Control

Last week an ice storm and wet snow swept through where I live. Snow plows shoved the ice into piles, where it re-froze. The plows did a ratty job because the snow was so wet and heavy. Making my way from apartment to car has been a dangerous negotiation through frozen boulders and icy patches. 

We’re only a couple weeks into winter, but here we are, frozen solid. Forecasters predicted that we’d have a warmer, drier winter, which makes me all the more ornery about this bout of weather. But you promised, a voice inside me whines. 

During the winter of my fifth grade year, a friend and I spent our recesses chipping away at the ice peninsulas on the school playground’s blacktop by smashing our heels onto the icy borders. On warmer days we were able to break off large chunks as the blacktop was heated by the sun. 

We had our hecklers, sure. “Stupid girls,” they’d taunt. “You think you can end winter?” We’d pause to make a face at them, then doggedly continue our mission. There was much work to be done. 

Were we simply enamored with the satisfaction that came when a large chunk of ice broke free under our youthful heels? Or was there something else, something deeper, keeping us occupied each recess? 

Back then I didn’t know or care why we were so driven, but today I have a hunch it was about control. Winter around here is unpredictable and seemingly endless. We were antsy not knowing if winter would drag on into March or even April, which it’s been known to do. I guess our rationale was that if we could clear the whole playground of ice, the powers that be would have no choice but to reward our hard work with an early spring. 

I wonder how many other futile rituals I’ve adopted to trick myself into thinking I have more control than I do….

The spa where I work, a newer franchise operation, is entering its third winter. After the holidays come and go and after the gift cards have been redeemed, business has historically come to a screeching halt. This year could be the exception. Our spa has been purchased by a man who knows business and marketing. He has tricks up his sleeve that are keeping us hopping even when we’ve crashed in the past. It looks like our busy December has given way to an equally busy January. This is wonderful news, of course. But one never can tell how it will actually play out. 

The massage industry itself is a rich web of unpredictability. When I think one of my regular clients is coming to see me, she cancels at the last minute. When I look forward to a scheduled break after my session, the schedule changes and I have to give another massage. Sorry, rumbly belly…you have to wait. When a walk-in arrives just as I’m preparing to walk out. When I think I missed the mark but the client loves what I did…or vice-versa. When tips are large, small or not at all. When a client arrives late and causes a chain reaction throughout the day. When the schedule predicts a busy day and then it isn’t…when it predicts a slow day and then it isn’t…in other words, I never know how my day is going to be until my shift is over.  

Of course, in life there are no sure things, so it’s only natural that this is also true of business. Nobody can make a guaranteed promise when profits are concerned. And we humble workers are at the mercy of the almighty dollar and the greed-driven decisions that often accompany it. 

Thriving amidst uncertainty is a valuable life-skill to have, so we LMT’s are fortunate to have this kind of training. Still, I notice some superstitious behavior among my coworkers and myself. We try to call the shots, an exercise ultimately leading to frustration and disappointment. But we just can’t help ourselves. 

Yesterday I took the day off to rest my body, run some errands and come back to normalcy after the holidays. I headed toward the icy parking lot. Something came over me as I walked past a narrowing of sidewalk pavement. Without thinking, my heel crashed down on the peninsula of ice. It shattered. I stooped down, tossed it into the white sea that was once a yard. 

Victory. 

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