Of the many beauties associated with Chinese medicine (and, as I ponder it, Renaissance Florence but I digress), one that resonates greatly with me at this time is its attitude towards change. Chinese medicine is based on a foundation of harmony and theories regarding yin-yang balance. Not too much of one or too little of the other but, rather, right balance between yin and yang; these are, naturally, mutually interdependent and constantly shifting and resettling and then shifting once again. Being as inert as as a turnip carved from stone is not healthy in the Chinese view; such a state is, instead, one of stasis or blockage. Western thought concurs, though in different philosophical realms than those of health and wellness. Seneca the Younger’s famous quote (“The fates guide those who go willingly. Those who do not, they drag”) comes to mind here too. Change is inevitable but how we deal with it is what makes it good or bad, as everyone well knows. Still, received wisdom is like common sense. Their messages don’t always line up altogether that neatly, do they?
Are you in the midst of change right now? Shifts and alterations big and small? I am, and one of them involves office space and the other relates to finishing up my program and getting myself licensed and able to practice acupuncture and herbs along with the bodywork and mind-body wellness coaching that I already provide now. These are big changes and I’m excited and tired and enthused and a little scared all at once. I thought I was done with school as a student when I was awarded my PhD from Indiana University; now that I am used to being a student again, it feels so strange to think that these days will be over in about ten weeks (famous last words, wouldn’t you say?). The matter of office space is tangible and in progress, and it involves putting down some roots in a new place while keeping my current place too. This entails a leap of faith in a lot of directions but it’s also great for when I graduate and am licensed, which should be right around the corner if all goes as planned.
Do you get anxious when you need to make big changes? What do you do to help yourself to feel grounded and less rattled? Are you one of these people that rips the bandaid off and gets going, or do you move in drips and drops, or do you tend to stay stuck until forced to move? It’s always smart to look at your history and see what your patterns reveal, don’t you think?
My current change–the one that is right now altering my daily schedule–is an office change. I have been renting space out of Lauren St. Pierre-Mehrens’ clinic, Earthspring Acupuncture, that is housed in the Heather Gordon Spa for over a year now.
I started with a half day on Sunday and built up to a full day. Then I added a half day on Monday afternoons and still later, another half day on Saturdays. My tui na practice has flourished there and I have patients who feel at home on my table in this cozy office space. But as I grew closer to graduation, I wondered what I would do and how I would expand my practice. Fortune, at it happened, favored me in this endeavor. Office space opened up in the clinic of an acupuncturist who is also a clinical supervisor at my school. As of May 1st, a friend and I are sharing the office space (she gets half the week and I get the other), so now patients can see me at 4131 Spicewood Springs Rd Ste. N-8 on Saturdays, Monday mornings, Thursdays, and Fridays. The office is large, very pretty, and it is conveniently located so that my North people no longer have to drive down South to see me. And although it’s not completely decorated (oh, these things take time and energy–you never know what it’s like to set up your own office until you set up your own office from scratch!) I am seeing people at that location now and have gotten great responses to it thus far.
That said, I am remaining in my current office not only because it’s convenient but also because I really enjoy being there. I had my own office as a professor, of course, but this is my first workspace that I had to find on my own steam, the first that wasn’t assigned to me by a dean or a department chair or an assistant to either one of the above. I’m proud of this office space and appreciate Heather and Lauren for welcoming me and being supportive colleagues.
(Observations: It’s funny to have keys to two sets of offices, but here you have it–an abundance of ways to open the locks in my life–and besides, my South people would be most displeased if they needed to drive up North to see me. Austin’s funny that way, you know. People just don’t want to drive and I can’t blame them. The freeways here are ghastly. It will be fun to see how different my patient groups are in each office, now that I ponder it…and I can already see that certain characteristics are aligning with one and the other sector.)
Is your office a second home for you? How did you feel when you left one and went to a new space? Are you currently in transition? I have a couple patients who are, and one thing we do in session is focus on grounding and mindful techniques: breathing with attention, maintaining awareness and compassion, simply being in the moment. There are many ways to pause when one feels uprooted and the best way to do that is to practice and be mindful before big changes occur. This way, there are some tools in the toolbox and you’re not rushing about, trying to get things back to normal, and all the while trying to start something new (like meditation or yoga) to alleviate stress and a sense of upheaval. Think about it, and see if planning ahead and doing some grounding practice whether or not you think you need it is good for you at this time.
And of course, not all of one’s changes involve just location. There’s also the fact of saying goodbye when you leave, and of switching one identity out for another, too. And I’m not a musical theater person but when I saw a Facebook post on the drama Hamilton: An American Musical, it really touched my heart given my current situation.
I ended up sharing it with a heart-felt post. As you see from the screen shot, the reference is to the song “One Last Time” that reflects George Washington’s decision to step down as president. On my Facebook post, I wrote about finding a goodbye gift for my clinical supervisor for a rotation that I’d taken each term over the course of a year and a half. Last term was my final time on that rotation because I needed other clinics in order to graduate. Truth be told, I had stayed in this one clinic for too long. I should have signed up for other time slots each term and new supervisors. But Friday afternoons from 1:00-4:00 were unpopular and I could always get them and I always got my own treatment room, too, so I continued, term after term after term, in the same place with the same patients and my same supervisor.
Dr. Zhang, the supervisor, is a kind, sweet, and gentle person who wants the patients to heal and the students to learn. As I tried to find a gift for her at Book People, I faltered because there was so much I wanted to say with my gift. Finally, I asked a staff person to help me find a book on flowers or flower arranging. While I described what I wanted, I said “She was like a mother to me” and started to cry a little bit. I paused and got ahold of myself but when I tried to explain, again my eyes welled up with tears and I could only say once more, “She was like a mother to me; she is like a mother to all her students.” The guy helping me was tactful and kind. He directed me towards the perfect book on flower arranging and even though I cried some more when I got home, I knew that it was the right way to mark the end of our time together.
I don’t know if crying at Book People is the best and most seamless way to process an upcoming goodbye, but it felt good to find the perfect gift and to give it to Dr. Zhang. My supervisor opened it, and one of her thank-you compliments was, “You know me, you know what I would love.” What better thank-you can one ask for other than to see the joy of a recipient whose gift is just right? As much as I will miss her (and I can drop by any Friday ever for a hug when I want one), it was healthy to be present with my self and my emotional reactions the way I did. We had a real goodbye and a meaningful acknowledgement of our closeness on my last day in clinic with her. Another recent goodbye was also challenging; my mentor during my first year of my program landed a great job in North Carolina and just moved there recently; helping him pack his kitchen was cathartic, as was going to Casa de Luz for a good-bye dinner.
Marking goodbyes with significant people is important, don’t you agree? How do you do it? And where did you learn how to say goodbye? I have traveled a lot and I’ve lived in many places. Also, as a professor, I had to say goodbye to my students if I had done my job correctly, and if the institution and the students had done their jobs correctly. The outcome should be graduation and goodbye. One cannot, no matter how much one loves one’s Spanish professor and one’s class, remain in one’s Survey of Spanish Literature or Introduction to the Literature of the Spanish Civil War forever. A student needs to graduate and move on, and the professors are happy for them when they do. This, I think, is really where I learned to say goodbye: in the classroom. It’s just funny, this time, that I’m on the student side of the desk and not at the front of the room now that it is time to part ways with my current academic institution.
My new office space should be just about finished being decorated in a week or two. I hope to be done with my fiddling with the online scheduling, which is at present recalcitrant to the extreme, by then also. The days and hours are visible on the online schedule but the trick to identifying which day I am where is eluding me. But that will resolve itself one what or another. Give me my fortnight and let’s see what happens. As of this writing, my schedule is such that I am available:
Monday: North until 2:00/South after 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday & Wednesday: My days off.
Thursday: Before noon and after 5:30 at North.
Friday & Saturday: All day at North.
Sunday: All day at South.
As ever, I take up to fifteen appointments per week and then close booking; while I’m still in school and preparing for board exams I have limits to how much bodywork I can do in addition to mind-body wellness coaching, student clinic, and endless studying. Once I’m a licensed acupuncturist, there’ll be more shifts and changes, I am sure.
I started my career as a medievalist in Spanish literature and as a comparative literature student I worked with Dante, of Renaissance Florence and Divine Comedy renown, and Ausiàs March, a Catalan poet. Change, for Dante especially, was the fruit of exile and of the blows landed by merciless shifts in fortune. One of the most poignant moments of the the Paradise section of his famous work finds the poet learning of his future exile, and being told that he will “know the bitter taste of others’ bread, how salt it is, and know how hard a path it is for one who goes descending and ascending others’ stairs” (Par. 17.57-60). That’s one way to look at change–through the lens of sorrow and loss, though Dante made his greatest work of literature in response–and I have done just that (without, however, the enduring literary legacy) in my turn. Chinese medicine, and the new perspectives that I have gained from leaving what I knew and coming to know something more than that, has made me much more easy with shifts in fortune and alterations in routine. This I know is true.
And yet, some things always do stay the same. I am, in my heart, still a professor and–as such–I generally tend to conclude my essays with questions. I will not disappoint you this time, dear reader. And so, questions. To wit: what, for you, has caused you to learn new ways to cope with change? How do you view it? And what, above all, would you like to learn and do the next time you make a series of shifts or, perhaps, when you are compelled to make one or two large alterations in your life?
Most importantly of all, this last: If you could tell your future self something encouraging about change, what is it that you would say?
Two Hearts Wellness is a local holistic health and wellness outfit with a passion for all things nourishing, including but not limited to: joyful living, great food, art, and literature, and–of course–traditional Chinese medicine. If you want to learn more about me, click here and do feel free to follow my blog and/or my Instagram, connect with me on Facebook, or contact me here to set up an appointment for personal training or health coaching services. If you are interested in Asian bodywork therapy, click here to book an appointment online.