In the summer of my second year at a 2 year-all women’s college (Yes, I’m pretty sure they don’t exist anymore, but there were a ton in the greater Boston area in the early 1980’s), my 19-year-old self leafed through a book on careers like nursing, but not nursing (I couldn’t handle blood, and at the time, so I thought, chemistry).
I discovered something I’d never heard of. Occupational Therapy. Helping people through activity. I liked that idea.
Fast forward to 1995, I’d been an OTL/R (occupational therapist, licensed and registered) for ten years. And feeling it still did not fit on me. Of course, it was all in my head, but I had the idea that I needed to be “clinical” which to me meant distantly professional. What was missing was real contact.
While attending a weekend workshop at Options Institute, something magical happened. On the last morning of the workshop, I walked into the lecture room. A cluster of OT’s were talking in a corner. The story in my head goes, “they are talking clinically”. One of the other attendees, on the other end of the room, was lying on the floor with another attendee sitting by his head. Intrigued, I asked her what she was doing. The man whose head she was holding had a headache and she was massaging his head and neck to help relieve his headache. And the light switch turned on. That is who I wanted to be. The person on the floor relieving someone’s headache. Not among the clinically clustered.
About a year before this, I was living in Ohio and had a massage that cured a massive amount of stress I was carrying. It was amazing. I thought I just had a stiff neck. She cured that too. She taught me the profound power of touch. Shortly after, I moved to Maine. Many, many times I tried to remember her name to thank her for the amazing massage and tell her how meaningful it was for me. I never did find her. So when I did become a Massage Therapist, many, many times the massages I gave were with the intention of a paying-it-forward, because that was the next best thing to thanking her. Probably even better. The massages were basked in gratitude.
Another important foundation for my massage practice is my parents. When I was a child, my dad said I had the best back-scratching skills out of all six kids. We were a back-scratching kind of family. That secured confidence in touch and in my touch. My mother’s touch conveyed love. I remember when I was a young child, her holding my hand outside on a cold New England day, my tiny hand in her much larger one, feeling safe and cared for, walking together. And inside, many times, laying down for a nap, feeling the side of her index finger lightly caress my cheek, having all her love and attention as she lulled me to sleep. That taught me touch is a strong communicator of love and safety and that allows a body to relax and heal.
Over the years I’ve taught massage therapy workshops. One of the most important techniques is about the intention one holds in there mind while giving a massage. The intention I share is, to let the person in your care know through your hands, “I’ve got you. You are safe.”
My children are now young adults, but while I was in massage school, they were little, and my little ginny pigs. They are also threaded within the intention of the massage I give. You, on my table, are someone’s child. And therefore, precious. Something very interesting about intention, I can feel it in my hands and I believe it makes a difference in the massage you receive.
It’s been over 20 years now that I have been giving massages. Parts of me feels 20 decades older from where I started, but the massage therapist in me feels the same. Grateful. For the road that led me to do the work I love. For the clients who have trusted me. And for the confidence I know in the healing power of touch.