Posted on November 14, 2022
Massage therapy soothes more than the physical body. It is also a process of energy healing that taps deep within the soul. In another episode of the local series focused on Wimberley Valley organizations, Steph Silver is joined by Alaria Godwin, who has spent most of his life healing others. Alaria took a traditional path into Corporate America, only to make a huge shift and build a healing practice in Wimberley, where she now owns and runs Body Insight. In this conversation, she talks about the benefits of MLD, cupping, and acupuncture in healing physical pain and even emotional trauma. Alaria also discusses how to let go of a people-pleasing attitude, see yourself from the perspectives of others, and build your own self-reflective space.
Listen to the podcast here
A Deep Dive Into Energy Healing With Alaria Godwin
Our guest is Alaria Godwin, owner of Body Insight massage therapy and energy healing. Welcome. Thank you for coming.
Thanks for inviting me.
I’m excited because there are a lot of interesting things that you do in and beyond massage therapy. We are going to start with you telling us a little bit about who you were and how you came to be a massage therapist.
I was raised to be a secretary. Women had defined roles when I was growing up. I had found my way into a job where I was investigating what we now know as identity theft. This was back in the early ‘90s. What I did was not specifically replicated anywhere else in the industry. When things started getting what now they call it reduction in force, I saw the end of the line for my career and thought, “Why don’t I look into something I want to do?” I looked at a couple of things. Massage was one of them. I took a six-week intro course and I fell in love and that was it. I had the blessing of losing my job and turned it around into a career that I have not regretted a single day.
How long has that been?
I’ve been a full-time massage therapist for 23 years.
What was it that made you fall in love during that first course?
I get to be analytical and systematic and geek out on anatomy because the human body is fascinating to me. I also get to be intuitive. I had been doing hands-on healing and readings for people and things like that since my late teens, never thinking I should charge for that thing. It blends into the massage well because there’s so much information in the body that’s nonverbal.
That’s interesting. The first time that I ever got chiropractic therapy, the chiropractor asked me questions that I was like, “How did you know that?” It turns out she was very much like you in that there was more intuitive information that was coming through me to her. That as a healer is incredible.
The body is full of so much information. Some of us are fortunate enough to have been able to refine that. A lot of it can be taught to a degree, but our culture doesn’t look at the body as having its own information. We think all of that comes from our brains. That’s getting ahead of us. We’ll probably talk about that in a bit, I’m sure.
How did you come to do the hands-on healing in your youth?
Honestly, it was very intuitive. A friend had a knee problem. I put my hands on her knee and I felt this buzzing in my hand, which was interesting. Her eyes popped wide open and she said, “I can feel that.” It got to be a thing where I would put my hands on people. Over time, I learned how to not take that into my own body.
The transfer of energy backward is also a terrible thing. It can be.
Eventually, we will understand how all of this stuff works scientifically. We just don’t have the ability to measure it yet just like there was a time when magnetic attraction or polarities was magic. Now we understand scientifically. We’ll get there. I’m more of an in-the-moment person than a research therapist, so I won’t be part of that.
You’ll just be excited when it comes around. The interesting thing about that is I’ve always believed in the power of energy and transfer. There are many people that are afraid of it but they’ll watch Star Wars and see how energy works there, or they’ll go to church and people lay hands on each other to pray, but then they think of this hands-on energy healing as something completely different. To me, it’s all related. What do you think about that?
We have a lot of different names for one origin point. I am comfortable using the word God. Some people are not, wherever people are at. My all-time favorite bumper sticker is God is too big to fit inside one religion. That pretty much tells you from me. We can get in the way. I do believe that some people can use gifts or even training that they picked up along the way, not through natural inclination, but because they made themselves learn it. You can get your ego in the way and do harm to others, but my philosophy is don’t be a jerk. Be good to others.
That is a good philosophy across the board in all regards. How did you find yourself here in Wimberley?
I have some friends who are multi-generational. I was at a Christmas Eve party hosted by a friend of mine. Her son was there and we hit it off. There’s nothing for a little while, but he emailed me a few weeks later. Long story short, he was living out on Purgatory Road while I was living in Central Virginia. I blinked first and now I’m here. The first time I visited him, we had our first night in Wimberley rather than at his house. I fell in love. I’m at an age I wouldn’t have moved for a man, but I fell in love with the place as well.
That’s wonderful. Regardless of the man, you would’ve been here, but he got you here.
He got me here. I have to be honest. It was a bit of both. I wouldn’t have been here regardless. I had a little extra pull. My life back in Livingston, Virginia was beautiful. I loved it, but I also had my place there and everyone knew me in a certain way. I could have ridden out the rest of my life that way, but nothing would’ve changed. That would’ve been fine, but there’s always something new around the corner. This is such an amazingly open community. People are supportive of each other. I love that we have people on all ends of the political spectrum, and we still can all be nice to each other in the grocery store parking lot. Wimberley is a magical place.
Was it scary for you to leave that, especially when you had your business set up and you had clients that were regulars and referring? Was it scary for you to come down and start all over?
It was a little bit nerve-wracking, but I managed to sell my business on the other side back in Virginia. I can’t use the name because I signed away rights to that.
Was it a massage therapy business?
It was an independent massage therapy practice. I managed to sell that business.
That’s so hard. That’s not common. Did you have enough regular clients and patients?
I had regular clients. I had a website that had been in operation since 1999. I’m not sure how it is now. I don’t know anything about SEO anymore. Back then, that helped with the search engines. I had some nice equipment. When I came here, I had lined up a job up in Austin. It took a while for the business sale to go through. I ended up getting here several months later than I intended. It’s one of these moments of, “I couldn’t have planned this better myself if I had thought about it.” I had a job lined up in Austin. They couldn’t hold it for me anymore.
I came here thinking, “I’m going to have to start it all over again myself.” A position came up at a spa here in town where I worked until July 2022. It got to a point where I wanted to be back out on my own again. There’s something about a person who’s been self-employed for a long time. We can work with others, but we like to do things our own way.
I know it is a wonderful thing to go off and start your own thing, but if you do decide you want to work for someone else for a little while, it’s challenging for all parties.
It certainly can be, but I made a bit of a name for myself around town. I’ve got a few regulars and then more people discovering me as always happens. With massage, there are always people coming in and people going out. Another great thing about Wimberley is we’ve got a lot of massage therapists here. They’re all talented. We’ve got a great community of people. There’s more than enough work for all of us. This is a great place to be and a great place to be running a business.
It’s supportive in business. I like that you said that there’s more than enough work for all of us because I do feel that most business owners tend to think about being afraid of their competition. If you’re doing well, then it’s good to be happy for anyone else who’s also doing a good job. We talked on this show with Sheila and Lance with AirOne. They are all about if you are honest and good to your customers, you go do it. If we make it happen, we’ll all make people happy and successful. I love that philosophy. Once you started your own thing here, how did it differ from the spa? How did you want to make it different on your own?
I got my first job out of massage school in an integrative clinic where we had chiropractors, PTs, and all kinds of different practitioners. In the spa environment, there are a lot of people coming in for couples’ massages, which is fun. I enjoyed it for a while. I love getting to know a person in their body and being able to see the progression over time. When you’re working with tourists who get a massage once every five years, it was not as rewarding for me, at least not at this stage. Once in a while, I’ll help out. It’s a small community. There’s more work than all of us can handle. Sometimes I’ll help out at this place or that place. I know a few of us do that. I get some of the couples’ massages, but what I love is working with people who want to go a little deeper with the work.
Are there any particular pains or ailments, what do people most commonly come to you for?
The majority of my clients come from a place of seeing massage as part of their wellness and self-care. Everybody needs stress reduction. Some people need pain reduction. Earlier in 2022, I became certified as a manual lymphatic drainage therapist. I’m seeing people who are at risk for lymphedema or people who have some postoperative edema and are referred for MLD, which is great because historically, they’d have to go up to Austin or down to San Antonio or somewhere else for that.
What is that? When would someone need it?
For one thing, anybody could receive manual lymphatic drainage. It’s light work. A lot of people think of massages, “Get in there and find the spots that hurt and squash them flat.” That’s a whole other can of worms. That’s not helpful, in my personal opinion. The MLD is soothing to the nervous system. It helps the lymphatic fluid through the body.
The way I try to explain it to my clients is usually traffic moves through the square in Wimberley, no problem, but on a Saturday, there is so much traffic and so much going on, it slows down. When there’s high volume, things don’t move as quickly. MLD helps by moving things along, literally manually draining the lymph. That way, the body can process this additional fluid.
It can come up from inflammation or injury. If someone has had their lymph nodes compromised, that can be a big deal. Someone with a history of cancer treatment, even if they’ve been cancer free for twenty years, if there’s damage to the lymphatic system, that still puts them at risk for lymph edema. That’s a condition that doesn’t resolve on its own. Once someone develops that, they need continual treatment.
Would I be correct in assuming that it helps to drain the toxins as well and get things moving in the way that they were meant to be moving?
Yeah. The lymphatic system process is part of our immune system. It does help to move things out and through and helps your body do its job a little more effectively. If there’s too much volume or in the case of lymphedema, someone who’s had some nodes removed, that’s like if they close a lane on the highway, everything slows down in that case too, so the MLD. I’m either helping because there’s high volume or there’s damage to the system, or sometimes a combination of both.
When you’re working with someone, let’s say they come in because they have pain, and then you start with a conversation and standard massage, what’s your process like when you first meet with someone?
It depends on what they’re looking for. I am also a certified cupping therapist. Some people are looking specifically for that. It can be all sorts of situations. The first thing I want to know is their health history. I have a pretty extensive health intake form. The more I know, the more I can tailor the session to the individual. I like to find out what they would like out of the session. Have they had massages before? Have they not? What have they liked? What have they not like?
Also, a little bit of a sense of what they’re looking for depth-wise because a lot of people think it has to hurt to do any good, but muscles are like two-year-olds. If you scream, “Quit that crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” the two-year-old generally does not stop crying. At this stage of my career, I’m more about trying to soothe the muscles. I can get in there deep. I’m tall. I’ve got a lift table that I can lower. It depends on the individual.
Some massage therapists will be directive. I know what you need. You’re the expert in living in your body. While I’ll work to what I feel where your muscles are inviting me to and back off when I feel like they’re saying, “Enough,” I’ll also ask for verbal feedback. People are welcome at any time to say. “More pressure, less pressure.” Say someone comes in with neck pain, I’ll probably start with them face up so I can assess a little bit of range of motion. If they like to start face down, that’s what we do. I’ll then work on the trapezius first and go through the layers that way.You are the expert in living in your body. Click To Tweet
You mentioned cupping. Can you explain what that is for those who don’t know?
Massages we all know caused pressure into the body. Cupping creates a sectioned vacuum which pulls away. It’s the opposite sensation in the body. It can feel a little strange, especially the first time. It can look a little interesting if you’ve never seen it. It feels wonderful. Some people respond better to negative pressure than positive pressure. I like to use a combination of both. As someone who’s been doing energy work for a long time as well, I like to say I’ve got this broad toolkit. If someone wants me to use just one tool, I can do that, but I feel like it’s one hand tied behind the back.
What is somatic translation?
That is a name for all the tools in the toolkit. It generally blends more energy work. I have involved some life analysis in that. I’m looking at birth date and name information, and the influences that have on the body. That’s part of the Kabalarian philosophy. I’m a Kabalarian student. Also, the energy works that I do and some of the essential oil treatments. For people who might be a little more interested in the woo, you might go. There are people who are strictly about structure and anatomy. Somatic translation is a little bit broader. Sometimes we’ll have some hands-on work. Sometimes we don’t even go into that. It depends on what the person is looking for.
What does energy work usually entail? You said sometimes there’s physical and sometimes there’s not. If there’s not, then what does that mean for people who haven’t done it before?
I like starting with the life analysis. That gives me information and some insight. I tell people, “This is why I’m saying this.” It’s also about giving them information. If it doesn’t resonate, then that’s fine. We go on to something else. We also have these phrases about our bodies carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. I was taught early on in my massage career and years of experience, people who feel responsible for everything have their shoulders up higher than people who are lackadaisical about things.
It’s a little bit of, “What’s hanging out in your body?” I encourage people to talk to their bodies. Sometimes it gives them an answer which is not what everybody expects. There’s intelligence in the body. I’m working to help people bridge the communication between their mental body, their mind, their thinking body, and their physical body.
I’ve gotten into that more in the last couple of years and have found that not only can you get answers, but you can also tell your body to stop. I had incredible rib pain for a while. Everybody’s like, “How do you get rib pain?” I had ribs popping out of place and all sorts of crazy things. I’m not an extreme sportsperson. I can’t even say what that is. It was 100% stressful. It was about me telling myself on a regular basis, “First of all, breathe deeply. Secondly, what am I holding onto physically or emotionally? Is there something in my childhood that I have not let go of?” It can get woo, but it’s there. It’s all hanging out in your body and your soul. It can be accepted or released, but you have to have that communication.
That’s the way that I’ll often start. Did you ever find out what it was? It’s not my business, but did you find out what was causing your ribs to be?
It’s definitely the stress. As you said, carrying the weight of the world. I am the type of person who wants to please everybody, including the homeless person on the street. Everything is up to me. I worked for a small agency and ran that, small kids, and everything. I felt like I was the one who had to do it all by myself. First, realizing that was not true or possible and that I couldn’t do what I wanted to for my children if I was trying to do everything for everyone else.
I went to an energy healer, Mary Lancaster, here in town. She started the process of thinking in a different way. I’ve done therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and all the things. They all help in different ways. There were some breathing techniques, whether it be Kundalini or other simple mindfulness breathing techniques. I realized that I had to say every five minutes, “Stop, let go,” and literally train myself to let go. I was holding on and holding onto everything emotionally and physically.
Congratulations on breaking that cycle. That’s not an easy thing to break.
It’s always a work in process, but my ribs go better.
From the little bit that you’re saying there, if you were on my table, I would probably and possibly say it out loud. You work with Mary. I rented space from her when I first got here. That’s another wonderful way that everything is connected. I would be likely to say, “Ribs, thank you for doing so much to protect the heart from taking on the world. You’ve done a great job. You can take a break now. She’ll call you if she needs you. Thank you. Good job.” I talk to the body like it’s a two-year-old or a three-year-old. It does something.
I subscribe to Boho Beautiful Yoga online because it’s easier for me to consistently do it if I have a video series at home. They do yoga, meditation, and all sorts of things through this app. I like a lot of things about the way they do it, but they are constantly saying, “Thank you to the feet as I’m stretching them out to all the work that you do on a regular basis.” It is interesting that we take our bodies for granted. People who have the use of their fingers and all of the body parts that most of us were given at birth. For 42 years, it has been with me this whole time. It’s easy to completely take it for granted, but it works hard every day. It’s not just my brain that’s working, it’s the whole thing.
There was the book, More Than A Woman. I recommend everybody listen to it because it’s a hilarious British woman. It’s not a kid-friendly audiobook. It’s British humor with lots of swear words. One of the things that she says is, “As a woman, love your lumps and bumps and love your body.” She told this story about going out into the garden and being like, “Look what you’re doing. You’re turning sunshine to vitamin D,” and being happy about it. You get excited like, “Look at what my body does every day.” I love that concept. It’s easy for me to thank and love everyone else. It’s so much harder to do that internally for me. I know it’s not for everyone.
It seems to be for most of us or most of the people that cross my paths.
They’re holding onto it. They need help in letting go. What have you been most surprised by in this process of healing? You’ve been doing it for a long time.
The people that have been with me the longest still don’t see themselves. When you’re working with someone’s healing process, let’s be honest, they’re the ones doing the healing. I’m just an intermediary here. You can’t see if your tag is out in the back. I can get into your muscles where you can’t. I can see it from a different perspective. It’s amazing to me the way most people don’t recognize how amazing they are.
I can thank everybody else, but I can’t thank myself. Why is that? That still baffles me. I’m right there. It can be a fine line. Am I humble when I say, “No, you’re the healer,” or am I saying, “No, don’t look at me.” It’s tough to say. I’m not surprised that I still have so much work to do. Working with others and helping them in their process means that I need to stay committed to that.
It’s the point of view of seeing others and not seeing yourself. When I was young, I worked in service for a long time. I was a waitress. I would constantly hit my shoulders and my hips as I was weaving my way through all the tables. That’s how I see my perspective of myself. I can only see the periphery boundaries of what I’m seeing outward. A lot of people have that same way of only seeing and appreciating what’s outward and not being able to see what’s on the inside. It’s like what you said, the tag.
That’s why it’s important to have people in our lives who reflect on us.
When you work with people, are there other recommendations that you make when they leave or practices that they put into place to stay in a healing or self-reflective place?
I need to be within my scope of practice. I can’t prescribe. There are a lot of times when I’ll send someone home saying, “If I were in your body, this is what I would be doing.” I show people some modified stretches and some ways that I was taught to stretch. My body can find a workaround. I will find a way to hold my shoulder in place while I stretch my neck. That makes the stretch more effective. A lot of people have tension in the front of their necks. That’s a delicate place to work. A lot of massage therapists aren’t taught to work the sternocleidomastoid anymore, the cords in the front of your neck.
That’s my favorite muscle to say. I love that set of words.
You can work your own sternocleidomastoid. Honestly, you’d work it more effectively than a massage therapist would. I’ll talk people through that. It’s got a lot of caution. Everybody needs to talk to their doctor or whoever their physician is. I also am happy to defer to someone with more education than I have. I’m happy to defer to, “You are the expert in your body, but you might want to try this.” I do send people home with that.
One of my plans is to start pre-recording some little video clips so I can put those out there on social media and the website and that sort of thing so people can look and get a couple of little free resources for simple self-care. There is a lot that we can do that if you don’t know, you don’t know. I love collecting little bits of information and being like, “Check this out. If it works for you, great.” Sometimes the person’s body will be saying craniosacral. I don’t know how to craniosacral. I’ll refer to someone who does craniosacral. Sometimes I get a lot of people that their body is wanting acupuncture. Again, it’s not something I do.
How do you know when their body is asking for acupuncture?
The way that I receive information, I know and I’m not sure how I know. I don’t know what the mechanism is. Maybe I’m wrong. If I keep hearing acupuncture or getting a sense of acupuncture, or my hands get drawn to the three acupuncture points that I know, because I don’t know that system, that’s a cue that maybe acupuncture is something this person could look into. I’ve also experienced a lot of it. I like to think I know what a body that wants acupuncture feels like.
Obviously, when you do the intake, people tell you, you have the life information, and then the actual them telling you what they came to you for, the pain or discomfort that initially triggered them to call. Once you start working with them, is it a physical or is it a combination of the physical? Most massage therapists will be like, “You’re tight here. I’m going to work on this for a little while. Is there also with you more of a knowing? Do you feel energy or heat differences? How do you use the energy?
Sometimes it’s an information download. I don’t know how else to explain it. If it’s in a region of the body that I’m working on, sometimes I can tell what a tight muscle is, but sometimes it’ll almost feel like the area is buzzing. That’s something different. I never know for certain exactly what it is because I’m not in that body, but I know there’s something there to be addressed. We’ll go with where the guidance is. I worked on a client who receives a lot of myofascial releases, another modality that I haven’t trained in, but I’ve received a little bit of it.
It’s interesting because I could feel that the way that I was working was influenced by what the body was used to receiving. It’s intuitive. During my initial training, we spent a lot of time focusing while we were learning the forearm. For my homework that week, I had to do a full hour of deep tissue massage on just one forearm. That is a long time to be in one place, not both forearms and not the forearm and the rest of the body. I’ve got a lot of tools in the toolkit there. There’s a lot that I know how to do, but sometimes I’ll be going in a direction that is not the way that I usually work, and it feels like that’s the person’s body.
That’s another one. Someone says, “My neck hurts. I want work on just neck and shoulders.” I’ve got my idea of what I’m going to do. I leave them to settle in on the table while I go wash my hands. I come back. I get my hands on their body, and their body is like, “No, hip.” That’s one of those, “Do you mind if I check in with you?” I’m not just going to go there if the person has been clear about what they want.
Half the time, the person says, “You’re the expert,” which is an issue for me because you’re the expert in your body. It’s your session. A lot of people say, “Massage therapists give the massage they wish they could receive.” You probably don’t want the massage that I want. You’ve got different stuff going on. It’s about accommodating the client.
Going back to from the neck to the hip, you’ve studied the muscle structure and everything else within the body and how it’s all connected. Your client may not know. With acupuncture, it’s similar. There’s something in your foot that’s going to help your hip release or your hip is going to affect your shoulder or vice versa. It may be the opposite shoulder that it affects. That’s something that has been quite surprising for me as I get older.
We all become more conscious of our bodies as we get older because they start talking to us differently. When my mom was dying, I felt like my whole body twisted. A couple of years later, my hips and shoulders hurt. It’s this emotional trauma that’s causing physical pain. There’s so much more to the physical body that can be released than that tight muscle from sitting at the computer all day.
What you were describing there is likely the spiral pattern that we all have in our bodies. There are different schools of thought. Rolfing says you need to be in perfect alignment with gravity. The Feldenkrais practitioners say you work with your pattern. There’s structural anatomy and then there’s functional anatomy. For functional anatomy, folks will tell you that a spiral pattern begins when you’re in utero because as a baby is developing, they turn into that fetal position. There’s not enough room to be stretched out.
When we’re born, we come into this loud, cold, bright environment. The position of comfort is going back into that fetal position. Over time, that’s the way that our body likes to be when it feels not safe. Recognizing that and working with that is a whole other dimension of some of the work that I bring into it. Sometimes I let people know that’s what I’m doing. Sometimes not. It depends on what they want. Some people want to know about their bodies. Some people want to not speak for an hour.
It’s like, “Just fix me.” Since you first started, when you decided you wanted to be a massage therapist to now, what has most surprised you about your personal journey?
I know nothing compared to when I started massage school. It taught me how much I didn’t know. My education, we graduated and they said, “You’re getting out of kindergarten now. You’re not even out of high school yet. You’re going to learn the rest from your clients.” Every time I think that I’ve heard it all, someone comes along with another rare condition I’ve never heard of, or I take a new modality and I learn something that I hadn’t put together.
Hearkening back to the life analysis, I’m at birth path six. When we’re not in balance, we tend to default to a know-it-all state and totally me, “I know everything” Getting to a point where I can say, “I don’t know. I need to look that up. I don’t know, you tell me about it.” Also, I came out of massage school thinking I knew what I was going to be doing in every case. It has been different. Being responsive to the moment is something that I had to learn. For some people, that comes naturally to them. It did not to me.When you are not in balance, you tend to default to a know-it-all state. Click To Tweet
Some people aren’t used to that as clients, and they don’t necessarily want that. They want to start here and go there, and work through the whole body in a particular pattern that I’m accustomed to.
It’s the sequence. For people who are looking for that, usually other folks around that, I’ll refer them to, because that’s not my strong suit. I can do a massage and someone can come in and blank out for an hour. I can do that, but it’s not where I feel I’m at my strongest. There are other people who are more skilled at that. That comes back also to there’s enough work for all of us.
Have you felt like, from a business or pairing business and personal that there was a hard decision that you’ve had to make along the way that pops out at you, or has everything unfolded?
Had I been conventionally employed in the industry I was in before, I would not have been able to be present for some of the important life milestones that I have been in. When I first got my start in massage school, I was with someone who was, fortunately, able to support me through getting established, but his mother lived with us and had dementia. I was able to take time off as I needed and care for her. I have worked with three different people through end-of-life in hospice. I could clear my schedule and be there as I needed.
Personal, family members or friends?
That’s something that working for myself has made possible. There have been other times. Earlier in my career, I needed to learn to say no. I would work all six days a week and I needed one day off and someone would call and say, “Can I come in on your one day off?” Not realizing it was my one day off. I would say, “Sure.” After my third eighteen-day work week, I learned to say, “No work on Tuesdays.” Now it’s no work on Sundays. That has been a learning curve. Everybody figures out their own way in business. If you love what you’re doing, it’s hard to take a step back from it sometimes. There isn’t a massage therapist out there who doesn’t have a bit of that people-pleasing thing going for them either. We all know what that’s like.If you love what you are doing, it's really hard to take a step back from it. You always have a bit of people-pleasing going through you. Click To Tweet
I had Rachelle from Hill Country Healing Haven on here. She’s one of my good friends. In the beginning, it was way too easy for her to say, “I won’t charge you. You are my friend.” I’m like, “Rachelle, you have to. You’re starting with your friends. Your friends are your only resources and customers. They have to tell other people about you, but you need to make money. You can’t heal for free.” She’s fortunate as well. She’s made a great business because she does a phenomenal job. Since you have gone through hospice situations, did that change your thoughts on life or death or body every time?
Each time, it deepens it. I will say when I was looking at my next career, I considered moving into the hospice industry. My old roommate in college went on to become a flight paramedic. We were talking one day and I can’t even remember the context. In this conversation with her, I realized that most people are afraid of death. Death is the endpoint. We’re all going to get there. I’m not afraid of death. I am afraid of dying in a lot of pain, I will say that, but being around the dying is not a freak-out thing for me. It requires you to come right into the moment.
I can exit my body easily from my upbringing and the world that I grew up in. For me, it was grounding, but also, when it’s somebody that’s in your family, and that’s the way most of us deal with hospice, except for those amazing people who do it as a career or even volunteer regularly. It’s usually someone you know. There are all kinds of stuff tied up in it. Being able to be with that person where they’re at, you have to be now as opposed to, “What am I doing after I leave here? What happened on the way in?”
You may not even know when you’re going to leave.
It’s making everything meaningful.
It was an interesting experience for me as well. It changed my entire thought process of life, the universe, God, and all those things. That’s why I asked. Some people experience that early. Sometimes it’s later and multiple times, but it is an interesting thing to be present in that process. It’s the same thing with watching childbirth. Watching the transition from one world to another, I think both are beautiful and not as terrifying. The pain is the only hard part.
I’ve not been presented birth. I don’t have kids. I’ve had plenty of colleagues who love the entry to life and the exit. That’s their passion. A friend of mine is the fourth man who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Wrap your head around that one.
How does that happen?
Embryologically, it’s the tissue. It’s the same foundational tissue. They call it primary peritoneal cancer. If someone has the gene that implies that they are at risk for ovarian cancer, a complete hysterectomy can reduce that risk, but it can’t eliminate it entirely because there is still some tissue. It was mind-bending. It’s a very strange time. He was the first person who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. They found it on autopsy. There are all kinds of moving parts there. That was interesting.
The body continues to amaze me every time I think that’s real. He was adamantly an atheist. Toward the end of one of our conversations, he was saying, “I don’t know, but sometimes the cat will look at me and there’s something there.” It’s an honor to be with him while he was struggling with this. “This is what I’ve always thought. Maybe I was wrong.”
My dad was an extreme atheist. Toward the end, I had this spiritual experience for myself. It was scary and not enlightening. He could tell in my voice that I was scared. He asked me what was going on. I was like, “You’re going to think I’m crazy.” I told him and he was like, “Baby, I’m so sorry.” I said, “Have you ever heard or talked to dead people?” He is like, “Yeah. I talked to Aunt Janie all the time.” I’m like, “How come you have never said anything to me?” A lot of people don’t talk about it. None of us realized that he was getting close to death. The closer he got, the more communication he received. He got used to it. He is like, “My mom has been talking to me lately. Aunt Janie comes all the time.” I’m like, “What?” It was beautiful. We found out later why those communications were preparing him.
You all didn’t see it coming then, it sounds like.
He’s the kind of guy that has been dying his whole life for so many different reasons. It wasn’t a shock. We just didn’t know it was that soon.
Tim’s father passed earlier in 2022. It was one of those where he went into the hospital and came out a few days later, was released into hospice on a Friday, and died on Monday. It’s a good thing that it was that quick. At the same time, we were prepared for a long haul. It’s never easy but it’s a matter of finding maybe not the silver lining, but the aluminum foil lining in this. I was glad Tim didn’t need to see his dad like that for too long.
That is the blessing of a quick transition. I’m bringing this back to business. I could go on and on about this for hours, but it’s interesting that we talk about this because there are all these life things that happen when we’re trying to run a business or we’re working. Did you find it difficult to get back? You have this blessing of being able to work your own schedule, but then once the event has passed, did you find it difficult to get back to work and get into a healing mode? Was that an easy thing for you to do?
I’ve learned through trial and error that I need to ease back in. I can’t just go back into a full day. I will generally let clients know I’m coming back this day, but we lost my significant other’s father. I might not be at my best. If you’d rather wait, that’s fine. It’s like if someone is scheduled an appointment and I cancel, I’ll comp the next one because I can’t be at my best.
I’ve found that I need to ease back in a little bit. I had a traumatic brain injury back in 2013. That permanently decreased the number of hours I can work in a day. That was another interesting one to learn what is sustainable, where can I slow down, and what am I doing to make sure I take care of myself in all of this. It is easy to slip down that, “Someone wants this. Someone wants that. Someone else wants the other thing.” For me, that is a constant refinement, needing to say, “I’m going to come back in.”
I’m very lucky because most of my clients are regulars at this stage. They’re generally understanding. I’m a big fan of referring to other folks. If I can’t accommodate, it’s like, “Go to this person. Go to that person.” The toughest part for me about running the business is disconnecting when I get home. It’s like, “I still have paperwork I could be doing.” Social media didn’t exist twenty years ago, at least not the way it does now. That fine line between needing to promote on social media and not letting it suck all the life force out of me because I’m putting so much into that. For me, that’s my biggest challenge right now.
I’ve started moving toward having someone I hired to do some of that for me because that’s her thing. I don’t need to do it all myself. I don’t stay up until midnight waiting for my laundry to come out of the sheets either. I drop my sheets off at the laundry. Where can we delegate? What do we need to do for ourselves? What can we farm out? That’s a life lesson, but people who are self-employed learn a lot. Maybe we don’t learn it a lot faster, but when we do get it, we get it and it sinks in.
It’s a game-changer for all businesses. Part of it though is the trust, setting up structures, being able to communicate what your personal voice and expectations are, and all those things. Once you get the right people, your life is changed. It’s like, “What? I have time. I can breathe. I can go to lunch and not have to worry,” or read a book in the evening and not be thinking about, “I should be doing this YouTube video or whatever it’s going to be.”
You’ve created this business and this life for yourself where you have that flexibility. You are at the point where you can outsource social media a little bit. You have a passion-driven business. You do this because you love it. What advice would you have for someone who maybe they’re in that place where they have a corporate job and they have a paycheck, but they don’t like it at all? They’re just working the wheels and I’m making it happen.
Find a way to do what you love. Don’t get suckered into this idea of there’s a certain way that you have to do it. You’ll find what works for you. If you can save up going into it, it does take a little while. Be a little realistic, but don’t limit yourself because someone told you, “This is the way that it has to be done.” If you’re going into an industry that’s regulated, jump through the hoops you need to, and then do it your own way. If you love what you’re doing, people are more interested in doing business with someone who is happy and enjoys what they’re doing. If you’re resentful of what you’re doing, no one is going to want to hire you or buy from you or whatever your thing happens to be. It’s about finding what you love and what you’re passionate about.
What are you most grateful for in this whole process?
I get to be a part of people’s support teams and see where they go. When someone takes a condition that has been limiting what they want to do, “I’ve got pain, I can’t go hiking,” or whatever. When someone can resume doing what they want to do, or they can go in a new direction doing something that they want to do, that’s like, I don’t have kids but I would imagine that’s seeing your kids take off and be happy.
That’s beautiful. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for tuning in. If you liked it, tell your friends. Follow us on Instagram or LinkedIn. The mission of the show is to dig deep into the lives of true leaders so that others can follow, knowing that the path isn’t always easy, but the journey is worth it. Enjoy the day and live with passion.