It’s Not You, it’s me.

This week, I was privileged to see a client that I hadn’t seen in over three years. The first time I met this person, (let’s call her Sally) Sally, was when I was a student. I was working at an event trying to get in my community service hours. Since it was a semi-regular event, sometimes I saw the same people come back for chair massage each week. Sally was an enthusiastic repeat client. She’d come for conversation and 15 minutes of chair massage and I gave her my business card.

Sally always talked about how she was needing to get back into a regular massage schedule and how I did such a good job, and I just thought that she would call once I stopped working that event. After the weeks went by and I never got a call, I always wondered if it was something I did. Eventually I let go of the idea of her as a client. I decided that since I couldn’t do anything about it, I wouldn’t worry about it. I hadn’t given it much of a thought for the last three years until she called last month to book her massage to use her coupon.

I couldn’t remember how I knew her name, but that it seemed familiar until Sally reminded me about that summer 3 years ago and it all came rushing back. She was in this week and we had a great massage. She explained that she had a health condition that massage made worse at the time, but that it had since cleared up. That was the only reason she couldn’t come in.

It had nothing to do with me or my massage skills. What a relief. And it reminded me that sometimes, you see a client for awhile and they drift away. Chances are, it’s not anything you did or didn’t do. Everyone’s life has changes and sometimes that means that they don’t come see you anymore. It’s just enough to know that they’ve gotten what they needed for a time, however brief that time was.

And that is what feeds me.

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Fences, Neighbors, and Good Things

One of the things that has been the hardest to learn for me in this massage therapy journey (and life, too, for that matter) is the value of boundaries. I tend to be too open most of the time. I suck at lying, and subterfuge has never been a strong suit.

So I always just  live right out there in the open. Open heart, open mind, open. I thought that having lots of  boundaries would let me wall myself in smaller and smaller until there was no freedom, just this tiny cage I’d built for myself. Openness, I’d decided, was the only way to live.

For the first couple years as a massage therapist, I operated my practice that way as well and it seemed to work.

Available Anytime

The thing that I never expected that a sudden influx of clients would do is really teach me how to hold something back for my own good. I had decided to go with one of those social sharing coupons to get my name and business “out there” after moving to my most recent location. It’s been delightful and painful and awesome and a huge push towards growth of myself and my business all at the same time.

In the beginning of the scheduling, I had decided to be as open as possible and trying to accommodate folks all the time, forgetting that if I don’t leave daily space for myself and my family things were going to get pretty tight physically and emotionally. Not just for me, but for the people I love as well.

I did remember to schedule myself a little time off for a couple weekends, but otherwise I filled up every minute that I didn’t need to be sleeping. I just spent this last weekend off and now coming back, it’s all thrown into sharp relief.

How I have been a little too open, and too accommodating, and it’s worn me out physically and emotionally. I’ve been absent from family and friends and anything not related to “work”.

Time Off Epiphany

For the most part, massage has never felt like “work” to me, I get to hang out with folks and help them feel better all while doing moving meditation. But throughout the months of May and June it started to feel like work. I began to be worried that I couldn’t keep going like this and if I thought this was rough, how would I handle being a full-time therapist without the day job?

Now that I’m back into the swing, I can see that having a better defined set of boundaries could have kept me from getting too worn out. Part of it is a struggle because while I’m still a part-time therapist, I just don’t have as much time to give. Which means that my schedule may book up quickly. It could be a couple weeks before folks could get in. And I need to get comfortable with that.

Because I need some me back in my life. And I can’t be me when I’m worn out all the time and focused on my business constantly. Time to make some room for the things that help me keep sane and healthy. So I can go back to having a part-time career that doesn’t feel like work at all. Solid boundaries, or fences if you will, will mean a healthier and happier me which is better for my clients as well as myself.

Bringing It Home

How about you? How many times do you let your schedule get too full? You run and run and run and find yourself exhausted and grouchy for no reason. Life loses its luster and everything takes monumental effort, whether its cooking a frozen pizza or that 5 hour planning meeting at the office or just getting out of bed.

I’d suggest a nice Staycation. Take some mental health days away from work, unplug your cell phone, step away from the computer and visit the out of doors. And once you get back, maybe work on your ability to say no to some things. Just try it out. You might find, like I have, that a few fences actually make your space feel more open. You could be My Neighbor, Mr. Rogers style.

Begin at the Beginning

While I’m not precisely starting this blog at the beginning of my journey into becoming a massage therapist, I am starting it now as a way to connect further with my clients, peers, and world. It’s been a heck of a ride since I graduated from massage school in 2010, and it just keeps getting better all the time.

At the beginning of my career, I worked a full time day job and scheduled a few massages here and there. Find more clients was difficult because my  externship experience didn’t help me connect with very many folks who might be interested in paying for massages. For the first 6 months it was more crickets than phone calls. I moved to work out of a yoga studio, which was very fun. I fell in love with the practice of Ashtanga yoga and was able to hone my massage skills though a large amount of customers coming from one of those online coupon groups.

These days, I have my own studio. I work part-time at a day job and hope to move into full time massage therapy in the next year. My practice grows more and more every day and I get to truly be a part of some people’s lives in an amazing way. I invite you all to participate and comment as your interest dictates.

Light and Love!

~Jade