Tuesday, August 20, 2013

They Got It!

Last night I gave one of the lectures I both like and dread the most -- the lecture about working with geriatric and terminally ill clients.  At some point during the lecture, I can guarantee that I will see a room full of "lemon face," which means my students are actively trying to protect themselves from the icky ideas of aging and death.  

Last night, however, I got through the whole lecture with no lemon face.  This very small group of students are just as young as any other class, and just as oblivious to the concept of aging as something even they are doing.  They skipped lemon face, though, and went right to compassion.  

There is a posture students get when they get truly excited about a topic, and start to yearn for more.  They lean forward.  Their eyes get bigger.  They open their hands and unconsciously reach out towards me.  Everyone in the room last night had that posture.  I could almost feel their curiosity pulling information out of me.  When we started doing hands on practice, they went immediately into their focused place and committed.  To everything.  

What a joy for my barely-functioning shell to see this next generation of massage therapists get excited about working with people who are transitioning out of life.  I may make it through summer after all.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Burnt Out Case

While I am not quite ready to go find a leper colony in the jungle, it is clear that I am becoming a Burnt Out Case.  There are cracks in the facade, and plaster is starting to rain down.  Work and school used to be my sanctuaries.  I could go and teach or do a massage and be so fully in the moment that I literally forgot everything else.  Even if the train ride in was a sea of screaming babies, seat stealing suburban tourists and surly conductors, by the time I walked into my classroom, I was the picture of calm, professional control.  When I went in to give a massage, I could disconnect from everything else and draw fulfillment from the simple act of doing something I love.

This week, though, it's coming apart.  I try to tap into those endless reserves of grounding, calming strength, and I find that the connection is lost.  Somebody unplugged my grounding circuits.  I try to fill myself up with breath, and I can almost literally hear the echo of wind in a hollowed-out soul.  This week, I got a new client.  A friend referred her to me.  I almost didn't take the appointment, although I desperately need it.  I barely mustered the energy to do my best massage.  Afterwards, I had only enough energy to pick up the crappiest food I could find and sit on my sofa trying to hypnotize myself with computer games.

Just in time, I think, I realized what this is.  This is what burnt out feels like.  This is the thing I spent all those hours in Ethics lectures warning students against, and making sure they knew the signs and the dangers of ignoring those signs.  Well, crap.  Now it looks like I need to take my own advice.

I used to think that knowledge was the answer.  The more I learned, the more energetic I felt, and the more I wanted to do.  More classes.  More challenges.  More studying.  It turns out I was just pushing myself further into my head, where the gasoline and matches live.  Whoosh.  Burnt out.

I find myself looking longingly at pictures of mountains and streams -- truly quiet places with no trains or cars in the background.  I have just enough left to get through the summer, then I think it is time for this Burnt Out Case to seek a brief sanctuary in the mountains.  Massage sabbatical planning is under way.