A tale of recovery: my path from traumatized to healer

I had lunch a few weeks ago with John, someone I’ve known for about 12 years but haven’t seen much in recent years. He commented that I am a very different person now from when he met me, and that would not be apparent to people who hadn’t known me that long.

When we met in 2004 (I think), I seemed troubled to him, and I was. John said that now, I appear to be happy and “like a fountain” (which I love), and he was curious about that.

Other people have said I’ve changed more than anyone they know. Well, that’s probably because I was starting from a more troubled place than most.

So I’m reviewing my path in search of insights to share. This is for you, John, and I know that some of you are interested in recovery from trauma, and some of you are interested in personal growth, so this is for you too. Continue reading

Check out my new massage therapy website!

Here’s the link: http://http://thewell.massagetherapy.com/home. And if you don’t mind, while you’re there, please click a “share” button on the left or a “follow” button at top right. It helps with search engine rankings.

The Well website

This is just a screenshot! Click the link to view the actual website!

It’s a work in progress, but it is complete enough at present to go public with it. I’ll be adding images, videos, and more as I have time.  Continue reading

This blogger’s life…

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a catch-up post about what is going on in this blogging woman’s life. Rather than blogging about some topic, I thought I’d share a slice of my life. Meet the blogger, if you haven’t already.

Massage school, test, license. You probably know that in my pursuit of health and happiness, I enrolled in massage school last summer. Well, I finished my internship on February 10 and completed the paperwork and fee-paying the following week to get my transcript. Then I holed up with books to study for the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

I took the test on Feb. 25. It was very hard. I got to a place where I knew I’d done the best I could. There were maybe a dozen questions out of 160 that I was clueless on and quite a few more that required my best guesstimate.

I turned it in after 2 hours and 10 minutes (20 minutes short of the maximum time), and 5 minutes later learned I’d passed.

Whew and yay! I’ve been a good test-taker in the past, and it had been many years since I took a test of that sort, the GRE for grad school. It’s good to know I still got that mojo, and I sure don’t want to do that again. Immediately after getting the results, my mind began to let go of all that information. Damn, my brain was full! It’s still there in my unconscious mind, accessible when I need it.

I’ve applied for a Texas state license, and it will take a few weeks to get it. Then I become Mary Ann Reynolds, LMT. (If I wish, I can add NCTMB to that.)

I’m continuing to practice massage in my Spartan trailer. Have now done 168. It’s said that it takes 200 massages to really get your hands minimally educated in the art of massage. I’m counting toward that milestone, and then I won’t be keeping track any more.

Going back to work. Meanwhile, my savings are running very low. I’m going to do some contract technical writing for a few months to replenish my coffers and bankroll starting a full-time private bodywork/changework practice. I’ve been looking for a short-term contract job since January and am currently being considered for eight such jobs in the Austin area. It’s been slow hearing back, but finally, I’m online to start a short-term editing contract, possibly followed by a technical writing contract. Thank you, Universe.

I’ve really enjoyed this time of not having to go to work! Of learning and practicing massage being my work. I’m looking forward to the time when that’s all I do. When I asked myself the question of what kind of work would I love to do even if I didn’t get paid, healing touch came to mind. Of course, I will get paid for it, which makes it even juicier!

So even though I am going to back to technical writing for a few months, it’s temporary.

And while I am working as a technical writer, I’ll still be doing a few massages each week during evenings and weekends to keep in practice and segue into my right livelihood.

Getting sick. So… the stress of studying for and taking the test, being broke, and the slow job search took a toll. Add to that some emotional difficulties, and I got sick last week. It’s been up and down — not really ill, but not feeling like my usual buoyant, energetic, resilient self consistently. It’s been part emotional, part energetic, part physical, like a mild stomach virus coupled with a sea change in my life. Times of not being able to get warm enough, of belly aches and no appetite (I’ve lost a few pounds), of needing extra rest, taking naps, going to bed early — mixed with life as usual, running errands, spending the day with my daughter when she had surgery, going to dance.

This past Monday, I went to South Austin Community Acupuncture — my first time there — after a week of illness, to receive sliding scale treatment on short notice. (My regular acupuncturist whom I see every couple of months, Patrice, is rarely able to get me in quickly. They take walk-ins at SACA.)

It was awesome! After the intake and interview, I was led to a room with 9 sheet-covered recliners, dim lighting, and very low soothing music playing. The acupuncturist read my pulses and looked at my tongue. I rolled my pants up to my knees and pulled my shirt up a little. He put some needles in my legs and feet, also at my waistline and key points on my head. Then I just laid back and let the needles do their work.

After about 45 minutes, I felt great. My energy felt healthy and balanced again. The acupuncturist took the needles out, and I felt better than I had in days. That lasted for several days.

Emotional distress. It’s painful but here’s my best shot at being quick, accurate, and kind about my experience: I dated someone for a couple of months. I really, really liked him, and he did some things that shocked me. We broke up (he really scared me), and we tried to be friends (he scared me again).

I put our friendship on hold because I need friends whom I trust, who treat me well, who disclose what needs to be disclosed in a gentle, kind, and trustworthy manner.

I desire to move toward loving relationships with healthy, grown-up men and women. I desire to feel valued and emotionally/physically safe with those who surround me.

I have compassion for what I know of that he’s been through and respect his path toward a healthy life. I know it’s tough. I appreciate how much he did open to up me and all the great qualities he has. I’m grateful for the times we shared that were good. I hope I made a positive difference in his life. I wish him well.

Yesterday I saw a therapist/shaman/friend who worked with me on undoing these emotional disturbances. We did left eye/right eye/cross-hemisphere work using visualizations. We also did some classic NLP. It was  fun, amazing, and effective. We untriggered these disturbing memories. I also decided to learn to stop pointing and use my whole hand as an indicator instead.

This morning I was struggling to awaken, feeling really exhausted. I felt the presence of an angel loving me energetically. A visitation! It was so awesome and so welcome after the difficult emotions of dealing with this. Thank you, angel. Please come back!

Changes to blog. I’m interested in monetizing my work, having started and maintained this blog as a labor of love for free for over two years now and spent many, many, many hours on writing posts.

I’ve decided to join the Internet economy. I added a Donation button after seeing one on some other WP blogs. Why not? If something I share is worth something to you and you’d like to show that monetarily, it’s one way of reciprocating.

I also love your likes and comments and subscriptions!

Astrology for the coming year

One of my favorite astrology writers is Rob Brezsny. His weekly Free Will Astrology horoscopes, available online, via email newsletter, and in weekly print publications like the Austin Chronicle, always stimulate me. He’s that skilled and creative and that good a writer.

Rob is offering three-part in-depth audio discussions of each sign’s outlook for 2012 beginning next week and for the two weeks following. The cost is $6 per sign, with discounts for multiple readings.

Abbreviated versions appear in print. The forecast for each week is published on Tuesdays.

I usually copy and paste the readings for the coming year into a single document that I can read to see the big picture of my outlook. I read both my sun (Aquarius) and rising (Virgo) signs.

My horoscopes for 2011 called this year my bridge-building year, and asked me to meditate on how to call forth, nurture, and direct my yearning. It’s been a year of getting trained to change my work into more of a right livelihood for me, bodywork and change work. It definitely feels like a bridge-building year.

I was told that life would be conspiring to strengthen my brain, sharpen my wits, and see the world with greater clarity. I actually underwent brainwave optimization in June, which has sharpened my wits, and I do feel as though I am seeing the world with more clarity.

I was encouraged to be myself to find success, and to cultivate my unique talents, some of which might still be latent and undiscovered. I had no idea then that I’d be going to massage school. Several confirmations that being myself leads to success have popped up.

My 2011 readings seem spot on in hindsight.

I have a strong hunch that 2012 is going to be about blending heaven and earth, taking my spiritual ideals and putting them into form. At least that is what my personal, local astrologer Laura Waldman says. I’ve encountered that phrase, blending heaven and earth, from Patrice, my acupuncturist as well.

It will be a year of finishing my internship and getting licensed, of starting my private practice, and perhaps doing other work as well.

I also foresee it as a year of deepening and strengthening relationships.

Can’t wait to see what Rob Brezsny says!

I’m looking forward to reading what Rob says the coming year will bring.  Thanks, Rob and Laura, for all you do!

Book recommendation: Listen to Your Pain

This blog post isn’t about anything especially far out. It’s actually pretty ordinary. It’s about injuries and pain and a book I came across in my studies that I like a lot. It’s very left-brained — and very practical.

Listen to Your Pain: The Active Person’s Guide to Understanding, Identifying, and Treating Pain and Injury is one of my textbooks in massage school. It’s not written for massage therapists, but I know I will find it useful.

I recommend this book for anyone who leads an active or adventurous life, who might occasionally experience falls, twists, or other accidents, who wants to know more about what’s going on.

I wish I had had this book in my library years ago. You might need to have a certain kind of information-freak mindset like me to appreciate this, but it could increase your understanding of your own body, save your medical dollars, and give you realistic information about what kind of time and attention it takes to heal from an injury.

Most of the injuries I’ve had have come from things like falls, bike wrecks, dance, yoga, running, pulling the lawnmower cord, a car wreck, and so on. Some like plantar fasciitis have crept up on me. It would have been helpful to me to be able to learn more about what was happening under my skin. One thing I’ve discovered in massage school is that most of us know very little about what’s going on inside our own bodies. 

Before massage school, I used books like The Anatomy of Movement and The Key Muscles of Yoga to help me understand my body better. In fact, referring to books like that probably helped draw me toward massage school and more study of anatomy. I love the drawings and the insight I get, and the language is a wonderful skill to acquire.

Here’s how Listen to Your Pain can be useful. Say you begin to experience knee pain. This could be obviously from something that happened, or it could be knee pain that gradually appears and worsens for no discernable reason, or maybe it comes and goes.

You can use this book to identify which structure in your knee is injured, how this injury usually occurs, ways to verify that you have this injury and not another, how long it could take to heal, what you can do yourself (ice, rest), what a massage therapist or doctor can do (deep frictioning, injections, surgery), and rehabilitative exercises.

The chapter on the knee is 54 pages long. It describes the anatomy of the knee joint and includes a drawing with arrows pointing to sites on the knee where injuries are felt to help you identify your injury. Fourteen specific knee injuries are described along with descriptions of several other knee injuries and conditions that are more difficult to pinpoint.

Each of the injuries includes a description of what it is, how and why this injury can occur, a drawing of the anatomy involved, ways to test whether you have this injury with drawings, and treatment choices.

The treatment choices section describes the self-treatments you can do — waiting it out, limiting activity, icing, and so on. The author gives some rough guidelines for healing time — for example, for Pain on the Outside of the Knee (Lateral Collateral Ligament Tear), which can happen to yogis who spend a lot of time in the lotus position, it may take three weeks to three months to heal, depending on how severely the ligament is torn. He also lists possible medical treatments and exercises to strengthen the injured tissues.

Note that the book does not include ultrasound or acupuncture as possible medical treatments because the author was not familiar enough with them to include them. The book is purely Western medicine in orientation. From my experience, those modalities can be very helpful for injuries, so don’t rule them out. Maybe the 3rd edition will include them!

The author of Listen to Your Pain is Ben E. Benjamin, a Ph.D. in sports medicine and education. He studied with Dr. James Cyriax, the father of orthopedic medicine. This book has been around for 25 years and is in its second edition.

Student massages at TLC

I’ll be doing my 50-hour internship at The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School starting in December and ending in early February. I’ve created a page on my blog, Massage Internship Schedule, where you can see my schedule so that if you like, you can schedule a massage with me.

The school and clinic are located at 4701-B Burnet Road, behind Phoenicia Bakery, in central Austin. Student massages are $35 for 60-minutes, no tipping allowed.

Regular massage — weekly, biweekly, monthly, or every six weeks — not only feels good, it’s very therapeutic for the body. It lessens stress, pain, back aches, injuries, headaches, and fatigue.

Regular massage reduces blood pressure, improves circulation, strengthens the immune system, elevates mood, and relaxes. It stimulates the nervous system and helps maintain general health.

Plus, it feels good!

Ninety percent of doctor visits are stress-related. Imagine what getting a regular massage — very affordable at this rate — could do for your health and well-being.

I’d love to see you there and work on you.

10 things I love about massage

  1. Almost everyone loves massage and bodywork. It feels good and is nourishing to the body, mind, heart, and spirit.
  2. Caring touch, the basis of massage therapy, is probably the most ancient method of promoting well-being that human beings have used on each other.
  3. It’s the front line of health care. Massage therapists spend more time with their clients than most other health care providers.
  4. Your massage therapist gets to know you well. He or she may help you with alignment, posture, pain, emotional, breathing, self-worth, self-knowledge, and many more issues.
  5. If 90 percent of doctor visits are stress-related, why not just skip the doctor and get a massage? It is one of the healthiest ways to reduce stress that exists.
  6. There is no end to the methods of massage: Swedish, sports, deep, shiatsu, and more. Then there are branches: Rolfing, Trager, cranio-sacral, and more. A massage therapist can focus on mastering one method or practice several. Adventurous recipients can have a field day trying them all!
  7. Massage marries art and skill. Massage therapists have learned skills using specific methods and can also artfully mix and match techniques to meet your body’s needs.
  8. Studying massage includes studies in geeky subject matter, like anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology. Massage therapists use both their right and left brains when learning and giving massage.
  9. It’s one of the top 50 careers of 2011, according to US News and World Report. It’s expected to keep growing over the next decade.
  10. Massage by itself is great, and it partners well with changework. Say you’ve been struggling with an issue and have a breakthrough of some sort. You feel it in your body, right? Massage helps you integrate it more deeply, literally embodying the change.

Using my superpowers for good

You know that very famous quote from Marianne Williamson about how it’s not our darkness that we fear, it’s our light?

Well, here it is again:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

She is so brilliant.

For most of my life I’ve been afraid of my light. I’ve played small.

See, the thing is, I stayed in a job too long and picked up on the belief of others that good jobs are really hard to come by, that it was safer to stay where I was– until basically, something happened that brought me to a fork in the road, and I took the road less traveled. I quit a decent, stable, secure job seventeen months short of retiring and being able collect a pension.

My gut told me I needed to do something else.

A couple of months later, I decided to seek a contract job. I didn’t know how long it would take for my house to sell. I spent a day updating my resume, and the next day I responded to one ad, and before the day had ended, the recruiter who placed that ad called me about interviewing for the job.

So I interviewed and got the job. (And got a contract on my house right after that!)

Proof that if you have skills and a track record, you can find another job “even in this economy.” It just takes one yes.

That job ended at the beginning of June. I’ve been in massage school since the end of June, living on my savings. I was sort of looking for a part-time technical writer job. Part-time jobs in that field do exist, but they are few and far between.

Last week I decided to get serious: I updated my resume and made sure that each place it was posted had the same version with the same objective: part-time technical writing work.

The next morning I got a call from a recruiter about a part-time job at a very prestigious technology company.

Holy manifesting, Batman, I am powerful beyond measure. When I put a message out there, stuff happens.

I interviewed with a local team that was screening the job candidates. This team would be training me. The hiring manager was in San Jose and would do phone interviews with the top candidates submitted by the local team.

I made the cut.

Then I began to have doubts. I could not put my finger on why. It’s a good company and a good job, from all I know. But when I thought about actually doing the work, something inside me balked.

I bailed on the phone interview 10 minutes before it was to start. I’ve never done that before. I couldn’t give a coherent reason why, either. My body just gave me a very clear “no” signal. I didn’t want this job, and it seemed insane to go through with the interview knowing that.

The other parts of me besides this gut decision-maker weren’t entirely behind my action, either, and it took the rest of the day to integrate what I had done.

Part wondered if I was throwing my technical writing career away. Thirteen years. It’s been very good to me. I’ve found niches that I enjoy and am good at (that have to do with teaching people how to do things), but it just doesn’t feel satisfying to me any more.

Part said, “Maybe you need to work with a different kind of technology, such as medical technology.”

Part said, “It’s too hard to switch back into deep left-brain work while going to massage school three days a week.”

Part said, “Whew, even if you could have telecommuted from home after the initial training, you would still have had to drive 20-plus urban miles each way twice a week for the first few weeks to get trained. That is stressful. Good decision.”

Part said, “You are exactly on track, receiving training to do work that you love. You made loving your work your primary criteria. You cannot make exceptions and do work that you don’t love.”

Part said, “You are in-between, finding your way. Much is unknown, but you know it’s a path with heart. Trust it. Jobs may come that get you closer to where you want to be. It’s all an adventure anyway! Enjoy it and have fun.”

Part said, “Okay, now you know you can manifest. You have super powers. You must use them for good. Get centered and clear about your intentions. Allowing yourself to exist peacefully in the space of not knowing is the real challenge here. Your basic needs are met. You needn’t fear. You would be wise to meditate every day.”

And part said, “Your brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous self is unfolding! Enjoy the blossoming!”

Oh, yes, and the recruiter placed the other candidate she submitted who also made the cut. She said she appreciated my honesty, and it wasn’t a big deal. (I felt terrible about behaving like this, so those were welcome words.) The company got someone who really wanted the job, and I got…a new path.

Several hours later, all my parts had caught up with the decision-maker, and my own little private, personal drama became boring and a thing of the past. Next!

Being blessed

I feel a little guilty for not posting much recently. All is well! I am loving my life in so many ways, let me begin to count them.

I love being a massage therapy student, learning, practicing, integrating. I’m friends with several massage therapists and bodyworkers. It is so cool to hang out and talk shop with them now!

It’s wonderful to work on my friends, too. Even when I’m massaging them along with a video, I thank them for their patience, because every time I practice, I integrate more. My hands are becoming antennas!

Today it occurred to me that my trailer is like a really fun playhouse for a grownup. I didn’t have a playhouse when I was a little girl, and I’m enjoying the heck out of living in this trailer. My visitors yesterday, Katie and her dad, Don, noticed that it is just my size, and it does feel spacious enough to me at 5′ 1″ tall. Living here makes me smile. 

I’m still working on window covering decisions/installation and the sliding glass door/front deck entrance. I’m also testing 5 kinds of weatherstripping before settling on the best and longest-lasting. That’ll be a weekend chore to get done before the first cold front.

I was looking online today at chimeneas, imagining how awesome will it be, when it gets cold, to sit in my living room and watch a fire burning in a chimenea on my deck without the mess of having firewood, ash, or smoke inside. Looking forward to that fire trance…

The kale, chard, and collards I planted in September have grown large enough to start eating. The two inches of rain in Austin a couple of weekends ago was awesome. Plants love rainwater so much more than tap water.

There’s a mockingbird who lives near me who sings his heart out every day. I’m training my cat Mango to be an inside cat because he doesn’t behave well sometimes when I let him out. The monarchs are passing through.

I spent time last week updating my resume and making sure the same version appears on STCaustin.com, monster.com, LinkedIn, and so on. In other words, I got serious about sending a clear, consistent message out. The next morning, I got a call from a recruiter about a part-time technical writing job (very rare) at a really good company. I interviewed first (first or last are the best slots). By no means do I have the job, but it’s incredibly heartening to put my intent out there and get such a positive result so promptly. This has happened before. It’s almost scary.

I danced this morning at Ecstatic Dance of Austin. After several years of being away from dance, earlier this year I discovered this new group, whose energy feels clean, spacious, and not overshadowed by personalities competing for dominance. I feel that the bodywork, energy work, and awareness work I’ve been doing really shows up when I dance for over an hour with presence, pleasure, and skill.

My friend and fellow dancer Lakshmi Jackman says:

There is a shortcut to ecstasy. It’s called dancing.

Amen, sister!

I am feeling so grateful, lucky, and blessed to be connecting with some awesome people. New friends, old friends, family. People are showing me their awesomeness all the time now. Stunning, amazing awesomeness!

Is it because I’m in school learning how to do work I love?

Is it because the world is my mirror, and my happiness is being reflected back to me?

Is it because I’m finally getting the hang of managing my own life with skill?

Have I become more powerful than I believe I am?

I don’t know, but I am definitely feeling in love with my life.

Dare I wish for a couple of private yoga students? I love teaching, especially beginners, and miss it.

So that’s the news from Lake … hmm. Lake Well-Being. Thanks for reading. Blessings to you too.

Trailer update

Lots going on… written and practical exams at massage school yesterday. I did okay, maybe better than okay. My skills are improving. I’m doing one or more outside massages a week.

In the trailer, I’m painting the dark paneling a buttery yellow and the kitchen cabinets a lovely dark green, and those colors are looking really good together. Need to find new cabinet knobs since some are missing — maybe I’ll have uppers and lowers different. I really liked the original (?) knobs but can’t find any to match.

Ian finished the new tub surround and installed birch paneling on the bathroom walls yesterday. I kept the pink bathtub.

Once he got the tub set up, he discovered that the tub drain leaks underneath the trailer, so he’ll have to open up the metal bottom to access and fix it. This is the fourth or fifth leak he’s fixed.

Today he put down the vapor barrier, underlayment, and marmoleum tiles on the bathroom floor.

Still to come: installing the vanity and trim. The bathroom will be almost completely redone and will be much nicer than I found it.

I hope to move in next week after the bathroom is finished, new cork flooring is laid, and I get a new refrigerator. I’m so looking forward to spending my first night in my trailer! I took a little nap today in the bedroom after Ian and his helper left, lying on a yoga blanket on the floor. It felt really good.

The trailer has needed more work than I anticipated, which translates to me needing to get a job. I’m going to look for part-time work. I’m in school three days a week and need to work around that. A part-time technical writer job would be ideal, especially if I can telecommute.