Today I feel battered by all the opposing thoughts and ideas around COVID-19. Like so many other professions we are divided and it’s fractious. I am torn by it all.
By nature I want to make people happy, and I managed to create a business that makes a difference for so many. They feel better, can live more comfortably, and keep coming back, pleased with the benefits of therapy at Alchemy.
COVID-19 has thrown me and so many bodyworkers and our businesses completely off our axis. What we do has gone from being powerful and profound forms of therapy to something that is dangerous.
Yet some massage therapists really don’t think it is dangerous at all. Or that they can mitigate the risks of being hands on in a small room with another person for an hour or more. While I agree there is much we can (and I will) do to increase safety, between asymptomatic transmission, blood clots, and all the long term complications if one does survive, I remain deeply concerned.
I don’t want to inadvertently spread the virus at Alchemy.
As Alchemy’s owner, I’m the person who has the hard conversations. I cannot imagine having to make the call to tell someone that their therapist or another client had the virus when they were at Alchemy. I equally dread receiving a call to tell me that someone is sick, and then the contact tracing will begin – Alchemy could have been a part of the spread. That hurts my heart.
There are leaders in the massage therapy field with clear and strong voices. People I know and respect. They have clarity. It’s not safe. In other fields, safety for staff and customers alike is installing hands-free everything, putting up screens to separate us, and standing six feet apart. In massage we are sharing the airspace of a small room while touching another person, for an hour or more. Even with masks and other PPE this is actual risk.
There is also something new, many of us are calling “fear shaming.” You know what it is. I find that same fear to be a reasonable and responsible response to a serious health threat that we do not understand. Fear keeps us alive sometimes.
Fear can also shred our nervous system and living in this state of arousal can be the stress that triggers other health issues. And of course, you know what really helps with all of that? Massage, bodywork, CranioSacral and Lymph Drainage Therapy all help regulate the nervous system, help us come down to a steadier place. Help us let the life sucking stress move out of our bodies.
The thing we can’t do, would help us all so much right now.
As a business owner it’s a precarious balance. While I was able to procure some support and assistance, loans are not the best choice with an unknown situation ahead for at least a year. The biggest help, the Payroll Protection Program requires I use the money immediately, I can’t open right now though. I can’t bring people back to work. So, I can’t use the money and will lose the loan forgiveness that would cover payroll and rent for two full months. That’s the kind of reopening boost that would have put Alchemy on much steadier footing. But I must return the money if the terms are not changed by Congress.
Our state government doesn’t actually understand massage and there are so many conflicting opinions on whether we can be open or not. There is no guidance though, little clarity. And those who do understand massage have no power to decide whether we are open or closed.
Many people are struggling, mad, scared, and frustrated, they have not gotten the individual and small business relief they need. Here in Maryland the unemployment system has been a mess, yet hundreds of thousands of people are getting their payments, and many more are moving through.
Returning to work for money to survive becomes incentivized. The failures of our government have put people in an awful bind.
For most of us, the only way to hold two opposing ideas is to make one of them wrong. For many in a financial nose dive seem to have found a way to make the science and local leadership wrong. They now believe that we must reopen, we must get back to work, we must do this for the survival of the economy. Forget Grandma or Uncle Tyrone.
How different would that be if everyone had gotten the relief they need? How different would it be if calm and cautious leadership based in science was given the focus it needs right now?
What if the country was simply taking care of its people for a change? What if lives really were more important than the Dow Jones?
I think lives are more important. I am deeply saddened that we are hearing so little about the lives lost. That they are being immediately dumped into categories such as old, sick, or a nursing home resident. They are humans, they are loved and cherished by others. While we will all die, perhaps we could have protected them better? My first memory of hearing the names of people who died on the news was during the Vietnam war, why is that not happening now?
My heart is heavy.
I hold all of the world’s issues and fears gently, yet the buzz of it surrounds me. I hold those for whom I am responsible more closely, beyond my family and friends, my biggest challenge is Alchemy.
For today, Alchemy is closed, I will reevaluate at the end of the month after more numbers show how we are doing with the limited stage one opening Maryland was granted on May 15th.
The question doesn’t go away though. The information keeps coming in, I seek out science. With all the advocacy work I do, I am also bombarded by people with opinions on whether massage should be open, or those who are simply going to do it anyway. Much as I would love to ignore all of that, those voices, their push-back, their fear-shaming does hit home. It scrapes the scab of my decisions off over and over, it leaves that tear sore and bleeding every day.
The light, the joy, the amazing therapy that is Alchemy Healing Arts Center is at risk.
How long can we remain closed?
How will it go when we reopen?
Will all the wonderful therapists make it back?
Will our clients wait it out and trust that we are putting safety first?
Will working with the new sanitation and protections be sustainable?
Will Alchemy survive the economic downturn that accompanies this pandemic?
How will each of us survive financially if Alchemy does not?
I am tired, I am torn, am I am not opening Alchemy today.