By Joyce Gauthier, LMT

2015 was a rough year for me personally and professionally. I was up to my eyeballs in financial debt and was learning how much of an emergency that was. I did not want to be paying off student loans for the rest of my life along with carrying a credit card balance. My husband and I vowed to put a spending freeze on our household. We turned the heat down to 57 degrees in the winter, we stopped using the dryer and hung our clothes to dry, we stopped going out to eat, we stopped going out altogether – unless it was free. We wanted to get out of debt, and in order to do that, we had to stop the bleed. We were seeing great results, but I wanted to get debt free faster. I needed to make more money. My husband, Matt, was tapped out working 60 hours a week at his job. I had a few hours to spare here and there in between giving massages. I figured I could find a way to bring in money on my lunch breaks.

So, I ended up taking a casual front desk position for ten hours a week at a massage therapy business within walking distance of my office. I took breaks in the middle of the day from giving massages at my practice and walked over to answer phones, go to the bank, balance the drawer, etc. I could only physically give about 20 massages a week. Of course I could give up ten hours to make some extra cash.

The universe had other plans. I could feel myself getting stretched thin. Even though I was doing about 20 hours of massage at my practice each week, I neglected to consider the time and effort it took for paperwork, marketing, reaching out to clients, oh yeah, and self-care. So my 20 hours a week of massaging was really a 40 hour job, which was plenty. I wanted to squeeze work into every hour of the day to not lose out on the potential to make money. So, I would work all day, then go home and collapse on the couch with a glass of wine, some cheese and crackers, and a couple hours of TV…OK, maybe more than a couple.

At this time, my father was extremely ill with esophageal cancer. By the beginning of 2015, it was clear that he was not going to get better. So, in the midst of all my hustling, I would go home as often as I could to visit him. In his last week of life, I was with him in the hospital. I was next to him the moment he took his last breath. I sat there, next to a man that spent his whole life working to support our family. He worked up until the very end. He would drive himself between work and chemo treatments. He even drove himself to the hospital the week before he passed. When I was in the hospital, I had lots of time to think. I realized it is not all about work or being busy or successful. It is about spending time with people you love. I thought about all the hours, days, and years I lost with my father because he was working, and in those last years, because I was doing the same.

On top of the emotional pain I was feeling, the month before my father passed, I got Lyme disease. I took my last antibiotic pill on the day of my father’s memorial service. Between my father’s death, the grieving process, and the effects of the antibiotics my body was suffering, I got sicker and sicker and experienced the worst acid reflux I have ever had in my life. It became abundantly clear that I needed to make changes in my life or else I would end up just like my dad, gone too soon.

I quit the front desk job, started going to weekly acupuncture treatments, and enrolled in a yoga teacher training. By nourishing my own body, I breathed new life into my massage practice. I became firm with boundaries with clients. I raised my prices and created a schedule that I loved. I made my life the life I wanted. All the while, I took care of myself and allowed myself to grieve and be renewed.

That brings me to now. I am able to continue to grow and learn from the gift my father gave me. Take care of me, and the rest will fall into place. I had to get slapped around to make the changes, but I am glad I did.

“The phoenix must burn to emerge.” – Janet Fitch