Down Time

 It’s June, and business is slow in the massage industry. After all, getting a massage is nice and all, but it simply can’t compete with family graduation parties and warm-weather activities. Because family and YOLO, amirite? 

Blah, I’m right. And what’s worse, I just used YOLO in a blog post. Desperate times….

In the franchise where I work, the inertia has been compounded, and not for seasonal, jumping-off-a-pier-into-the-lake-instead-of-getting-massaged reasons. Corporate had us do a mass hiring of full-time massage therapists early this year. I guess they saw something in our numbers that encouraged them to grow our spa. But then they raised prices, losing some of our regular clients. And then warm weather hit….

And splat. 

Now that we have more therapists than work, the front desk staff have (basically) been making us take turns either getting called off or being sent home early. As a result, our spa is a little hungry, a little cutthroat, energetically speaking, an unwelcome pest in what’s supposed to be a nurturing environment. 

Hunger drives us toward some of our baser instincts. I’m unearthing some competitive parts of myself, as well. Last week I did six and a half hours of massage, about 40% of what I used to do. I’m boxed in by physical limitations, as temporary as they may be, as I continue to recover from a recent back injury. Two months after my month-long medical leave, I’m still doing fewer massages in a row before a break, and fewer massages per day, doctor’s orders. So between massages (during seemingly endless down time), I find myself glancing through our schedule to see if my former clients wandered to other therapists, quit their memberships or just put massage on pause. 

With so much time to think (and being my own worst enemy), it’s hard not to berate myself during slow times like these. She lost her touch during that long hiatus, the critics within me hiss. She’s just not as good anymore. Yet, when I take a deep breath and muffle the negativity, I remind myself that new clients have been rebooking with me. I just have to practice my faith and patience. Patience and faith. 

When my life-condition is high enough, I can see that it’s just a watershed period in my young career. It all looks like a mess right now, but something invisible continues to propel me forward and protect me. Maybe this time marks a new beginning, somehow. Those lost clients taught me everything they could; I’m ready for my next set of lessons. Something to that effect. 

I worked on a professional athlete the other day who had a shocking amount of scar tissue built up in his hamstrings near his glutes. He was as surprised as I was; despite all of the massage and physical therapy he’d had in his career, nobody’d ever pointed that out to him before. His hip is a constant complaint, so the two elements are likely connected. I’m hoping we can learn more together the next time he comes in, solve the mystery to free that hip. Maybe he and the other new clients will point me toward my next area of focus. Will I get more comfortable with myofascial work? Branch out and finally explore energy work like reiki? Where I am now is only the beginning. It’s something to appreciate. I can take this profession in myriad directions, tailor it to be what I want it to be.  

Yet, the other day a thought popped into my head: My job is getting in the way of my career. I love the spa where I work, overall…but if it stays this slow, I’ll never be able to afford taking continuing education classes. This week (with desperation overriding my rules) I’m picking up two shifts (potentially eight consecutive work days), and if that trend continues, I won’t have time to take classes, anyway. One of the reasons I took on massage therapy was because of the flexibility. But how truly flexible am I when I’m bound by bills and debt? 

This is just a phase, I tell myself. Things will get better…by Autumn, sure, but before then, somehow. Good fortune will come to me. I just have to refresh my determination, clean up my act anywhere I can, stay the course and believe. 


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