I can’t remember the last time I read a horoscope, silly superstition that they are. I think of them as the stuff that captivated me and my friends at fourth-grade slumber parties, along with Magic 8-balls and Ouija boards carefully smuggled past watchful parents.
As an adult, I just don’t go for woo-woo. There is, however, this pernicious popular belief that all massage therapists just love some good woo-woo. I get on email lists that promise to prevent cancer through chakra tuning, cure acne with a juice cleanse, or clear bad family karma through prayer and ritual. Honestly, that last one was worth a curious click-through, but my critical thinking kicked in 1/3 of the way through the sales pitch.
This morning, one of the unsolicited intruder emails included my daily horoscope, which promised that anyone born under the Cancer sign will feel especially attractive and vibrant today.
Which pretty much proves my theory about the woo-woo bullshit.
Here’s how this Cancer actually started her day: with a wet, cold head. And a dirty toilet. And stinky armpits. And a grumbling husband. Construction workers busted a water pipe under our house yesterday. It took 24 hours to get a plumber here. So I used my emergency water jugs from the garage to flush the toilet (just TWICE, because did you know it takes about four gallons to flush a toilet?!?) and to wash my hair in the sink and take a few quick swipes at my pits with the corner of a wet towel. Grumpy Husband stayed home to wait for the plumber while I rushed out the door for a follow-up with my hand surgeon and a full day of massages on the medical staff at the local psych hospital.
Vibrant? Attractive? What did you say? Come over here and say that, buttheat. I dare you.
So one client bellowed before she’d even walked completely in the door, “Ohmygod you look tired! Wow!” I’m just returning to work after carpal tunnel surgery on both hands, so maybe that’s what passes for concern in her world. Another client, as she was leaving: “I notice you’ve put on weight. You know, I attend Overeaters Anonymous, based on The Big Book. I think you’d benefit.”
Of course I didn’t mention the reasons why I am not a fan of The Big Book and the 12-step meetings based on it. In fact, almost anything I could have said in response would be unprofessional. Or illegal, since I work only as long as I’m in the good graces of the Board of Massage Therapists (hallowed be Thy name). Board rules explicitly state that therapists shalt not ram elbows into clients’ eyeballs, genitals, carotid arteries. . .
Given the suffocating weight of ethical and legal restrictions, my best option was to turn it back to a therapeutic conversation. “So, you’re happy with that program? How nice that it’s helping you! Keep up the amazing work. I’m impressed. And thank you for the recommendation.”
Next client through the door: “Are you sure you’re ready for this? You had surgery, and now I’m coming in with this giant knot in my shoulder and I want you to dig it – HARD!” Absolutely, yes, I told her, let’s get to work on that shoulder. “Oh, good,” she laughed. “I thought I was enabling another person’s self-harm.”
Leave it to mental health workers to use words like enabling self-harm, and to try to be tactfully direct about fatigue, weight gain, or other indicators of general well-being – or lack thereof.
I’ve worked on these people for twenty years. Their job is to treat and contain the criminally insane. Their job will eat them alive if they aren’t diligent about their own self care and their work-life boundaries. They’ve told me that our ongoing therapeutic relationship helps them maintain their sanity. They rely on me for grounding. Or, to use a less woo-woo word, it’s a source of solace.
I feel I should pause here to let that sink in. I provide solace for the doctors and nurses and technicians who take care of really super crazy people. I hold at least a part of the container that keeps them from buying a one-way ticket to Borneo or requesting their own bed and medication schedule so they can check themselves into the ward at the end of their shift.
Please enjoy the irony. You’re safe. My elbows are only licensed to heal.
But the point is, if I totally lose it (as opposed to just sort of losing it and then getting it together, and losing it a little bit, but then collecting my shit, as is pretty much the zig-zag path of anyone who’s truly paying attention) they need to find somebody else who will release their trigger points and restore motion to stuck shoulders and can pass the security clearance to get inside the hospital and back out at least twice a month. The part where I get back out always feels like I’ve just pulled one over on The Man. Every time, 21 years now, twice a month, they had me and they let me go. Wheeeee! Run like somebody left the gate open!
So I’m zig-zagging my way through this crazy-making life, and some of the curves in the road are a little harder than others. Call it car sickness. Right now I’m sticking my head out the window and letting the fresh air blow right in my face. That always helps. But if I still look carsick in two weeks when I’m back there? Damned right they’ll tell me. And I’ll wonder why the hell they’re being so blunt, but truly I’ll know exactly why they’re being so blunt. It’s like telling somebody they have a fever or that cough is starting to sound serious.
We’re not a straightforward people, are we? Even in this age of compulsive oversharing, we know what our friends ate for lunch and which celebrities are screwing around and how many people shave their pubes. But we don’t know how people are coping with the real stuff.
How are you doing after blocking your brother and unfriending your cousin because of their ugly, racist social media remarks?
How are assault survivors managing the daily barrage of triggering language from a proud groper who thinks he should be the leader of the free world?
How do sober people deal with the world’s jagged stabbing shards that most people soften with substances?
Good questions, right?
But to ask, you have to be a special kind of honest. Masterfully honest. And that shit’s real. So real, in fact, that some people’s ears aren’t even tuned to hear it.
Honestly. Honestly. It’s okay.