Category Archives: Karen’s Progress

Visceral Manipulation

I am finally starting to feel better. If you’ve been keeping up with my other blog, Buried Carrots, you know that I have been struggling with what is possibly some anxiety or depression. The most troubling part of this issue has been a persistent feeling of not getting enough breath. I’ve been calling it shortness of breath, but it is more like an inability to take in a deep breath, or a constant urge to yawn that never results in a satisfyingly deep breath.

So far nothing, other than the supposed anxiety, has been deemed “wrong” with me. My lungs sound good, my heart sounds normal, my chest x-ray is normal.

After I’d had this breathing issue for just over a month, my doctor recommended an appointment with a pulmonary specialist. Unfortunately the specialist can’t see me until the end of October. The thought of feeling this way for two more months was devastating to me, so I started to consider some other options.

As a massage therapist I have always leaned toward the science side of things. I like to know why and how things work, and I have always been a bit skeptical of the more intuitive modalities in which intention and energy are used to facilitate healing. I think this is largely due to my efforts to work against image of the stereotypical massage therapist — you know, the one who wears a long purple broomstick skirt with a silk tank top and a crystal necklace, and smells like patchouli and has hairy armpits and tells you that your chakras are out of balance even if that’s not why you went to see her.

But I’ve had a feeling that the breathing problem I am experiencing is rooted in my emotions and that I might benefit from trying some other kinds of bodywork. According to Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Polarity Therapy, the lungs are associated with grief, so I decided to try Visceral Manipulation. My dad passed away almost a year ago, and we had a troubled relationship, so I wondered if somehow my grief related to his death was responsible for my breathing issues.

You can read more about Visceral Manipulation here, but the basic idea is that the therapist “tunes in” to your organs and the surrounding tissues to “look” for areas of tension and help release them.

My therapist was one of my teachers in massage school and a mentor whom I’ve known for about 6 years. So I fully trusted her with my care. As she worked on my chest and tuned into my lungs, I felt a surge of sorrow building — as if I wanted to cry — but as much as I told myself to just go ahead and cry, the tears wouldn’t come. Instead, this well of sorrow felt as if it moved up and became painfully trapped in my throat. So my therapist worked there next and asked me questions like, “Is there anything you need to get off your chest?” and, “Is there anything you feel like need to say?” — questions associated directly with areas she was working with, as if my words literally were trapped in my throat. The questions were partly rhetorical, but we did make some progress toward uncovering the emotions that might be buried deep within my subconscious.

For the past two days, I have felt better than I have in over a month. I’m still struggling with the troubled breathing, but it is far less intense and much more infrequent. For many hours each day, I have felt basically “normal” again. What a relief!

So, believe what you will about intuitive bodywork. It has certainly made some kind of change for me. Maybe it works. Maybe the power of suggestion is enough for me to begin to heal. And maybe those are exactly the same thing.

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Time for a Nap

Right now I am supposed to be writing a blog post about my adventures at the Food and Light workshop in Boulder, Colorado. To be perfectly honest, I was supposed to be writing that blog post yesterday at 9:00 AM, but instead I took a nap. (Give me a break! We got up at 6:00 AM and ran four miles!)
Normally, following a schedule is a very good thing for me. I function really well when I know I what to expect: a regular work schedule, a regular workout schedule, a regular schedule for writing blog posts. I go to bed each night and get up each morning at the same time. I even like to schedule “unscheduled” time. I know, boring, right? But for me, knowing what is coming up next gives me a sense of calm and control. I like to be prepared, and while I can absolutely handle being caught off guard, it’s not my favorite thing. Plus, with a very busy partner (whose various projects and deadlines I cannot keep up with), it’s helpful to know when we’re spending quality time together and when we’re buckling down for work. We look forward to spending time together and can really focus on each other without distraction.
But back to the nap I took in lieu of writing this blog post. Sometimes — Crazy! Spontaneous! — I will diverge from my regularly scheduled programming for some much needed self-care. I have learned that it is of utmost importance to BE KIND TO YOURSELF.  I got tired (literally) of telling myself that even though I was exhausted, I should push through my personal development projects: those things that aren’t earning me any money yet, but might some day. They’re things that fulfill my passion and satisfy me creatively and intellectually: photography, cooking, blogging. When I force myself to just get them done, the life is sucked right out of them. I don’t enjoy myself, and that defeats the purpose. But if I choose instead to rejuvenate myself with a nap or other relaxation, I often end up with a creative burst of energy and get the original project completed anyway — a win-win.

It’s a fine line. I want to prioritize my personal development projects because, well, I’m trying to DEVELOP something. I want my experience and talent to grow so that one day I can make a living doing what I love. That means that sometimes, even when I don’t want to, I will have to push through projects. But other times, it’s just as important that I take care of myself. Sometimes I can afford to invest in me and relax: take a nap, read a book, spend time in the garden and reschedule my project for later. I am much better off when I forgive myself for not getting something done and instead admit that my well-being needs to be the priority.

My nap was a good one. It was a beautiful morning. The air was nice and cool, and we opened the downstairs windows to let in the breeze. Hummingbirds were buzzing from one feeder to the other. Carla and I enjoyed a cup of coffee (decaf) on the sofa and then I sank down and snoozed for about an hour before getting ready for work. I felt so peaceful resting there while my laptop sat untouched on the table beside me.

Oh, and if you want to read about the Food and Light Workshop, check out my post on Buried Carrots.


Where I Work. What I Do. Who I Am. Where I’m Going.

I didn’t leave my job to pursue my big dream. I still have a 401k and a uniform, an ID badge and a proxy card. So why am I writing a blog about changing my life and pursuing my dreams?

I work as a massage therapist at a big resort and casino. In my humble opinion, it is probably one of the best jobs a massage therapist could hope for in this city. I enjoy the infrastructure of a huge company, and we have the best equipment money can buy and all the supplies we need. I have health benefits and, as mentioned above, a 401k. I like my coworkers, I like the environment of the spa, and I like being an employee rather than a contractor. In addition, I am still a relatively new therapist — I’ve only been doing this for four years. At the spa, I work and work and work, and as a result my skills are improving every day. Because I don’t work for myself, I don’t have to worry about where my next client will come from, or who is going to pay for laundry detergent, or how I’ll pay the rent. I can just focus on providing excellent client care and customer service. I can continue to build my massage skills and concentrate on being a good team member. For right now, it is exactly where I need to be.

But massage isn’t the only thing that I love. I have a lot of interests that have become fairly serious hobbies over the past few years. Cooking, photography, writing and blogging top the list. My current job allows me enough time to pursue these interests (yet another big bonus of working there), and I’m working very hard to grow my skills in all of these areas. I don’t know exactly what that means for my future, but I know that expanding my skills and knowledge can only lead to good things — new opportunities.

My next big challenge is the 2011 Food And Light Workshop in Boulder, CO: a two-day food photography workshop. This is a big push for me and one I’m very excited about (when I’m not being nervous about it, that is). I’m basically self-taught when it comes to photography, so getting some real instruction is going to be great. I’m hoping to gain some insight into areas where I have been struggling, and overall I’m hoping to learn how to improve my photography for my food blog, Buried Carrots. I’d really like to build a bigger following for Buried Carrots, and one of the ways to do this is to get picked up by sites like FoodGawker and TasteSpotting. But that requires really good photos. So improving my photography is my first step toward pushing Buried Carrots to a new level.

So that’s it in a nutshell: where I work, what I do, who I am and where I’m going — for right now, anyway. I’m focused on pursuing my interests, working hard and following my heart on a path that is leading me toward my “next big thing,” whatever that may be. Look for updates (and photos) from the workshop coming soon!