The Ailing Healer has been receiving treatment for over two years. She is a consistently calm, warm, and happily anticipated presence. Her disease recently changed; mutated in a way that we all know and fear. Her treatment changed to keep up. She learned the news with the same calm attentiveness she brings to everything. She lost her hair, but smiled as she sowed off her new, short wig. "My mother always said I would look better with short hair," she said, "and who knew? She was right!"
It was amazing, and comforting, to me. I watched the Ailing Healer step into her new treatment plan, her new, guarded prognosis, without hesitation, and seemingly without fear.
The massage room has a way of amplifying truth, though.
She came to her appointment with the same smile. She gave me a hug and told me the same thing -- "whatever you do is lovely." She got ready without help, without extra time. But when I touched her, it felt--different. She was talking, but she always liked to talk a little bit for the first few minutes. Today, though, she didn't slow down or taper off like she usually did. She told me a long, complex story about a friend of hers, then another, then another. She asked me questions then started another story without waiting for my answer. She hardly stopped to breathe.
After the session, she said the same thing she always did, hugged me just as warmly. I was exhausted, though, spent and wrung out like I had just been to the wars. I sat in my room for a minute, trying to place the uneasiness. It came to me after a while -- spikes and knives. For the whole hour with her, I had been dodging spikes and knives. Despite her demeanor and her lovely surface openness, she was frightened to the core by her new prognosis. She was building and rebuilding her defenses, and meeting the increased violence of her disease with increased violence. She came to her massage and exposed a surface vulnerability, but kept talking to protect her damaged core -- brandishing her spikes and knives against fear.
My only weapon is no weapon.