Friday, July 29, 2011


I think the 7th post is the perfect place to talk about love. I think about love a lot these days. Perhaps it because of my clients at the hospital, where love is such an omnipresence. I see it mostly in the stories people tell me about the ones they have lost or whom they are loosing. You see the intensity of love most in its loss. It is when it is taken away from us that we feel it most profoundly.

What does it mean to really love? Do I go all Tolle and speak of true love being given with expectations of nothing in return, just an outward flowing of connection to the world around you? Or do I go dark... very very dark? Hmmm I think I will go dark.

There was a man who came in the other day. He was a gay man whose lover had killed himself rather than make his partner suffer seeing him through terminal cancer. It was a love story that came through the door. He told it to us with tears and romantic embellishments that gave us glimpses into his idealized memory of his boyfriend. He offered short vignettes of moments of shared love with this man, their most intimate expressions of their devotion. Stories of washing each others hair in the rain and the spoiling of their dog. He was devastated, overwhelmed by love. Why did he kill himself he asks out loud and then answers, because he loved me. He is tortured by this feeling, not believing that it would gradually fade until receding one day into a small corner of his heart awoken only occasionally by birthdays and anniversaries and certain smells.

Why love if pain in inevitable? I told a lover that the moment I loved him my heart was broken. It sounded sad at first. It sounded dark and painful. It was not what I wanted to convey. What I wanted to say was that if my heart was already broken, broken open, then I did not fear him breaking it again. By choosing to love him, I chose to accept all the feeling that comes with it; freeing me to let go of worry as the worst had already happened. Any pain was just a sign of my love. This pain is not pain, it is feeling. It just hurts. Hurts in the way your heart aches when you see your daughter go to her first day of kindergarten or when you hear the song you slow danced to with your first crush. The hurt is just the reflection of the intensity of emotion. Ask a bottom about pain. Ask a tattooed man about pain. Ask a woman in labour about pain How we frame it is how we live with it. I choose to live with it well.

Holy shit. Did I really just go there?

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Alright to Cry

When I was a kid, my favorite album was Free to Be You and Me. I was, after all, brought up by lesbians, so it made perfect sense that Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda telling right-on politically correct stories would be a seminal influence in my early childhood development. Hits like "William Wants a Doll" and "Don't Dress your Cat in an Apron" still float through my brain at inopportune moments, but the song that always comes into my head at the hospital is, "It's Alright to Cry."

One day there was this very put together woman who came in to meet with my supervisor. She was dressed impeccably and carried herself in way that belied composure, breeding and a comfortable life. Her husband had died. He had cancer, and he been fighting it well, but then one night he had a stroke. She found him, lying on the floor of their kitchen and he was dead by the time he reached the hospital. She had come in to speak with us because she was having more trouble coping than she imagined and she needed to reach out. You could see the discomfort. She was used to being calm. She was used to being self sufficient, the cooler head prevailing. You could see the cracks, the fragile and strained hold she was just managing to keep on her overwhelming grief.

My supervisor is compassionate and sweet. She made sensitive noises as the woman recounted her feelings. I sat slightly to the side and watched, observing how my supervisor interacted, watching responses and seeing how they were received. I could see the brink of tears and I offered kleenex. We use a lot of kleenexes. There is a basket filled with small individual white puffy pouches on the desk, like some messed up gift basket for pain. The woman said, I have been crying. I can't stop crying. I want to stop, I hate showing my friends tears. I was always so together and now I am falling apart. If only I could stop crying.

Of course the chorus of "It's Alright to Cry" comes into my head...crying takes the sad out of you, rain drops from your eyes, it just might make you feel better...

We give her some articles and tell her what she is feeling is "normal." It seems this is the protocol. Supposedly people just want to know that their intense pain is "normal" That this somehow makes grief bearable. Why telling someone that the worst loss they have ever had is average and mainstream helps to ease things I do not understand, but sometimes it seems to help. It is normal to want to sob for months when your husband of 40 years is found twitching on the floor of the house you bought together. Normal.

She settled down and my supervisor wrapped up the meeting. Of course I can't help myself, I need to interject. I need to say something to this person beyond how average and unsurprising her emotions are. So I say to her, it is the crying? Is it the crying that is disturbing you most right now? And she says yes because I can't stop it and I could always control myself before. Now I can't and I don't know what to do. So I say to her, in my massage therapist clinical voice, can we look at the tears differently. People cry for a reason. This is why it is "normal."

When something happy happens we cry, when something sad happens we cry, when something terrifying happens and when something infuriating happens. We cry. Why? When we cry we produce endorphins and lovely hormones that calm us down and that counter balance all that adrenaline and cortisol and the other bad brain chemistry that makes us feel terrible. The body needs to cry to re-balance those chemicals. Maybe if you did not think of the tears as something to be controlled, but instead as your body's way of cleaning out the crap, the pain, the other chemicals, then you could just let them flow. Then maybe you could trust that the tears will eventually stop. They will stop when they need to. It is alright to cry.

She looked at me and smiled and said, I never looked at it that way. Of course in that moment my eyes began to burn and in my head I thought, it is alright to cry, but this time I will wait till I get home to clean out all this shit.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just Like Fur

I get asked a lot how I am able to be a massage therapist. The usual comments go something like this...what about gross toes? How about smelly people, hairy people, pimply people, fat people, skinny people? Of course they also ask if anyone has offered me money to jack them off. In truth, no one has EVER asked me to touch their junk, which always raises incredulous eyebrows. Really? I don't believe it, they say, never?? I would develop some kind of a complex about my physical appeal, but quite honestly I think I am not unattractive and outside of my massage clinic, I get asked to touch peoples' junk on quite a regular basis. I think my clients just know it is not going to happen and that they would never be allowed on my table again if they crossed that line. I take this as a compliment to my skills. The risk of losing me as their therapist completely negates their urge to get off.

I love what I do. It is physical and emotional. I get to spend an hour or more concentrating one on one with someone. I get to positively effect change in a tangible way. I get paid well for not too many hours work. I also get to hear stories. I love stories. One of the main impetuses for this blog, beyond my obvious call for attention, is that I want to write a book about my clinic. The blog is my practice space. My public writing space. My space to see if I have the balls to disclose. For some reason short bursts of self revelation seem to be ok with me. As usual i am getting tangential, lets refocus on hairy backs.

People always ask me about hair. One of my very first clients was a 6 foot 4 middle eastern man, build like a linebacker. I recall drawing back the covers revealing a forest of thick black hair. It began at the nape of his neck and covered his entire back, curly and springy with no evidence of skin underneath. This was early in my career and I felt my stomach lurch slightly at the prospect of being elbow deep for the next 90 minutes, lost in this hirsute behemoth's body. Then something remarkable happened in my brain. I re framed. I's just like fur. I have a dog. A Portuguese water dog, and I pet him all the time. Somehow that was all I needed. If I can put up and love my stinky beastly dog, I can certainly rub through some man fur.

I do have a personal philsolophy about bodies and minds and touch. I think the boundaries of our person are a lot more blurry that the limit of our skin. We like to think we can keep ourselves contained, in this neat physical package, cover it with clothing and then hide ourselves inside. But people bleed out all kinds of things, smell,hormones,love,hate, noise and heat. Where exactly one person ends is hard to say, except that it is most probably ending right inside of another's. When you enter fully into that space, especially through touch, things happen, you affect and are affected. It is what makes us essentially alive. This is why I love massage. It is for what happens in the space where two boundaries meld.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Technological Relationships

I like to think about relationships. Who are we kidding? There may be even some obsessive analyzing going on there. Recently I have embarked on a new one. I had been thinking about and lusting for this particular one for about two years. When it started I thought to myself, this is the future. I knew it was in its infancy stages and I was not ready yet. I knew I didn't have the time or the money to embark. It didn't stop my fantasizing though.I saw my friends in simialr realtionships and I was jealous, I asked them how good is it? It is everything you thought it would be? Does it feel as good as it looks? Are you scared of breaking it?

Last week I did it. I ordered the frickin iphone. Now here I am in that realtionshhip I knew I should avoid. The one that you know better than to get into, but can't help because is is so shiny and pretty. You know you will never fully understand it and it will probably just end up breaking your your heart by frustrating you and teasing you with its untapped potential. It chimes at me, beeps at me and vibrates its constant need for attention. Even when it doen't need me, I am drawn to it hoping it has something to say.

I know my friends will begin to resent its presence in my life as I withdraw into my co-dependency with my virtual obsession, but yet I can't help but talk about it. They have all been there before. Their relationships have faded into that comfortable, lustless comraderie you see in old married couples. They bicker at theirs, cursing its flaws and inadequacies, looking longingly at younger more vibrant releases to come. Iphone? oh android is better? Why not blackberry? Racist.

My auto correct puts words in my mouth, assuming that it knows better than me what I want to say. Strangely, a lot of the time it is right. It makes jokes and keeps me from writing mother fucker unless I really really mean to. It makes me wish I had delicate fingers so that I could use it the way I want and make it give me what I need. I even make it wear protection because this realtionship is new and I don't want to harm it it anyway and I really don't want to have its iphone babies...yet. It is sassy and slutty though, and keeps trying to rope me into three ways for "facetime." I like it, but it unnerves me.

I have decided though to try and live in the NOW. I just want to experience the love, the joy, the connection to wifi. I do have a long term, three year plan afterall, so I have to make this thing work, but I want to relish this honeymoon period, where I can give it the attention it deserves. I will try not to lose it, and control my urge to slap people who fondle it too intimately. It is a just a phone afterall. Right?

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I am sitting here waiting for my stats tutor to show up and babysit my retarded brain as I attempt to muddle through yet another "interactive educational" experience. Online learning. I should write a post about it. I will write a post about it. Not today. Today I want to write about death. What else would I want to talk about?

I am doing a field placement at a Jewish hospital. I suppose its Jewishness is irrelevant in the same way my jewishness is. Or maybe it is relevant in the same way mine is, but I digress. Today is not about the Jew. Today has a priest. Part of my work involves hanging out in palliative care. For those of you in the know, you are aware that palliative care is where they send us to die. They make it air conditioned, there are cookies and free coffee and they even validate your parking and don't charge you for the private room . The universe in all its irony decided to place the psyche ward adjacent to the palliative and so you can frequently see shoeless muttering smokers looking for the elevator. There is perhaps something poetic about placing the psychotics in the same elevator as grieving spouses and children, but I leave that to Poe.

My role there is fairly undefined. I pretty much troll for emotional pain. If I see a patient or a family member with that panicked, overwhelmed look in their eyes, I offer then a coffee or a jello and then a talk.

The other day there was a woman with "the look". I asked her what she needed and in French she desperately mouthed "cafe". She was sitting next to an sunken and yellow man who was, as they so gracefully call it, "actively dying." Somehow this conjures up images of Jane Fonda in a leotard to me; for the active dyer. I brought her the coffee and she told me a little bit about herself. She said she was the man's niece and he had been like a father to her. He could not really talk anymore and he kept pulling at his clothes like he wanted to strip them off. It was reminiscent of a 2 year old who had been forced to wear something uncomfortable, ineptly fumbling but inevitably succeeding at exposing himself.

The woman was strung tightly. You could see she was using every effort to simply keep her shit together as she tried to communicate to and calm down her uncle. I said to her that she should take a real break. That I could sit with him and she could have her coffee in the family room. . You could see her relax, just for a second, at the relief of not having to have this image, this image of dying, right in front of her with no respite even if it was only for ten minutes.

I have never sat so close to death before and I had this thought. I thought, I will look at this. I will look right at it; meditate on it, watch it and see it without rationalization. All you want to do is look away and I wanted to stare it in the face and try to find the beauty. It was there somewhere and I knew it.

He was extremely agitated and I wet his lips with this little lip sponge they have. It looks like a tiny pink popsicle. They feed them ice cream and jello a lot there too. I put my hand on his shoulder and he calmed down. We just sat. Soon a priest walked by. He was a strapping African man. He came in and offered last benediction and the man somehow returned from wherever he had been and managed to genuflect. I found this amazing. That this is what got to him. He accepted the rights and then went back to where ever he had been with his uncomfortable clothes and far off stare.

The niece returned. She had found whatever space she had needed to make it back in there. I left to go to my office and several minutes later she found me. She was crying. She said, My dad died a year ago today and I know he is going to die on this day. I said yes, he probably will, and gave her a hug. I tried to console her by telling her the priest had come and he had received the last rights.

And here is where my job is fucked. Or funny. Or something. She looked at me and said, oh really? She lowered her voice and said, my uncle is very proud of his heritage. He made me promise that a there would be no black priests at his funeral. He specifically wanted a white man to usher him into the next realm. What was I supposed to respond? I opted to not. I opted to give her another hug and tell her that she should go tell him whatever she needed to say to him and that he knew she loved him and it showed.

Where does the universe find its perverse sense of humour from? I don't even know how to end this post except to say I will never forget this day. I looked at it. And I saw it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Here We go Again

How many attempts at a blog does one have to make before one actually writes something that is entertaining, interesting and maybe even slightly meaningful?

Sometimes I think blogging is just this acceptable way of being that crazy lady on the bus who sits down next to you and starts spewing her inner demons all over your personal space. Every once in a while though, the lady has something profound to say. I make no promises of profundity. Profanity, fuck ya, there will be lots of that, but earth shattering truths will most likely be few and far between.

Let us start with an introduction.
I like to ruminate on relationships. I used to own a record label which will remain nameless, but I still find it hard not to name drop it so that I don't have to wait in line or pay for concert tickets and also to impress young boys. I am working on my punter skills but it seems to be going badly and I am still found arms crossed at the back of a club talking out of the side of my face. Recently my dance has come back, and through a 12 step program involving roots, dancehall and hot lesbians in underwear I seem to be learning to actually ENJOY.

Several years back, I decided to become a massage therapist. My mother rolled her eyes. These days I alternately rub people and go to graduate school in social work. When I told my mother about the social work she rolled her eyes too. Her cataract surgery made her glasses obsolete so the eye rolling has taken on a whole new brilliant intensity. Of course I ignored it. Actually I think I must just have internalized it, which is why it is showing up here.

I was married for a few years. I am not anymore. Nuff said.

These days I waffle between fantasies of manly men, comfortable in their own skin, calm on the inside with calloused hands and unshakable love and my reality of raging non-monogamous hedonistic rampaging. I seem to be living the latter however in an effort re-invent myself into something other than a serial monogamist who eats chips on the couch while cursing her dying libido.

I will intermittently post Echardt Tolle quotes. I have Tolle Tourettes. The thing is, they are tongue in cheek as I just can't seem to get rid of the cynical bitch who cringes at the NOW. However as I age.. well the hippie is emerging and I do sort of long for that sense of inner peace. I just hope it has a sense of humour