phrase “That’s Life” keeps popping into my mind, and I couldn’t help finding and playing a Sinatra rendition of this song (If you fancy a gander at the lyrics, you can check them out here). And I guess that’s the thing … Life is about balance:
I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race
When things get sticky, tough, emotional and quite frankly real, it provides us with the opportunity to refocus our energies, understand what’s important and what can be put aside, even temporarily. I found that naturally I had put writing aside whilst I focused my attentions elsewhere to enable me to keep moving forward.
What the turmoil of the past 6 months has shown me though is that I still love my life, and really adore my work, whole heartedly, and that I’m still determined to continue to do what I love. I needed to step back a little from the business of building and running my business, but luckily all these events happened at a time when I was able to do so, whilst continuing to provide my clients with the focus, care and nurture they each deserve.
There are still some ripples of consequences spreading out from these adventures, including the possibility that a European motorbike camping trip may not happen, which is very sad. But, hey. That’s Life!