Articles

  • By Martina Lutz Schneider | May 28, 2007

ON ELDERS AND GROWING OLD WITH MASSAGE

We are talking in the kitchen. They are drinking a glass of wine; I am drinking water in a wine glass, still wanting to be part of it in this way. Drink than do not drive! I am driving so I will not drink, wanting to get my kids home safely and me of course as well.

We talk about this and that. Laughter, jokes -just hanging out. I am sitting across from these friends explaining that I am changing the focus of my massage business to that of "working with old people." I must say, I was not prepared for their response. "UH, I could not do that!" There seems to be a slight expression of disgust on their faces and definitely in their tone of voice. They look at me with a hint of bewilderment sending out the unspoken question "Why would you want to do that." I go on talking about how it will be easier on my hands and how they are more likely to schedule day time appointments when my kids are in school and that there seems to be a great demand since I had six responses from my first advertisement in the paper. I keep inside what I really wonder about, not quite sure how to express my bewilderment to their response. I find myself stepping back inside analyzing what just happened.

Of course, the attitude of our society to shuffle off old people into retirement homes and assisted facilities has to reflect somewhere in my generation. Watching the slow decline of our bodies is indeed not a pretty sight and I can see how the fact that eventually it will take ten minutes to put on one sock does not have any room in our fast-paced society.

And yes I do remember the old bodies I have touched, not pretty, no, not pretty at all. The dying bodies of course are worse and yes, there is a lot that happens to the dying body that can evoke disgust. No doubt getting old and dying is not a pretty sight, if you do not know how to move beyond the initial and obvious impressions. If you just look at the old feet with the discolored toe nails, the cracked skin, unclipped because the old body just does not bend that far any longer, one does want to turn away and go on with life. If you just see the old body of not much use any longer not moving, not offering much in the realm of entertainment and excitement one does want to turn away and find something more stimulating. Who wants to be reminded of this slow decline - Who wants to be reminded that there will be an end to our lives the way we know them.

Well I do. I wonder whether my friends would understand if I told them about the beauty I see in the old body. Whether they could join me in imaging all the adventures and experiences this body has undertaken in a lifetime. "The temple of God" is what I like to think about, as I touch my elders. The temple of God after it has lived a full life of bearing children, working to support a family, dancing, singing, worrying, playing, doing laundry, washing dishing, sleeping, and all the wondrous things we do in a lifetime. The temple of God that allows us to bring forth the most wonderful and the most heart wrenching, the most enlightened and the most ignorant. The temple of God that allows us to experience life, how can we not honor that? Yet we do not, missing an incredible possibility to celebrate life.

This life is not for granted even though we so live it that way, as if it will go on forever. I wish I could tell my friends how these old people are helping me to not go to sleep, to stay alert to what I am doing now, to question again and again, what am I doing with this gift of life? Am I swept away by this dynamic of our society, or am I at full choice about how I live my life? Am I taking part in the incredible busyness we all experience or do I allow myself to hold on to the slow pace I take on when I am around my elders thus allowing myself to stay connected to myself and my deepest life desires.

I want to share with my friends how wonderful it is to sink into being. To be around someone who does not need you to perform, who is just ever so happy for just a smile, a hug, who's face lights up just because you have walked into the door, who's waited for you all week and your coming is the highlight of their day. It stuns me how much they have to offer, these elders - sitting in their chairs not doing much of anything and still there are riches inside that we can touch, that we can connect to, if we are willing to look beyond the ugly and the old, the fragile and the quiet. Once again the old saying:"Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder", rings so true.

I feel so grateful and honored to have these elders in my life as allies, as reminders, as friends. I wish more people could see that. I wish they would be honored and respected more and I wish they would be seen more for what they have to offer. I do not say anything to my friends this time, knowing that I will, at another occasion when I am more grounded in my knowing of the gifts the old people, the elders have given me. "Offering massage therapy to elders is most enjoyable and fulfilling to me. It allows me to slow down in these frantic times and pay respect to a generation that has developed in maturity has rich life experience and great wisdom."