~ Guest Writer, M. Eileen Hickey ~

“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.”

– Brian Andreas

Since entering my 50’s, I’ve spent more time looking into the rearview mirror of my life’s travels, contemplating how I arrived at this intersection of simple joy and peace which for me is equivalent to loving myself.

Potholes and a rebellious path

At the onset of body awareness, my father (an IBM lifer) moved a faction of his seven kids from Connecticut to Southern California. Tough move for a pubescent kid with unruly, curly red hair, coke bottle glasses and teeth primed for braces. Ouch. I was surrounded by three sisters and a slim and tanned mother who meticulously counted their daily calories while comparing the day’s dietary consumption. Rice cakes with tuna, Diet Cokes and Alba shakes were staples in the kitchen. Tried as I might, I couldn’t compete with the household diet Olympics nor the influential So Cal image. But that didn’t stop me from being a chronic people pleaser. I hooked my self worth onto others’ reactions to me. This created all sorts of potholes along my rebellious path. I’m forever thankful for the force fed therapy and brutally honest siblings who called me out and saved me from some serious crashes.

On the road to happiness

A recession re-routed me north to Portland, Oregon in the early 90s where the job market was fertile ground. All of my belongings were packed into my Honda Accord. The prized possession on that memorable trip: my deep-seated happiness. I finally felt like I owned joy, free and clear of payments with no emotional collateral damage. I was making a move for myself and by myself.

Several jobs later, I landed a news assistant gig at a television station. That organically grew into 16 years working on the assignment desk. The people pleasing skills along with being inherently nosy came in handy after all. TV news business allows little room for self care. It’s an intensive job of multi-tasking and frontal lobe aerobics that left me with brain drain but wanting to “relax” with a glass (or two) of wine after every shift. Sleep suffered. The work life balance model teetered. Yet, I kept up a steady jog like a gerbil working its wheel. My father’s death in ’99 was a catalyst for slowing down the wheel. My father’s last breath was the signpost indicating the start of what was to be next. The grieving process created a much needed detour for my mind and inspired curiosity about death and dying. A year-long volunteer assignment at a hospice showed me profound meaning in comforting terminal patients with gentle touch.

Cue up heart expansion here.

All signs led to massage school where I opted to focus on oncology massage and hopefully make a difference for patients undergoing cancer treatment. Turns out, this 180-degree career move allowed for deeper self care. Self love in turn surfaced with great beauty. I learned the two are intertwined and interchangeable. It is integral to practice what I preach to my clients. So just as I take care of my clients, my blessed clients take care of me. This unexpected reciprocation has led me down a kinder, gentler road. I’m 10 pounds lighter. I broke up with wine. I reunited with my mom’s Acme juicer from circa 1966 and am drinking fresh juice on a daily basis. Yoga and stretching are daily staples. I am finding joy with myself by myself. And most importantly, I’m allowing room for imperfection.

This adage rings true…”you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.”

With that said, the scenery in my rearview mirror looks pretty darn good.
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M. Eileen Hickey

Eileen Hickey is a licensed massage therapist specializing in oncology massage in Portland, OR. She works at Oregon Health & Science University, Nike WHQ and her studio. Her objective: empower her clients to participate in their healing process and feel a sense of wholeness. She’s also a recovering tv news assignment editior of nearly 20 years. Her free time is spent at her cabin amidst the old growth, on the mat or with a good book. She’s still trying to crack a NYT crossword without the help of Google.

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