A Much Needed Garnish...
Plating is the term used in the food industry that describes the process of laying out the parts of a meal to give it a special look and to make it more enticing and appetizing. Chopped up herbs are sprinkled about and colorful and tasty sauces are swirled, dotted and splashed on the plate to add pizzazz. A very common herb used for looks and flavor is parsley.
Parsley used to be just laid on the side of the plate as garnish to dress up the plate. You don’t see much of that anymore, but for me it still makes the dinner special. I also like the taste of parsley and am one of those people that actually eat it because it tastes good and it makes my breath fresh.
So why am I talking about parsley?
This morning I made a yummy breakfast of chopped veggies and eggs with a great cup of coffee. As I wandered out to my patio to eat, I realized I could have dressed it up with some of the parsley growing in my garden and make it even more tasty and special. With just a bit more effort, I could treat myself like company. I should add more garnish to my life.
I am pretty good at taking care of myself and enjoying my free time, but I could improve the quality of the little time off I have. This doesn’t have to happen every day, just once in awhile and especially when I am drained and need recharging. It should be a priority for me to take care of me.
Does this sound selfish?
The first rule in First-Aid is to take care of yourself so you can care for others. At times I’ve lost my temper or was short with someone and it was because I was not taking care of myself and meeting my needs. I was tired, hungry or overwhelmed and didn’t have the ability to listen, be patient or be concerned for someone else. I am usually good at recognizing when I need to recharge and take time for me, but now I’ve realized that I can do it a little better.
What does this mean?
Well, for one, putting parsley on my eggs once in awhile. Buying myself flowers every so often or taking myself out to dinner. I would do these things for someone else, so why not for me?
I learned a very powerful lesson years ago when I had just separated from my husband. I was so depressed that for a month I hardly got out of bed. I could barely function. I wasn’t eating and wasn’t taking the best care of my son, who was a toddler at the time. On my first trip to the grocery store I had no idea what to buy. I was there for over an hour and left with a can of tuna fish and some frozen grape juice, things I ate all my life so these were easy choices. During my marriage I had been so focused on my husband’s and son’s needs that I had forgotten what I liked to eat. I had lost myself somewhere along the way in my marriage and needed to recover me.
I came up with the idea of getting a manicure and pedicure. It was one of the most decadent things I could think of and at twenty-six I had never had the experience. Sitting in the chair with my feet soaking and my fingers being polished I suddenly felt like a queen! I had never experienced that feeling before and made up my mind I was going to make this feeling a part of my life. I smiled for the first time in a long while and this helped me get back on my feet and functioning again. It was a much needed garnish.
As a massage therapist, I have several clients that understand this concept and others that only come in when they are hurting so bad they can’t function. I talk to people about taking care of themselves, whether it is having regular massage, doing regular exercise, meditating, or other ways they can recharge themselves.
Yesterday I had a client come in for a massage who is in the midst of a divorce, helping a son recover from addiction to drugs and alcohol and facing some major changes in her job due to the sale of the company she works for. She is doing her best to meet her needs and looking for ways to recharge and be ready before picking up her son from a recovery center this week. This client is learning how to garnish.
So, eat dessert at the fancy restaurant, make time for fun and positive friends, get your nails done, buy yourself flowers, paint your toes, soak in the tub with a glass of wine and candles, take a Sunday nap, take a day off and spend it with a loved one, snuggle with your pet. This is just a short list of things that are not necessary but can dress up your day and make the difference in how you feel about yourself and what you give to others. Add some garnish to your life!
I would love to hear how you have done something special for yourself that made a difference in your day or your life. How have you garnished your life lately?
Recently I had a woman come in for a massage session that was suffering from pain in her neck, upper back and lower back that she said she had been dealing with for about 7 months. She had had MRIs and x-rays that showed nothing wrong and doctors suggested pain pills. She had gone to acupuncture and had massage with little improvement and was really struggling with anxiety as a result of worry and pain.
During the interview I asked where the pain was, what she thought might be causing it and also asked what was going on in her life 7-9 months ago, before the pain. I asked about her family and her relationship with her husband and children. She also mentioned that her religion is a big part of her life and very important to her.
She had a great marriage with a very supportive husband and children. She had had no big changes in her life 7-9 months ago and was at a loss as to what was the cause. I explained that I thought we needed to get her in a relaxed state and then start addressing the areas with pain and see what was going on.
This is not an unusual case. I see many clients, men and women, that have unexplained and chronic pain and are looking for answers. They have been to the doctors, had tests, been given medication and either found no relief or little change in the problem.
I have another client that is in her seventies and suffers debilitating neck pain. Watching her move and her posture told me that there was some trauma involved but I kept this to myself. In getting to know her better and talking about her life, I learned that as a child her mother would yell at her and grab her by her neck when she was angry at her. The client had tears run down her face as she realized there was a connection.
My theory is based only on my own experience and what I have seen with clients over that last several years…
We are a whole being, not to be limited by being labeled by a pain or an injury or a disease. When something can’t be labeled or diagnosed, then the person is sometimes told that it is “in your head” and is not taken seriously. When something begins on a physical level, it actually started on a mental or emotional level as an experience; trauma, tragedy, emotion or thought. In some cases it started with an injury and then the emotional and mental aspects start forming around it.
I have had friends and clients that have been cancer victims and survivors and in my experience, I see cancer as an emotional disease; Grief or loss in the breasts, anxiety or being overwhelmed in the brain, deep lack of self-esteem or abuse in the genitals.
In my work with those in pain, I see bodies in physical hyper vigilance as if preparing for attack/stress and many times these people are disconnected in some way with their own body.
Peter Levine is well known for his work on Somatic Experiencing and healing trauma. In his book, “Waking the Tiger”, he talks about how animals, such as a gazelle being chased by a cheetah, will immobilize or “freeze” just before being attacked. This is an instinctive state, one of three states of mammals and reptiles. The other two are flight or fight.
This immobile state is actually part of survival. Also known as “playing possum”, some predators will think the impala dead and not eat the impala, or may drag the prey off and hide it for later and the Impala will awaken and escape. In this immobile state it also will not experience pain and will not suffer if attacked and eaten. If the impala escapes, it will actually shake off the effects of this state and continue on without any lasting effects.
Trauma is part of life on earth. It cannot be avoided. Trauma can be in any form; verbal, emotional or physical, from birth to death we have trauma as small as smashing your finger with a hammer or as large as near death experiences. However, we feel shame at our perceived ability to handle what comes into our lives and don’t allow ourselves to move progressive through the natural stages to release the effects and move on.
We also create more pain and suffering by our thoughts and “self talk”. We feel like we are lacking on some level and become “stuck” emotionally, mentally, spiritually and eventually physically.
Many Eastern systems of healing and Shamanic practices believe that the organs and systems of the body hold emotions and experiences and when out of balance will suffer pain and “dis-ease”. Dis-ease being the body out of ease within.
One good sample of this belief is Louise L. Hay’s book, “You Can Heal Your Life”. She shares her story of healing “incurable” vaginal cancer. She suffered sexual abuse from a young age until she was fifteen and led a life of pain and suffering until she was able to find the way to heal herself mentally and emotionally and then the healing happened on a physical level and her doctors were amazed at no cancer in her body six months after her diagnosis.
In her book, she discusses the effects that life experiences can have on us physically and how we can move through these experiences in a healthy way and/or address issues that are creating dis-ease or pain. She also lists body parts and possible connections to emotions and beliefs and how these beliefs and emotions can affect us on the physical level.
In my own life, I have seen miracles. When I was a young girl, my mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer and through much prayer and fasting of our family and church, the cancer was gone. I believe my mother needed to know she was loved and needed. Her marriage was loveless and our home was violent and I believe she saw herself as unloved and worthless. After her healing, she divorced my father and was able to build a better and happier life for all of us.
With massage I am able to help reconnect people with their bodies and relieve pain temporarily, but I also find that massage is only a small part of what goes on when working with some clients. Interviewing and probing help uncover sources of injury or emotions that can be connected to what is happening in their bodies. By them being able to make the connection it helps uncover the root of the problem and get them on the road to permanent recovery from pain.
Brachial Plexus Impingement and Subscapularus Spasm
Try to say that ten times fast! Let me interpret that for you…you know that pain you feel that goes down the back of your arm and/or sits right under your shoulder blade and sometimes goes up into your neck?
That’s what I’m talking about!
I have had several people come in this last two weeks with this problem. As you can see from the photo, there is a bundle of nerves on either side of your neck that live between some little muscles called Scalenes. If Scalenes get tight they can pinch those nerves or if you have been swimming, throwing, pushing or pulling heavy things or slouching at your desk, (as I just caught myself doing), the muscle underneath your shoulder blade gets tight and can squeeze that nerve too.
This is also an injury that can happen at birth when a babies shoulders are compressed coming out of the mother. It can also happen as a football injury or in auto accidents when the shoulder is hit hard from the front or side.
This is when you come to me and say, “Ouch! It hurts on the back of my shoulder and down my arm”. I even had one guy that was scheduled for Carpal Tunnel surgery talk to me and with about 15 minutes of Trigger Point, the pain and tingling went away and he cancelled his surgery…WHEW!
So when you make these body parts angry, what can you do to appease the muscle gods and make the pain go away?
You’ve heard me talk about “grabbing a wall” and that is what it is literally. Take your hand and place it flat on the wall with fingers facing behind you. Keep the arm straight and turn slowly away from your hand. You will feel stretching of your chest muscles and this will help relax the muscles of the back and open space between ribs and shoulder blades. I demonstrate this stretch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jEQb1cg4Uw
You can also place your hands on either side of a doorway, just a little higher than your head and slowly move forward. This will stretch chest muscles and open up the space between shoulder blades and ribs too.
Treatment for this is Trigger Point done around the scapula and is a specialty of mine, as some of you have experienced and I can help release the pain. It isn’t comfortable, but the treatment is VERY affective!