On Work and Identity

I had a lump in my throat all day. All week, really. Coming and going. There then not.

It finally loosened last night, around 11pm when I was curled into a ball in my bed, sobbing. “Oh,” I thought to myself. “I needed to cry.”

It comes in fits and starts, the realization that my business may or may not survive this (but it will). I may not give a massage in that office again (I will). While I do believe there will be a time in the future when it is safe to massage, I think it will involve a fresh start, a new space, many many months from now. There will be clients I never see again (and plenty I will see again).

Some just won’t come back, because life throws a lot of curveballs. Some will die, maybe from COVID-19 maybe from other things, between now and then. I won’t find out about those deaths right away. Or ever, maybe. I expect to mourn them, much like mourning the life and business and identity I had before this, will be protracted and yet still just as sharp and surprising each time.

Last night in my sobbing huddle I realized I missed myself. I miss the Best Possible Version of Allissa that exists when I walk into my massage room when I cradle a client’s head in my hands and take a breath. Giving massage opens a door to my most kind, compassionate, patient, judgment-free self. I miss that self.

Who will I be now that I can’t access her for 15 to 20 hours a week? A cruel impatient monster? Because right now I feel like an edgy, cruel, impatient monster like 82% of the time. The remaining 18% of the time I’m probably just thinking about snacks.

I miss my clients. I miss my income, my independence, the confidence I have when a client walks in the door. I miss saying, “Take your time, I’ll knock in a minute,” and “When you’re ready, flip and slide up into that face cradle.” Mostly, I miss the Best Possible Version of Allissa. I’m scared I won’t see her again.

After I figured this out last night I thought, “I’ll feel better when I wake up tomorrow.” I did not. Then I thought, “Write it down. I’ll feel better when I get this out of my head.” But I do not. I expect it’ll be a while before any of us feel better.

I wish I could be more inspiring. Or even just a little less doom and gloom. But Best Possible Version of Allissa is on sabbatical, I guess. I’ll be making do with who is left in her place.

Update: It took me about two days to actually start feeling a little better. But I did and I do. And I’m sure there will be lots of backsliding, then more progress. I’m feeling better about, well, being better in other parts of my life, finding other places to shine.

I was on the fence about even sharing this post, but I see how many of us are struggling with identity, and I hope this helps a bit.

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