She turns a scrutinous eye on herself, looking for opportunities to grow, and taking cross sections of herself to examine her growth rings through time.
It isn't fate, nor is it environment, that determine the imprints left behind. It's her intent. It's her ability to provide what's necessary for thriving, rather than simply surviving.
Survival is body-driven, and her body acts from instinct. It has no logic, no passion. It seeks out whatever is able to deliver her a bit of fleeting comfort to keep her propped up, rather than the things that flood the heart with deep satisfaction.
It allows her to fly.
Self-care is something they emphasize a lot at massage school. To care for others, we have to know how to care for ourselves. This program is an intense one and is, by far, the most challenging educational experience I have ever had. The material is not more difficult than what I experienced in college, it's comparable to that. The part that is hard for me is the pace.
When I took classes at the college, I made sure I never signed up for more than 12 or 13 credit hours per semester. That was my own means of self-care.
Currently, I am cramming a program that provides 1,000 hours of practical hands-on experience all into about 6½ months. Massage school includes hands-on experience as well as a number of science courses.
The information presented to the time allotted is sometimes a bit of a top-heavy ratio. Tests come at me rapid-fire style. In my spare time, when I'm not studying, or staring into space as my brain airs out and cools down after overheating, you might find me doing house chores. Sometimes I even cook in that scant amount of spare time.
Winding down from the day is definitely a piece of my survival and my sanity. When my brain can't function anymore, I get on Facebook. Where does that leave me? It leaves me like a zombie couch potato, wasting my time that I could be using to do something that could be making me fly. But since I can completely shut my brain off and surf Facebook, I do it because it's the easiest option at the time. Or is it? It sometimes feels like self-care, but it hardly works out to be that way.
To be honest, Facebook annoys me, but it's sometimes the perfect mindless activity to engage in that I can't help logging on. But after looking back at all my growth rings, I realized the days and weeks that I've wasted the most time on that website show up as the smallest rings of growth in my life. And that is very disturbing to know that it impacts me in that way, to that extent.
The other day, instead of logging onto Facebook, I grabbed my hand cream and just stared blankly into space while rubbing the cream into the dry skin on my hands. I mindlessly noticed the sensations felt while massaging my own hands. It felt great.
Putting the hand cream on my hands was definitely a survival thing, but it was so much more than that then. I wash my hands constantly as a massage therapist, and they dry out easily and quickly. So the cream was necessary, but the intent was different. That time, I didn't just slop on some cream and rub it in while running out the door for school. I wasn't even mentally replaying my day in my head when I did it. I was certainly experiencing fried-brain syndrome when I gave myself that hand massage, but I was present with my fried self right there in that moment. And that made all the difference.
It's not easy to make large adjustments to my schedule so that I have time for more than the basic elements of survival while I'm here doing school, but the two things that I'm finding make a difference are the element of playfulness and also the feeling of love that I give to myself by doing the basics for myself.
As I keep rediscovering myself along life's pathway I am re-reminded that my intent is not to trudge through life, barely surviving. It seems obvious, but my patterns easily retract into a pattern of stern seriousness with myself that leads to feeling less inspired and less motivated. All it takes is remembering to keep a little playfulness in the mix, and feel the satisfaction of showing myself some love when I do something for myself.
That is when I begin to realize that flying isn't so impossible to do, even with the full platter of survival activities I'm carrying around with me right at this moment in my life.
Kate Pavlacka, a graduate of the State University College at Oneonta, has been totally blind for about a dozen years. Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/disability