Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Privacy and Exposure

Dawn: Venus high in the southeast; light clouds. A quiet morning. Light just beginning to collect in the spaces between the leaves.

It was still full dark when I awoke, conscious of a dull pain in my chest, around the fifth or sixth rib on the right, fretting about it – chest pain! It could be my heart! – in my sleep. I sat up and meditated for twenty minutes, watching my breath, becoming aware of all the light in the room, the green light from the clock, the irritating blue-white throb of my netbook recharging beside the bed. It's just a little indicator light, the size of the head of a pin: but it pulsed in my peripheral vision, catching my attention again and again. I wonder if it woke me. I'll put the netbook to charge downstairs, from now on, and cover the face of the clock before I go to sleep.

By the time I was saying the dedication prayers the light of dawn was appearing, and I knew my chances of getting more sleep were slim. That's okay. I'll sleep when I need to. The pain in my chest had wandered away. I came down to the landing to look at the sky, saluted Venus. And now I'm sitting in the living room, listening to the loud tick of the wall-clock, and wondering why the birds are so quiet. A car engine starts up, down the block, and the light is strong now, but the birds aren't saying a thing. I even see one, flashing through the maple boughs, a starling maybe. All silent.

Puzzled, I go out to the deck, sit cross-legged against the wall. Out here, I can hear them. But they're very quiet. No wonder I couldn't hear them inside. The loudest ones are the crows, blocks away, over on the slope of 53rd Avenue, where they like to gather for a brief conference before splitting up into their work-groups. But it's just one, saying the same thing over and over again. Two long caws, a pause, two long caws, a pause, two long caws. No one else speaks up: the others are listening sullenly. So I imagine.

I worked long hours – for me – on my data project yesterday, and I'm a little out of sorts, a little out of balance. My mind feels a little out of true, and my eyes are tired. And I've just done, for one day, what most software people do every working day. It's a wonder any of them last a year.

I was so happy to hear from everyone, yesterday, in my comments! And surprised that my last evoked so much response. But a lot of people seem to be uneasy with their online presences – some more uneasy about the fragmentation, others about the overexposure. The advent of Google Plus, even if you decide not to adopt it, has to stir up all the questions and anxieties that Facebook and Twitter were already raising, about privacy and exposure and homeliness (in the older sense of that word). A couple people brought up the very serious matter of exposing other people with your writing. It's not just our own privacy at stake. (Zuckerberg may not be my cup of tea, but he was right in the largest sense, that privacy and exposure are going to undergo radical cultural shifts as a result of most of us being searchable: I have no answers or predictions, but we are all going to have to attend to it.)

I've been astonished at how difficult it's been for me to find my footing with a “professional” blog, the blog attached to my massage website. It's a different kind of exposure to a different audience – exposure to people who might be employing me as a therapist, exposure to people who are colleagues or rivals – to people who know a lot about the topics and might catch me out. It raises some of the anxieties that academic writing raised, particularly since I find I don't fit in well with any of the massage clans – I heartily dislike both the medical and the shamanic models, with their claims to higher occult truths that are accessible only to people who take expensive training workshops: I really think that a fifteen-year-old who gives her grandma back rubs probably does as much good for her as would the most highly trained specialist in Myofascial Some-Guy's-Name Technique or a level 6 master of some supposedly ancient Asian (conveniently untranslated; if pressed, untranslatable) lore. I don't think rubbing people and making them feel loved and soothed and comforted is really that abstruse or that difficult: the only reason it's a viable “profession” is that our culture is so isolating, so high-pressure, and so hypersexualized, that the only way most people can get the humane, attentive, non-demanding touch they crave is by paying for it. They really don't need us: if by custom everybody in the grocery line rubbed the neck and shoulders of the person ahead of them, the bottom would drop out of our business and we'd be out on the street. It's not our skills that are in demand – it's our willingness to touch and attend, without groping, rushing or judging.

But that's hardly the sort of thing you make a professional blog out of -- saying that professional skills are bogus and unnecessary. I don't know. I need to rethink the whole project.


Kelli Wise said...

"It's not our skills that are in demand – it's our willingness to touch and attend, without groping, rushing or judging."

More and more, I'm inclined to believe that *what* we do matters less than the fact *that* we do. When I did massage in a long term care facility and in an assisted living facility, I was massaging people whose only physical contact most weeks was when someone moved them from bed to wheel chair and back. Whether I did some particular technique or worked any particluar muscle didn't seem to matter as much as merely providing touch in a caring way.

Many of my current clients come to me because they trust me - not to judge, not to comment, not to tell them what they *must* do. I enjoy that kind of relationship with people. You're beginning to make me a convert to the Dale Favier comforting touch technique (tm).

YourFireAnt said...

..Woke up, fell outa bed, dragged a comb across my head/found my way downstairs and drank a cup,/ ...looking up, I noticed I was late, /Found my coat, grabbed my hat/Made the bus in seconds flat,/found my way upstairs and had a smoke, and somebody spoke and I went into a dream... Ahhhhhh ahhhhh ahhh ah ahhhh ahhhh ahhhhh ahhhhhhhh ahhhhhh ah ahhhhhhh.....

Kathleen said...

Ah, yes, I try not to write about others except:

--book reviews, which I hope help the writers!
--first names only of friends or blog readers (or their handles)
--fairly anonymous/general references
---celebrities or public figures (dead or alive), who are written about anyway

I don't really want to "out" anyone...!

Lori Witzel said...

"It's not our skills that are in demand – it's our willingness to touch and attend..."

Damn straight. Presence and loving-kindness, delivered in the most direct and unmediated form possible. That's the gift.

(That, and your sharing the thought on your blog.)

christopher said...

I certainly see how a professional blog within "corporate life" must take a certain slant but I find that regrettable.

A "spiritual" or even a "highly moral" life calls for transparency, for transactions with a maximum of honesty (perhaps with delicate diplomacy as well) from those who follow such a life ideal and the buttoned down and closed mouth requirements of corporate life greatly complicate these matters. Believe me, I know. So do most of us.

Zhoen said...

Dunno. That's only about 50% of what I see a therapist for. The rest is the knowledge, knowing where to look, feel for the pain, the stress. I know when you are going to start and stop, know that you will listen when I ask for more or less pressure. A friend, a relative, may not have bothered to learn this, may not listen to me, may make it an emotional debt. When I pay a massage therapist, I have discharged my debt fairly and completely.

So, yes, in a way, you are right. But you are also half wrong. And it's not that everyone can't do it for everyone else (which is debatable) but that the in-kind cost is too high most of the time. You guys are a bargain.

I've had chest pain this week as well. It's all muscular, as it turns out. No idea what I did, but enough Tiger Balm and it's all going away. I suspect you were hunched over to work on your data, and all spasmy.

Jayne said...

Dale- What you write is all about attending and mindfulness. It's beautiful and peaceful and works whether you write it here or on a professional blog.

I understand how it can raise anxieties, being compared or judged or called out on something. But that's for the Egos. (Who are no more special than you or I.)
It has nothing to do with the authentic Dale--who is the Dale we all want to see and listen to. That's the Dale who inspires and who we believe. :-)

marly youmans said...

There are many ways of working and getting paid that, if scrutinized in daylight or in an unfair light, look strange. Perhaps money is simply an odd way to manage things! It certainly creates all sorts of judgments about work and its value that appear quite odd. But you do a great deal more for people than many who are paid great sums for their work. The paid work that bothers me most at a local level and at a government level is the increase of administration and how that leads to a lot of meaningless work and interference by ever-burgeoning not-always-helpful regulations with the way people who are doing a good job are able to continue. It afflicts schools and hospitals and more...

One man laying his hands on other people and making them feel better? Very little administration!

Okay, now I have to go think about my talk to be given at noon. Nobody's telling me what to do, after all... What a great thing about writing. It is still capable of being free.

Dale said...

Thanks so much, everyone. So much to respond to, and I'm so short on time! I'm so grateful. More anon.

Lisa said...

Your last few posts have moved me and made me cry. I'm finding so much of my headspace in yours, with thoughts about loneliness and privacy and outing oneself and a craving for touch, connection, and even, yes--at times, the "Good Life". Only, perhaps my thoughts are laced with much more insecurity and judgment than yours. Today I'd like so much to shrug off any bitterness and resentment and vibes I've projected onto myself by supposed friends. Perhaps I just need a good masseuse, or quiet inklings shared with the pock-faced moon...