Well, it’s February, 2011. My last quarter of massage school. We’ve accessed all kinds of crazy deep muscles, wrapped our heads around convoluted case studies, poked at cadavers, and memorized long, involved protocols.

It’s time to get back to basics.

This last massage class, after our mock Board exam (I only got 23 out of 110 questions wrong, a passing grade!), we reviewed some of the first techniques we ever learned about, including the very first: passive touch.

It’s easy to forget, when you’re used to giving and receiving massage so many times in a week, how wonderful it is just to be touched. To have someone put their hand on your xiphoid, shoulder, or foot, and simply let its weight rest on your body.

I’m grateful to work in early childhood education, in a setting that recognizes the need of small children to experience comforting touch every day. Each day brings hugs and high-fives, not to mention tears wiped and angry limbs calmed; I never lack for human contact.

Not everyone is so lucky. The elderly, the hospitalized, those whose work surrounds them with the incessant hum of technology, but without so much as a handshake in the morning … these people don’t experience what we have, outside of our care.

So the next time you’re frustrated because the scalenes are still kinked up and you can’t do anything about it, or a client’s medical condition prevents you from working in your most effective style, or there’s so much going on that massage simply can’t change and that is never going to go away, don’t forget this sage advice:

Get over yourself.

You’re not God. You don’t get to fix everything. What you get to do is help. What you get to do is touch. And if you end up with raving fans and vanished pain and muscles like butter in your hands, that’s just an added bonus.

Be there. Give what you have, and give it freely. Of course use your brains. Of course use your learning. Of course use all those handy-dandy techniques you’ve picked up in the 500 or 750 or 2,200 hours of massage school you’ve had.

But don’t forget your basics. How it feels to have someone you trust put their hand on your head, and leave it there, for just a moment.

It’s what makes all the other work work; it’s what make the work we do worthwhile.

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