Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Grace

It started as a marketing strategy, to keep a list of clients who might want a massage but got hung up on scheduling. I would simply text them when I had openings, asking them if they wanted an appointment. If they didn’t reply, I would drop them from the list. It worked pretty well, but one of the drawbacks I noticed was that the number of late cancellations and no-shows went up. It turned out that some people want massage, but they have difficulty keeping appointments, for a variety of reasons that may or may not be under their control. I was, nonetheless, getting more business and making more money, so it was in my interest to forgive the inconsistencies.

What I learned was that, for some people, this is a profound grace that I can offer. Some people who aren’t good at remembering appointments feel deep regret every time they miss one, and it’s happened a lot over the years. They will forgo self-care to avoid showing other people the disrespect of their inadequacy. When they learned that I accepted and forgave them completely, they became very loyal, grateful clients.

(Note that forgiveness, as I learned from A Course In Miracles, is the recognition that as a part of the Divine, I—and you—can never be harmed in any way, therefore I don’t actually have anything to forgive anyone else. This is challenging, but much more liberating for everyone than thinking something like, You hurt me, but I forgive you.)

It’s commonly held among massage therapists that missing appointments is a violation of boundaries, and if we don’t hold clients accountable for it, they will lose respect for us and take advantage of our willingness to accommodate them. Maybe that is true for some people.

But for me now, I find that, sometimes, as much as people need work with their bodies, they need grace. They need redemption. They may have abused their bodies, they may not eat well, they may not exercise or do the stretches their other massage therapist prescribed, they may perceive that they are failing their bodies and their bodies are failing them in a million ways, but we can help them to make the most of what they have to work with right now. We can help them to come to better balance. We can help them to find peace in and with their bodies, and in and with the world. If we can forgive their failures, maybe they can forgive themselves.

This may be the most important thing any of us can do for anyone. What a wonderful privilege it is, so simple, so powerful, to be able to offer this grace.

We think these birds are pelicans. They fly over Austin occasionally.

You Like Me!

Woo hoo! A poem I wrote has been accepted into the We’Moon date book for 2022! I’ve been submitting to various publications for years now, and this is my first success.

Sadly for you, you’ll have to wait until next year to read it. For now I will give you a little something, a wee poem that the fine womyn of We’Moon did not choose for their publication.

The New Healer

She comes in the night like a dream,
unexpected but welcome.
I hold them out to her, my aching arms
like a box of broken toys.
But what is your name?
Roses, she says,
and I smell roses.

Covid Times

In covid times, we’ve been okay. We’ve been safe. We made masks and wore them. We avoid places where other people are. We’ve had precious few times when we’ve seen friends, at a park or in a back yard. We baked Christmas cookies, and delivered them to the neighbors, we learned new songs and new instruments, learned new software, and decorated our interior spaces. We’ve read lots of books and enjoyed sleeping in.

She doesn’t go to school anymore, she goes to her room and closes the door. But occasionally there are materials she needs to pick up, so yesterday we put on masks and warmed up the car and drove carefully through the treacherous weather, avoiding that one really bad intersection by taking a new route that we figured out as we went.

I pulled into the circle in front of the building. She was supposed to meet someone by the makeshift outdoor stage they built so they can still have plays. Of course, when they closed down the school, they cancelled all the shows, but it’s a performing arts school, so they haven’t been willing to let go of performance opportunities altogether. The stage was a simple plywood platform with not very much space in front of it, and we wondered where the audience would sit, how they would be adequately distanced. It would be a long way from the lavish productions they used to put on, with elaborate costumes and sets and choruses of dozens of dancers.

But as we pulled up, I was startled to see a marquee advertising a show, not the one they were rehearsing, but the one we saw there, almost exactly a year ago. It was an eerie anniversary, of that time we crowded into a theater and sat down close to hundreds of other people, unmasked and all breathing each other’s breath, and we were immersed in the play without a thought of contagion or death rates or ventilation systems. That was the last play before everything was shut down, and the sign had never been updated.

Now it turned out that rehearsal for the current show had been cancelled because of the weather. The campus was deserted. I stared at the sign as she wandered in the rain, looking for an open door. The sign hung right above the spot she used to sit after school, when she stayed after to hang out with her friends. Now she plays online games with some of them, but others don’t talk to her anymore, and she doesn’t know why. I wondered if things would ever be like they used to be, or would that sign hang there forever, advertising a show that had long played out?

She gave up on her errand and got back in the car. As we drove away, she was quiet. After a while, she told me she missed her school, more than she ever would have expected. I didn’t have any words of comfort.

grand hotel sign

Watching the Planets Shine

On New Year’s Eve I decided to make a vision board to facilitate the manifestation of what I wish to bring into my world in 2021. Right away I realized that I don’t feel I am lacking much, materially, in my life. I have a nice home, if a bit small for a family of four who used to live in a bigger space. I had enough money to pay all the bills in 2020, and we all ate every day. I have a family whom I enjoy being around, for which I am deeply grateful in these times when we can’t go many places or see other people. As I leafed through my collage morgue, I found myself drawn to some images that had nothing to do with material objects. Maybe I want to go caving, or look at the stars a lot, or gaze thoughtfully into space.

I don’t own the rights to any of these images. If you do, feel free to tell me if you’d like me to remove it or credit you.

I saw an ad with the text, “Dreamers Wanted.” Ooh, sounds like something for me. I don’t remember what the ad was trying to sell now, but the fact that it caught my attention alerted me that this was exactly what I myself want: to be wanted. I want my dreaminess to be something that can be of use, that can be valued by the world. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from 2020, it’s how unmarketable I am. The one thing that I thought I was good at was massage, and I was already starting to question that when we locked down; now I don’t think it’s even safe for me or clients. Without that, I have no skills that are listed as requirements for any job. My resume could read, “Knows when vultures come and go in the Flint Hills of Kansas, can name five plant-based substitutes for eggs in baking, knows the lyrics to every song on the Flaming Lips album In A Priest Driven Ambulance . . .” How does it feel to be breaking apart?

Dreamers wanted.

So when I saw a vision board workshop offered by Colette Baron-Reid, I thought it would be a good opportunity to dial in that desire a little more specifically, tell the Universe in what way I would like to be wanted. I like that Colette’s approach is more spiritual and less materialistic than the vision board is often presented as. She gives daily journaling exercises. When I was assigned to choose two areas of life to focus on, it was easy for me to choose Career/Calling, and Passion/Creativity. I was supposed to think about how my creativity (which would be writing, for me) connects with other people, or ask, who am I sharing with? And that question stumped me. I submitted poetry throughout last year, and it never made the cut. I can probably count on one hand the number of people who read anything I wrote in the last year, and they were all friends. (It’s not a bad thing for friends to be my readers, it just means that I’m not reaching anyone through writing that I’m not otherwise connected with already.) Who needs what I have to offer? The question stumped me, and I ended up scrawling in my journal, “FACE IT, NOBODY BENEFITS FROM THE SHIT I WRITE.”

Should I manifest people who love my writing? Should I manifest myself into a person who is good at writing ad copy? Or should I just quit?

But I came back the next day for another try, this time journaling about commitment. And I wrote this:

Thing is, I love writing so much it makes me want to cry. Maybe all I need is just to do it, screw whether anyone else gives a shit. Screw sales, income, readers. I commit to doing it, and if The Universe wants anything more, it can make it happen. If somebody has so much to gain from what I write, they can trouble themselves to read it. I can be open to whatever comes, if it’s nothing, then I got the joy of writing it and my joy is as much as I have to give to the world. The rest is byproduct. I surrender all expectation of result from what I write.

Wow, that is liberating.

So, in 2021, I commit to dreaming. I commit to writing and being in the moment. I commit to blogging for all five of you, and to reading an oracle or Tarot card for the handful of you who watch my weekly videos. I commit to continuing to watch lizards and birds, and to editing my totally unmarketable novel about Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the matricide of the Divine Feminine by patriarchs, and to sprinkling it all liberally with obscure references no one will get. I bless the world with my existence, whether you like it or not.

This is my present to the world.

Massage In the Time of Covid

Almost ten months in, and I still don’t know what I’m going to do. Some of my friends from the last job are working again, but as new cases and positivity rates continue to climb, it just looks reckless to seek out people to spend an hour with in a small, closed room. I wonder what will be the future of my profession, massage therapy.

On the advice of everybody on the freaken planet, I looked into the proverbial pivot. God, how I’ve come to hate that word. I investigated no fewer than three alternative businesses, and decided in turn that none was a good gamble. In August I did invest in new massage equipment and updated my holistic blog, with an eye to starting a house call business, but, you know, rising new cases and positivity rates.

Maybe it’s time for me to leave massage. Before the last job closed, I was starting to get the distinct feeling that several of my colleagues didn’t have a particularly high opinion of the work I was doing there. My retention rates were low, at best. I often felt a vague sense that the deep connection I used to feel frequently with clients just wasn’t happening. Perhaps I wasn’t the exceptional therapist I had come to think I was.

It seemed like part of the issue centered around the pain relief paradigm. Studio promotion in Austin focuses almost exclusively on pain relief. That makes sense, because pain is what brings people in the door. But what I find much more interesting at this time in my career is more esoteric; I always want to know where the energy is going, and what is the client’s relationship with their pain, and where they are and where they want to be in their lives. I never figured out how to address these kinds of questions in the context of fixing a pain and sending the client on their way with a couple stretches and some CBD product.

Today, for the first time in a couple months, I massaged a person who had been suffering joint pain for several months. I wasn’t sure I could fix it, but I knew there were other phenomena in the body that were likely related to the pain, that I could probably change for the better. As I got going, I noticed that my own energy was flowing, that massaging other people affects me in a powerful and healing way. Perhaps I need it in my life.

There was a part of the body that was locked up, and as it released, suddenly the client had a surge of pain. As it subsided, he told me that he could see how some of the patterns he was manifesting in his posture were reactions to the pain, habits that held the injury immobile and suppressed the pain. Releasing the patterns opened him to feeling the pain intensely.

This is a great observation, but the obvious strategy for a massage therapist would have been to fix the pain problem first, then let the rest take care of itself, perhaps with a little nudging. So once again I was left wondering if my blundersome approach is even consistent with calling myself a healer. I make so many mistakes. So many mistakes. Maybe all those people at the studio were right.

So goes the covid roller coaster. One moment I think I’m handling the uncertainty and limitations better than most, the next I’m staring into the gaping maw of my bottomless insecurities. I told my client that—when it’s time again—maybe instead of advertising that I can relieve people’s pain, I’ll advertise that I can bring them right smack back into feeling it. He though maybe in Austin that would sell.

Sympathetic Resonance

When I was learning to play violin, I remember my teacher Anita Wright pointing out to me how some notes have a special “ring” to them. The acoustics of this phenomenon are pretty cool (though we didn’t talk about them when I was six). Start with a bow drawn across a string, which sets up a vibration. As the vibration of the string is translated through the bridge into the hollow body of the instrument, the vibration is amplified, and the entire body vibrates. The other strings in turn pick up these vibrations, especially if the note you are playing is an octave of an open string. This phenomenon is known as sympathetic resonance. If you really get it going, you can actually both see and hear the other string vibrating. Certain notes on the violin create this ringing effect. It feels like not just the string is vibrating, not just the whole instrument, but the air around it, the room, the body of the player.

There are more complexities, like overtones and undertones, that make other notes ring as well, though not as brightly. Some notes never ring, because there isn’t another string that will pick up their resonance. These notes have their own beauty, though in kind of an understated way. F and B, for example, don’t ring. Wind players love these keys, probably because of some acoustic phenomena deriving from the design of their own instruments, but they aren’t the best for strings. String players like to play in A, D, maybe G. Maybe this is why it sometimes feels as if wind players just don’t really appreciate strings. They don’t hear us at our best.

If you haven’t played or been in proximity to string instruments, a good comparison between the notes that ring and the ones that don’t might be the difference between singing alone versus singing in a large group of people.

If I’m in a conversation with you about new age or healing or some other esoterica, I might say of an idea, “That resonates with me.” I would like you to know that if I say that, I am using a metaphor that has a very specific and real meaning to me. It’s kind of a higher state of consciousness, of being, when it feels like my body and spirit are picking up and joining in a vibration, singing along with yours, the air and everything around us all vibrating together.

These days everybody is wearing masks and distancing and everyone hates everyone else, but let’s see if we can find those frequencies that are so resonant that we can’t help but pick up the vibrations and get our whole world ringing together, wherever we are, wherever we come from.

Hard to get a good shot, but I think in this picture you can see that the G string, the highest on the screen, is vibrating. The bow was only actually touching the D string, the next one down from the top. The other two strings are relatively still.
Photo by Kiran Ireland

Always Late

I was talking in a video about freeing and moving emotions, and how sometimes the sign that I need this is a vague but undeniable anxiety, as if something very bad is about to happen, or perhaps like some time when I was little and maybe did something I knew I would get in trouble for, but it hadn’t been discovered yet. For a long time anxiety was a frequent visitor, coming and going at will, not intense enough to send me to a doctor for a prescription, just nagging and sucking idly at my confidence.

As I was thinking about that anxiety, I noticed that I used to feel it regularly just as I was about to go somewhere. Or, maybe it was there all along, but something made me notice it when I was about to move out, kind of like the way I have a tendency to get in the car and notice that my hands are dry, so I put on lotion right before I drive. My hands aren’t any worse than they were in the house, but that’s when I notice.

In any case, my typical response to the anxiety would be to start going over my checklist. What am I forgetting? Phone, check. Keys, check. Water bottle, check. These days, mask, check. Hand sanitizer, check. Was I supposed to do something? Do I need directions? Maybe if I just pause and breathe and clear my head for a few minutes, it will come to me. No? Okay, one more minute. . .

The thing is, this doesn’t work, because the source of the anxiety doesn’t actually have anything to do with forgetting something in the moment. It’s really a sign of an orphan emotion trying to surface, and there’s no help but to address the emotion. Going over the checklist only makes me late.

And that’s when it occurred to me, that person you know who is always late? Maybe you think she is self-centered, or undisciplined, or lazy. But it may in fact be that she is none of those, she’s just struggling to manage some emotional weight. And maybe she isn’t doing it very well; or maybe, if you knew what she was dealing with, you’d be impressed that she holds it together at all.

Luckily, I eventually found an exercise for getting those emotions to move, and it only takes a few minutes, so if I feel the anxiety at the door, I can do the technique and be on my way.

If you want to learn it, here’s the link.

willow in k room

Photo by Kiran Ireland

The Body Whole

The ongoing saga of my cracked tooth. This installment in video format on youtube.
Here are the words to the song, in case you want to see them:

OM
In the temple of the body bright
OM
We can see that we are made of light
OM
You can see it with your third eyesight
OM
In the temple of the body bright

In the temple of the body sound
We can hear the music all around
In the river and the wind and the ground
In the temple of the body sound

In the temple of the body I
Individuality is why
We come together and we say goodbye
In the temple of the body I

In the temple of the body whole
We remember we are one with all
Filled with Divine love coming through the soul
In the temple of the body whole

And we come to worship in this place
In a body with a heart and a face
We discover that we are always
In the temple of the body grace

In the temple of the body grace (x4)

OM
OM
OM
OM

OM
OM
OM

If you want to know what this song has to do with my tooth, you have to watch the video. And as usual, the cat doesn’t have anything to do with anything in this post, just a random cat pic.

WIillow with window

Carrying Stuff, Letting Go

woman biting gray nails in her mouth

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

The past-life regression class I took lasted about a week, and it was held in a hotel in Roanoke. During the week, I encountered a raging toothache. I’d never had dental problems before, and I hadn’t had insurance since I got kicked off my parents’ plan after I graduated college. The last thing I wanted to do was take time out of the class I was so excited about to get dental work I knew I couldn’t afford to pay for, in an unfamiliar town.

The pain was impossible to ignore, so in one of the regressions, I chose to look for a past-life link to the part of my body that was bothering me. Here’s the story I saw: a girl in her teens was taught by her mother to do all the housework, while her brother was free to do as he liked. It was unfair and she was deeply resentful. I saw her scrubbing the bathtub (my least favorite task!), and she kept a running commentary going in her mind about the injustice not only to herself, but to all women who are required to serve men. But she didn’t speak aloud; she kept her bitter complaints inside.

Later, she was a performer, such as a stripper, who made her living by taking advantage of men’s desire. Her platinum coif and heavy makeup created an image of a woman by which she turned their masculine energy into a weakness to use to her purposes. She did not have satisfying relationships with men, nor did she expect to.

Late at night, she would leave the theater through a back door that exited to an alley that stank of refuse. One night as she exited the theater, a man was waiting for her. I don’t know why he was angry with her, or what they argued about, but they had an altercation in which the man punched her with his fist. He hit her jaw—right where I was feeling the pain—and punched out several of her teeth. The last I experienced of this life was falling to the ground, sharp teeth spraying out of my mouth, blood splattering on my white feather boa.

What was the lesson of this life that I could apply to the present? I took it as a warning not to hold bitter words; not to carry resentment, not to allow it to poison my relationships.

There was an energy healer at the class who graciously gave me a session of some modality of healing I’d never heard of, and miraculously, the pain disappeared. It didn’t come back for years.

At one point I was in better control of my finances, and I got a full dental exam. The dentist could see a faint shadow at that location in my right lower jaw, but as it wasn’t bothering me, she didn’t think I needed to do anything about it.

Later yet, I had young daughters and was practicing massage therapy when I started to feel a little achiness in my jaw sometimes when I bit down. I noted that the problem was coming back, but it didn’t get very bad, and I lived with it for a while, until I got a tick bite and took a course of antibiotics. I was pleased that the medicine cleared out the pain in my jaw as well, and that was that.

Now it’s been over twenty years since that first time I had this pain, and it’s come back. I suppose it’s all these retrogrades and eclipses we’ve got going on this summer. The pain is worse than ever, since that first time. And this time around, I think of how I’ve been circling around this issue for a major portion of my life. And what other effects might it have had on my health? Did I ever really think I had resolved the problem? Maybe I’m ready to finally kick it like a bad habit.

One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is that mainstream healing modalities really can be used in conjunction with metaphysical healing, as long as you don’t use one as a substitute for the other. So I’ll call a dentist on Monday, and until then I’ll be applying all my tools, clove oil and EFT, internal dialogue and energy field therapy, looking for ways that I can let go of bitter words and thoughts that hold me back.

 

 

Ritual and Bureaucracy In Interesting Times

The last day of work, everyone was on edge. We were expecting to be shut down, but no one knew when. It was late March, and some were worried that they wouldn’t have rent for April. Conversation drifted to filing for unemployment benefits. I couldn’t face the thought. I’m sure everyone hates slogging through a bureaucratic morass, but it’s a particularly weak point for me. I had been self-employed for most of the previous fifteen years, and moved to another state, so I probably wouldn’t even get anything, so going through the process would be a waste of time, which I could use for other pursuits, which could even potentially bring some income . . . But realistically, poetry and homemade masks probably wouldn’t make me much money, so I would have to try.

Over the next weeks we would share a group thread about our efforts to get assistance. Some got it quickly, but massage therapists often work multiple part-time jobs, some as contractors. This income isn’t normally even considered in unemployment claims, but the state was learning a new set of rules for allocating federal money as well as the usual unemployment funds, while record-breaking numbers of people were filing all at once. I was one of them.

I was rejected right away, and appealed promptly. Then I had to wait three weeks for the appeal to be processed. The day came and went, so I started trying to call the unemployment office. I figured, maybe if I called right when the office opened at 7:00 AM, I could get in the queue to wait on hold. After 7:15, I’d get a busy tone, and after 7:25 the circuits were overloaded and there would be nothing at all. I’d go back to bed and start again the next morning. Once I got an answer, and the automated system asked for a PIN. PIN? What PIN? I still don’t know if I ever had one, but the system hung up on me before I could think of a response. I had to call another number to reset it, and that number was overloaded.

Another time I got through, and someone answered the phone, but something weird happened with my phone, and he couldn’t hear me and hung up. (No, I did not have my phone on mute!)

Sometimes a co-worker would text a number. “I got through on this number! Call it right now!” One by one, they got approved. I was close to giving up. How many poems might I have written in the time I had spent pressing redial a hundred times, day after day?

Someone suggested I try some ritual involving trapping an angel in a teacup. It sounded weirdly mean to me, so I decided to make my own ritual. It was inspired by an interview I read in The Sun with Malidoma Some. He spoke of giving gifts to the dead. The gifts to give are water and ash. The reason to give these to the dead is that they in turn use them to assist the living. Water makes things flow. Ash, what’s left after fire, gives resilience and ability to survive adversity.

About 6:40 this morning, I put some water in a teacup and since I hadn’t prepared any ash, I just grabbed the incense burner and took it outside. I named a few of my dead, and offered them my gifts, asking them to help me. These people loved me, after all. Well, some of them never knew me, but I know if my daughters had children, I would love them dearly, it wouldn’t matter if I’d ever met them. I dumped the incense burner and the teacup on the ground. Then I looked up and right in front of my face was a vivid rainbow. It wasn’t raining, I couldn’t see the sun, and it didn’t even seem like the right place for a rainbow that time of day, but there it was. I watched for a minute until it faded, then I went inside and started calling.

I got in on the first try. I waited on hold for under an hour before I talked to a very nice and knowledgeable person who explained that the complications of my case would have precluded my approval without a call, but now that we had talked, I would be approved in a few days and could expect a deposit shortly after that. It was good that I’d called.

“But it’s impossible to reach you . . .”

“Yes, we’re getting a lot of calls—”

“We’re in interesting times, ” I said.

She laughed. “That’s a good way to say it, interesting.”

So if things are inordinately difficult for your right now, consider practicing a little ritual. It might be more powerful than you realize.

bracelets and nail polish

When massage is forbidden, I wear bracelets and nail polish.

 

 

 

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