Tuesday, July 27, 2010

These Hands, They Are My Own

Lately, I have felt a nostalgic longing to walk back into a version of myself that I never was, but that I always wanted to be.

For many years, I poured all of my energy into constructing a persona which had little to do with who I actually am, and everything to do with what I thought was expected of me, and what I strongly expected of myself. But more powerfully than expectations, this persona felt safe. I felt that it would protect me, make me needed in the world, and keep my unbearable vulnerability at arms length.

I was a talented massage therapist and healer for many years. I used the persona of Healer to make myself feel important and loved. Paradoxically, I also used it to avoid caring for myself, to hurt and negate myself, to re-enact over and over again dynamics that I learned as a very young child. When I came to the end of this path about five years ago—when I realized that I did not have to be a healer anymore--I felt a mixture of extreme relief and extreme loss. I felt free, but empty. It took me a very long time to accept that the Universe was never asking me to heal others. It wanted me to learn healing work so that I could heal my own deepest, most destructive wounds. When that process was complete, there was no need anymore to hold onto the persona, or the career, or the feeling of specialness I always craved, that being a healer brought me. I no longer needed to give past capacity, to hurt myself, to invest anymore in this careful construction of Giver, this idea that my purpose in the world was to save others. I was free to explore other aspects of myself. I could finally begin searching for who I truly was.

Recently, I had an lucrative and tempting opportunity to come back to healing work. I think that I pursued it more out of curiosity than anything else. More out of a sense of visiting someone I used to know; seeing what it would be like. Could I return to this work from a healthier place? Could I give in a balanced way, without needing my clients to need me? Could I give without feeling that giving is the only thing that makes me a worthwhile person?

The minute that I stepped towards it, the minute that my hands landed on the interviewer's body for the practical, all of the muscle memory and energetic memory of those years flooded back, and I realized that it was over. My hands had no knowledge. My hands wouldn't work. Something wasn't right; something didn't fit. Nothing had changed in my feelings about the work since that afternoon many years ago when I drove home from a visit with a counselor, crying and shaking with relief because I knew I was free from the constriction of that role. I'm on a new path. And this path, which is free of the conviction that I need to prove my worth through unsustainable giving, allows me to truly relish the few sessions I give occasionally to friends and family members; sessions that remind me of the best of who I was in that work—when I allowed stillness and peace to flow through me, without need, without expectation.


I will ask
of my own two hands
that which they cannot provide me.
They will offer bland
betrayals, they will stiffen
and refuse. They have each
their own round mouths
which reject and want, taste
and find lacking.
My hands know their worth;
when they're being used.
They grind the pen into my lies.
They have come
to mistrust me entirely;
all those hot
doorknobs and slick
knees I have grasped.
All the greasy sufferings
I've absorbed through them.
They become
daily more detached,
strain from my wrists,
conspire with my forearms.
Their rebellion will not be contained.
Already they whisper to one another.

--Kristen McHenry

Photo by Abdul Kadir Audah, Germany

1 comment:

Dale said...

Wow. I get it now.

It's taken me a while, but I can see that now. It was so much the reverse for me -- massage is what I escaped into, after trying to be things I wasn't.