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  • E.S.

Massage is a conversation

In Copenhagen, Denmark there is something called the Human Library. Instead of printed books, a visitor selects a human who has volunteered to be an “open book” representing a stigmatized group in the community. Titles include ADHD, Autism, Alcoholic, Eating Disorders. The goal is to combat prejudice and dismantle biases. For half an hour, two people who would normally never meet can dialogue candidly and the “reader” is free to ask any questions. It is something we would do well to cultivate: an open conversation in a safe space, free of judgment, where questions can be explored without fear, resulting in a new understanding. I have never frequented any of the Human Libraries that have sprung up around the world, but in a way, I browse a rich library every day.

As a Licensed Massage Therapist at my local hospital, I helped people experiencing pain to find reconciliation and peace with their own bodies. I encountered people at their most vulnerable time. The intersection of their trust and my skills sets the stage for dialogue, if we chose it. By listening with my heart and hands, I learn my client’s story. My work brings me people who normally would never get a massage: the hard-working grandmother with worn-out hips, the policeman with phantom knee pain in a leg that was destroyed during a foot chase with a pedophile, the mother desperately trying to stay pregnant with her tiny twin babies, the athlete with the reconstructed shoulder, the 12 year old cheerleader whose boyfriend took advantage of her after her career-ending injury, the disoriented farmer trying to escape the hospital at night to tend to his animals, two women welcoming their first baby after failed heterosexual marriages, the boy wanting me to draw rainbows on his back, the exhausted doctor whose own baby is in the NICU, the patient with the prison guard in their room, the nurse who loses sleep caring for her ill parent, the actress with the stage combat concussion, victims of unspeakable trauma, refugees who require interpretation to understand massage – not the word, but the concept.

My role is simple: to relieve pain. My goal is much broader. I believe that if I can give somebody a moment’s relief from pain, I might enable them to face the tasks before them with renewed perspective. I teach clients how their life experiences could have contributed to their symptoms, and how I can or cannot help them. We explore how ways of moving forward, literally and figuratively. Together we learn what is effective.

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