In the summer of my second year at a 2 year-all women 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 like that idea.
Fast foward to 1995, I’d been a 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. 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 attendees was lying on the floor with another attendee sitting by his head. Intrigued, I asked her what she was doing. The man who’s head she was holding had a headache and she was massaging his head and neck to help relieve his headache. And the light stitched turned on. That is who I wanted to be. The person on the floor relieving someones 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 memorable 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 a pay-it-foward because that was the next best thing to thanking her. Probably even better. They were basked in gratitude.
Another important foundation to my practice are 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. My tiny hand in her much larger one, feeling safe walking together. Feeling her finger lightly caress my cheek, having all her love and attention as she lulled me to sleep. That taught me the value of touch as strong communicator of love and a sense of feeling safe.
When I’ve taught massage techniques, one of the intentions I teach is to let the person in your care know through your hands, “Ive got you. You are safe.”
My children are now young adults, but while I was in Massage School, they were my ginny pigs. They are also laced in the massage, as you, on my table are someone’s child.
Its been 20 years now that I have been giving massages. Parts of me feel 20 years older, but the massage therapist in me feels the same. Grateful. For the road that led me to do the work I love. For the people who trust me. And confident in the healing power of touch.