When I was lying on the massage table last week, finally getting some relief for my poor, rock-tense neck and shoulders, I couldn't stop thinking about all the people who can't afford massages. It felt a little disgusting to spend my money on something so self-indulgent. But massages are so good for you, especially if you work at a computer all day, and then come home to play on the computer. Massages detoxify your system, increase your circulation -- and prevent tension headaches, something I suffer from fairly frequently without regular massages. I think I've had two massages since Swee'pea was born, but I used to get them regularly, and I really noticed a difference back then. No more headaches, and all of a sudden I could do head slides in belly dance, which I just couldn't do before.
Anyways, the table. I was feeling guilty. Finally, I had to say something. I had to share this burden. So I told this massage therapist, who I'd never met before, that I was volunteering at the Drop-In Centre and that I felt really guilty for being so rich when so many are poor. I mean, many people don't even have a quarter for a coffee there. I would never have considered myself rich before, only millionaires are rich, but since I started volunteering, I've realized just how rich I am. I told her about what that man had said about coming to look at the poor people. (A surprised, "Oh!" escaped her lips and floated around the room when she heard that.)
She said I have to let that guilt go. Everyone has hardships and it really does no good to make comparisons. Some may say that another's hardships aren't as bad their own, but you really can't make those judgments. But I really don't have any hardships, I said. I've been so, so lucky. (Of course since then, I've remembered a few.) The therapist pointed out that some people also just have better attitudes than others, and I had to agree. Some people are more resilient than others, although that's not to say that a person's bad attitude is their fault. If no-one in your family is resilient, if they all have poor, self-destructive or nonexistent coping skills, how would you learn resilience? (And I do believe it's a learned skill.)
I had a friend in high school whose mother was a physiotherapist, and she'd also begun to study cranial-sacral therapy. She died when we were about 21, from breast cancer. She'd fought it once, but after a few years she stopped going for her follow-up appointments, and by the time she went to the doctor, she was too far gone. She died a week later, and it seemed clear to us all that she knew it had come back, and she knew she didn't want to fight anymore. She was a truly beautiful woman.
She believed that our tissues hold emotional trauma, they have a memory of sorts. Once, she was doing a treatment on my friend and my friend was suddenly overwhelmed with incredible sadness and she started to cry. She didn't know why she felt so sad, but her mother said it was because she'd released one of these emotional memories. Once she did a treatment on me, and when I went home, my parents thought I was drunk because my gait had changed. I remember feeling like everything was just slightly out of place from where it had been before - both inside and outside my body.
I wonder if the pain and extreme stiffness in my shoulders and neck ("I'm not gonna lie," said the massage therapist the other day, "It's not looking good.") is partly the result of this guilt and shame and embarrassment I've been carrying around for having money, feelings that have only intensified over the last six months. I've never really felt comfortable with my income, I've always been embarrassed that we have a cleaner - embarrassed that we can afford one: I've never been embarrassed for being a slob.
It strikes me that this middle-class shame isn't doing me or anyone else any favours. It doesn't make me donate more or use it more wisely. It just makes me feel bad - silent and embarrassed, especially around really poor people, and I'm quite certain that doesn't help them. The same guilt and shame infect and inhibit my photography. So. How do I get over it?
A love letter to Lucas, Age 8
12 hours ago