It’s that Hallmark time of year again…
When we give cards and ties to our fathers, husbands, and grandfathers, and gather for family celebrations and barbecues. In my family of origin, I don’t remember Father’s Day as a particularly big deal…we pretty much celebrated my dad on all days of the year. My dad was a major influence in my life, and though he’s been gone for over three years now, never a day goes by when I am not reminded of how much of him lives in me. I wanted to take a moment to share some of the things I learned from him that are so much a part of my daily life and pertinent to my massage business.
LESSONS FROM MY FATHER
1. Listen to Your Body. If I had a nickel for each time my dad said that, I’d be retired and living on a tropical island by now! My dad was an Orthopedic Surgeon by trade, and lived life to the fullest in all areas. He worked hard, played hard, and retired early to do the woodworking and outdoor projects and activities that he loved so much. He was always on the go, and yet cursed with “bad connective tissue”, as he liked to say. As a result, he suffered numerous torn ligaments and worn out joints, and he had endured 20 orthopedic surgeries by the time he passed. Some would argue that was a result or hazard of being in the business…I am not here to argue either way. What I do know, is that he was a master at recovery and patience with the healing process. So when he would say to me “listen to your body, Kath, it will always tell you what to do”, I developed an intuition over time that allows me to know with a good measure of certainty what I am capable of and where and how I am in the healing process and with my physical body in general. I also know that this physical intuition and sense of being very tuned in benefits me without question in listening to other people’s body’s as I am doing massage. For that I am grateful, as he has given me a gift of knowledge that goes way beyond my own personal journey and allows me to help other’s on theirs.
2. Keep Things Moving! I have mentioned and emphasized this philosophy often…and it comes in large measure from my father’s example. After each surgery or event of physical significance, he would always emphasize the importance of keeping the body in movement to prevent stiffness or loss of muscle tone in surrounding tissues. This philosophy is ingrained in me as things heal and recovery takes place from my recent surgeries. My dad also had an impressive stretching and exercise routine that he did every morning for almost all of his 83 years! Or at least those that I was around to witness and remember. He would get up early to have time before any of the rest of us were up, and, especially as retirement allowed, spend a good one or two hours stretching and getting a work out of some type in before he did the rest of his day. He was incredibly disciplined in this way, and I think it allowed him to stay loose and relatively agile despite numerous fused joints and physical restrictions. I consciously incorporate movement into my life daily, and I also practice it on the massage table. A part of my massage routine involves stretching and range of motion for my clients to keep things loose and moving well. Use it or lose it!
3. Celebrate what you can do, and don’t dwell on what you can’t. I will always remember taking my dad on a climbing adventure when I was in my twenties. My climbing husband at the time and I tried to get him up easy climbing route in Joshua Tree, California. The grade was slight, and it was what we termed “a walk up”, meaning it was a pretty simple climb. But since my dad was fused in both ankle joints, he simply didn’t have the ankle flexion necessary to do something that seemed so basic and simple for us. He was initially frustrated but then simply practical about his inability to do that easy climb…his body was no longer set up for it. He similarly accepted his fate about running, which he used to love to do and which he did with all three of his daughter’s in the pre-fusion days, and we all loved it. But eight foot and ankle surgeries changed all of that, and he could no longer run or ever rock climb. Yet he always found some activity that he could do. He would do the rowing machine, lift weights, and keep busy and active cutting down trees and chopping wood. He wore a back brace to protect his fused back, and moved at a pace that was suitable for him. As I have experienced numerous physical challenges and setbacks, I have also taken this approach to life. I consciously don’t focus on the fact that I can’t run, and may never again. I can still hike and backpack, and ride my bike. It does me no good to dwell on what I can’t do when there is so much that I can! Similarly, this philosophy is one that I regularly share and emphasize with my clients…don’t despair what is no longer a part of your life…look for, incorporate in, and enjoy the heck out of that which still is!
4. It Ain’t Over Till it’s Over…. This is where things get a little sad, I will admit. My dad had a five-way bypass in October of 2011, from which he never fully recovered. He lived until December 27, 2011, all the while trying his best to get back his former life and vigor that he lost post heart surgery. He simply never got it back, but boy did he die trying! He was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes during that two and a half months, and even did a stint in Walla Walla with my sister and without my mom (whom he took care of 24/7), to try to get back on track. He tried the treadmill, even his weight lifting routine, and he craved the “normalcy” of his daily physical routines. He was back in his home of origin less than a week before he died, and out on Christmas Eve just three days before his death singing Christmas carols and doing his best to join in the family celebrations. We all knew he wasn’t himself, but his attitude and intention and hopefulness was contagious. I don’t think any of us actually believed he would die when he went back into the hospital on Christmas Day…but his heart and lungs were too far gone, and, after two nights fighting with a breathing machine, he decided to let go. He died peacefully and surrounded by family on December 27, a grand life put to rest in the very best way possible.
How does this play into my life and business now? Not a day goes by that I don’t give it what I have. I know that I can live this life to the fullest with intention and gratitude. I am thankful for all that is in my life, and I will never give up trying to do the best I can and be the best I can. I practice this in everything I do….in my daily affairs, and in my massage practice as well. I believe each of us deserves the very best life we can have, in spite of whatever obstacles may come our way. That’s my promise to myself and to my clients…to give what I have and make the most of each day that comes my way, because it really isn’t over till it’s over.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and thanks for the lessons.