My Life In Motion (My Blog)

On massage, crazy times and Covid-19…


Well, it’s been a while since I’ve wrote for this blog.
And during that time the world has become, interesting.

So, first and foremost, Covid-19 is a thing.

In California, we were given a ‘stay at home’ order in the middle of March. Businesses were closed, and all manner of facilities shuttered. I’m pretty sure no one at the time knew what we were getting into then.

As a massage therapist, it was very difficult for me to have to stop my practice. Financially, it hurt me bad. So much so that I felt compelled to start a GoFundMe, the first of two. (I still have one open right now.)

Through March and April I was terrified to work on people. In May I started to slowly get back into it at the behest of an MT friend of mine that needed some work done.

To make a long story short, California closed, then reopened, then closed again. Now we are in this weird, nebulous place in-between.

Many restaurants and small businesses are shuttered. And some gyms have moved their equipment outside. I passed by a beauty salon that has their work stations outdoors now. While my neighbors that owned a barbershop had to close their business for good and move.

Me? I’ve barely scraped by but I’m surviving. After a denial from the EDD for PUA funds (Pandemic Uninsurance Assistance Funds) I decided to get back to work.

Again, it’s been hard, but I’m keeping my furry chin up.

There are a lot of men who still need my touch, but many of my old clients are afraid to go out and about. And I don’t blame them.

That fear was one of the reasons why I chose to stay closed for so long. The uncertainty of the situation was awful. But, I thought about it, and have mulled over my options…

…well, I have no options. LOL

So I’m reopening for real this time as what I offer is a private service, not a ‘McMassage’ in parlor with lots of foot traffic and revolving doors.

I have always been aware of cleanliness. I wash and wipe down all touchable surfaces immediately before and after the session. I wear a face mask and have a pair of goggles now. All clients are required to wear a mask as well. With the exception of the face masks, my cleanliness ritual hasn’t changed.

Only now when someone books a massage with me it’s ‘extra clean’.

It’s crazy times.

I planned on taking the year off from school to concentrate on a small book imprint I was creating. But, now that we are in another open/closed type limbo I decided to go back to college. I signed up for the Fafsa last year, not thinking I would use it. It turns out I’m eligible for student aid, which will be a great help in the next few months.

I will be taking all of my classes online, and will be free in my space from 10am to 8pm daily for massage.

So, for me it’s looking up, but it’s still tight.

If you were a client, and would like to help me out through the Pandemic as a long (or short) distance Patron, you can venmo me, or send me a donation through my GoFundMe page.

If you would instead like to make me earn my keep by giving you a massage (with a mask), then I am open to that as well. 🙂 Make me use my hands!

I miss massage! And I miss the smiles and the hugs. But I will be here when those of you who are far away are ready to come and see me again.

It will be a pleasure to serve you!

Again, my daily availability is 10am to 8pm. If you were a older client of mine I’ll charge you my original rates for the 65 min or 90 min massage.

And any help through Venmo and GoFundMe is greatly appreciated. All funds go toward rent and bills.

Rent – $900
Utilities – $100
Misc – $50

My phone service I buy yearly and am eligible for ebt as a full time college student.

I live very frugally but that’s how I roll.

Anyway, if you need a massage, I’m still here for you. Book me and I’ll iron out your back, with a mask on.

Or if you’d like to help me from afar as a patron because of the feels I gave you, I’ll have links below! Thank you and a big bear hug for you!
🙂

My Venmo – @BCTolbert

My GoFundMe – https://www.gofundme.com/f/Brian039s-emergency-Covid19-fund

Take care of yourselves, Be safe, Wear a Mask, and hopefully I’ll see you soon!

Brian aka Cuojoe
“Uncle Cuojoe”

The Humble MT



Why I am for Medicare for All…

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I’m going to start this by laying down a few facts.

In the US, our Healthcare System is monetized.

Health insurance companies, private hospitals, physicians and pharmacy companies bottom line (and number one priority) is to make a profit.

When it comes to choice in Healthcare providers, most if not all Americans have none.

Maybe, if you are employed, you will be able to pick from a few pre-approved ‘plans’, but those plans are dependent on a few things, namely your continued employment with that company and whether or not they decide to keep that plan during the companies’ open enrollment.

So here’s my personal story…

When working full time in an Aviation Insurance company (in 2010) I paid nearly $450 a month for a PPO plan premium. During hospital visits nine times out of ten I never saw an actual doctor (only Nurse Practitioners).

During the 4 years on PPO, my doctors did the least they could possibly do for my health, I’m assuming to keep costs down. It was a stressful and infuriating time.

Then, my employer changed my healthplan on me. They decided they were no longer going to offer PPO, but switched us to a HMO HSA plan (to save money). It was either that, or no insurance at all.

So that was my choice that my employer said that I had. Switch over to the new health insurance or get it on your own at market rates.

That year, a few months after the switch, I had an emergency appendectomy.

One night in the hospital cost me $40,000.

$40,000.

I received multiple bills from that visit, and a few duplicates from the same doctors. All with different rates and no consistency. I actually had to fight my Medical Insurance company on these bills, and was charged hundreds of dollars for what were essentially 2-5 minute follow ups.

As far as my employer was concerned, I was let go at the end of the year, and had the option to switch to a Cobra plan. I don’t think I have to tell you how expensive that shit was.

~

Fast forward to my current life. I am living in California, and fortunately, given our fairly socialist way of divvying up Medicare benefits here, as a struggling college student I can get basic Medicare through Medicaid in California.

I’ve been on this Medicare for close to 3 1/2 years now, and can say wholeheartedly that the service I’ve gotten from The LGBT Center and through L.A. Care has been much better than the PPO I used to pay close to $5,400 in premiums a year for. (That is, $5,400 before Co-Pays and Fees and stuff. Excluding whatever my employer paid in their portion at the time too.)

So what’s my point?

My experience is just one of many. And the fact is, there is absolutely no fucking reason we shouldn’t have Medicare For All in this country. Any politician that says otherwise is most likely in the pocket of the Insurance Companies, Doctor’s Associations and ‘Big Pharma’ (I really hate using that term Big Pharma, but it’s appropriate here.)

And NOW, given the onslaught of Covid-19, we are seeing more and more people losing their jobs (and their insurance) when they need it most. Our politicians have dragged their feet and continue to do so as our country falls apart.

Our government is dragging their feet on the subject of Medicare for All because they personally wouldn’t benefit from it. Reps on the left and right side of the aisle get money from insurance companies that are essentially legal bribes. and at the moment, instead of simply expanding Medicare to the uninsured, our leaders want to expand COBRA, which would essentially cost more for everyone.

The whole situation is a mess right now. And those that make millions and hold the purse strings, don’t understand how someone can’t live on unemployment and overpriced COBRA insurance (that they might not qualify for) and $1,200 for 10 weeks (If they ever get it.).

So what’s next for us after the pandemic lock-down?

I’m hoping that people will become more vocal about progressive, people-centered politics. And that more of us understand now, through this experience, that the status quo doesn’t work for the bulk of Americans. In fact, we’re working and plugging away for scraps.

At this point I can no longer work in my chosen field, massage and bodywork, because of the virulent nature of Covid-19. All the major organisations that provide insurance for body-workers, like ABMP, either recommend or  have ordered legit massage therapists to close up shop.

Even though massage therapists aren’t doctors, the ideology behind the saying, “DO NO HARM” is still taken seriously. I’m one of those, so I closed up shop a month ago.

We are in a public emergency. A WORLDWIDE pandemic. Something that most of us haven’t experienced in our lifetimes until now.

Businesses are shuttered. People have lost their jobs and their health insurance. In some cases too, their homes. Some people are getting sick and many are dying. It’s a shit show.

So, why is it so difficult to imagine offering health insurance, like the NHS in the UK? Or social programs abroad, so that that burden will be lifted for those of us already struggling?

Make everyone eligible for Medicare, properly fund it instead of stripping it for the benefit of private health insurance companies. And yes, start taxing the super wealthy and businesses like Fed Ex and Amazon.

Any half measure is pointless and a slap in the face of working Americans. And yes, that includes the bodyworkers like me.

Thanks for reading, and please take care of yourselves!

Brian aka Cuojoe
The Humble MT

Los Angeles and Covid-19

Good afternoon folks,

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak I will not be offering massage in the foreseeable future.

The massage I practice is not safe as the Covid-19 virus is so infectious, and outcomes for those who catch it so unpredictable. (Yesterday we had our second death in Los Angeles County, a 34 year old man in Pasadena.)

Last night citizens were ordered to stay at home, with caveats, kind of a soft lock down. I have the feeling that L.A. being L.A., a lot of people are going to go hiking.

Me, I am going to take this forced pause to reflect on my present state and set my sails for future possibilities.

I will return.

Until then, please be safe and listen to your local authorities on updates for Covid-19.
This is not a time to be passive.

It’s been a pleasure serving you all!

Brian aka Cuojoe

The Humble MT

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Me. December 20th, 2017

 

On living this modern life, ‘Sleeping’

Usually I like to chat with my clients before or after their massage, and, often the noise of daily media, and constant need to be connected is a major cause of stress.

I’m at my best when I get at least 7 hours of sleep.

What happens to me, if I’m not careful, is I get sucked into a online controversy or reading through Twitter rants, and before I know it, BAM, it’s Midnight, and I have to wake up at 5am.

So I have to make it a point to unplug before bed.

If you think about it, unless it’s an emergency, (for most of us social media isn’t) there’s no reason to get sucked into a late night debate when you could be chilling out and winding down your brain.

Sleep is the time when our body recharges. For men, it’s said that the highest levels of testosterone regenerates during REM sleep.

Low testosterone can cause all sorts of stress and health issues for men.

Not everyone needs a full 8 hours, but most of us could probably do with more sleep than we get.

So that’s part of the changes I made for myself over the summer. More rest, more sleep, and just generally taking it easy.

I have quite a few personal goals I’ve set for myself, in the baby stages really, so being well rested is important. And I highly recommend that for anyone coming to see me for massage.

Make sure you’re hydrating, unplugging, and that you get enough sleep.

That’s really the only thing I’m allowed as an MT to suggest. 🙂

Just a thought…
Be well!

Brian

On self care, ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’…

Good day to you all,

I hope you all are doing well!

Me? I’m doing good! My next semester of school begins at the end of the month, and I’m excited to jump back into it after a much needed summer break.

On top of school, and planned palliative care training over winter (With the Heart Touch project) I’ll be finishing my first novel and going through the process of starting a micro book publishing business. It’s a busy time for me but a good time.

I will be taking online classes the entirety of this next semester. This will help me stay well rested during my studies, and have an open availability for massage.

So my hours are the same, 8am to 8pm. With final massage start time for new clients at 7pm for a 65 minute massage.

The other changes I’ve made are for my rates.

A 65 minute massage is $80 (from $75), and the 90 minute is $115 (from $100). I no longer offer 120 minute massage.

Even with the slight increase, I’m still inexpensive given the type of massage I offer. That flow-y, all body massage that you know and love. (Which now includes sensual elements on request.) I keep my rates below market for Los Angeles but still offer a quality massage that comes from clinical and spa training.

A therapeutic massage is always apart of every treatment.

~

Keeping the flow going in stressful times can be difficult.

Learning how to embrace calm is not something that suddenly happens, you have to work on it, practice it.

During a recent massage, my right shoulder stiffened up to the point that if I continued, there was a possibly I might injure myself. My flow was disrupted, and I felt it and stopped about 45-50 minutes into the session.

This is what I did, I stopped the massage.
I tried to explain, not so eloquently, that I wasn’t strong enough for the session and needed to stop.
I offered to refer the client to someone who could give them the type of massage I at that point couldn’t, and mentioned the other masseur to be ‘a bigger guy’.
I didn’t charge them for my time.

That all seemed reasonable to me, but the client took what I said to a dark place.

Especially when I mentioned that the other masseur was ‘bigger than me’. He assumed that was my way of saying that he was ‘fat’.  Upon leaving, he said, “You should say you don’t massage fat people in your ads!” and stormed out.

To say that I was shocked about his interpretation and reaction is an understatement. It left me floored but I didn’t feel bad about his dig for long.

On my side, I did everything as a therapist I was supposed to do.

The main thing is, I listened to what my body was telling me and stopped the massage before I possibly fucked up my shoulder. I can’t afford ANY downtime as an MT. And stopping the massage didn’t help my finances, but neither would getting messed up and not being able to work for a few weeks.

So that’s what I learned from THAT experience that I would like to pass to you.

I work on your bodies. And when you are on the table you are in my care. This is regardless of your height, disability, weight, race, hairiness or age.

It’s worth addressing because so many of us have experienced body shaming and prejudice in our lives.

When my client said what he said, I felt bad. But not because of anything I did to him.

I felt bad because I couldn’t apologize for what other people might have said or done to him in his lifetime. I can only respond to his anger with acceptance and kindness. (And an ‘Oh well, Fuck it!’ type of attitude.)

I work on all body types, all races, all ages. And most of the people I work on have some form of touch deprivation. And I address that with the most loving, connected touch I can muster.

But here is my personal rule…

I will not work on a client if I feel out of sorts, ill, sore or strained. There was a time when I was in a mad hustle and I went against that rule, to the detriment of my health and well being. And in effect, my massage.

So this is my wish for you. That if you ever feel strained, ill or out of sorts that you stop for a moment and listen to what your body is telling you.

(Exp, If you feel like you’ll fuck up your back if you try to move a stove on your own, it might be best to check yourself.)

This is an important form of self care.

If others get upset by you addressing your pain, then respond as kindly as you can.

But listen to your body. Always, listen to your body.

Thanks for reading!

With Respect,
Your MT, BCT

If you like what I write here you can tip me through the Venmo app! I do not use Venmo for massage payments, only for tips! All tips and contributions go toward helping with monthly expenses and education.

Brian Tolbert – @BCTolbert
Thanks for your kindness!

Massage Therapist or ‘Healer’?

“THE STRUGGLE IS REAL…”

Self employment as an MT in Los Angeles has had it’s fair share of challenges. As I begin my career, I feel a little frustration as I constantly see posts on FB from friends and acquaintances about how they had the best $15 massage, ‘It was so relaxing!’. I just don’t know how to compete with that, or to respond to their posts without throwing major shade. 🙂

The market here in Los Angeles is SATURATED with MT’s, Day Spas and Massage Parlours. Where is a bearded, newly born MT to go in a city that seems to understand the necessity of massage BUT is also looking to save a buck by bypassing you and going straight to the Red Lotus Inn for the $25 groupon special?

So I meditate and mull on what makes me different, why would you want my touch versus an 80-year-old Korean woman with a killer grip, or a half-naked masseur with 500,000 instagram followers and a bio on Smutjunkies? Why would you want The Humble MT versus a Reiki /  Shaman / Tantric master who specializes in energetic Yoni massage, or a Sports massage guru who promises to cure what ails you just by looking in your general direction?

Sigh.

So I guess step one for me, for my own peace of mind, is to relax and breathe into this as if I were performing a massage session for myself.  That tension I’m feeling is like a slight tightening in my glutes. I just got to knead and squeeze the hell out of it and then I’ll feel looser…

pet massage

Okay, so now that I feel a little bit looser, what exactly do I offer vs the other types of therapists above?

Essentially, we all offer the same thing, right?

Well, yes and no…

Not all types of  manual therapy is the same. While some people might do well with a simple touch massage, others will do better with a full on ROLFING. (Spits that word out with a exaggerated German accent for emphasis.) So not every therapist has the same type of touch. I tend to be energetic and connected, and depending on whom I’m working on the pressure of touch will just naturally adjust with the flow.

The type of massage I do is essentially a relaxation massage on steroids.

My thought regarding bodywork (in general) is that it is a necessary component for good health. Not just the manipulation of tissue that occurs during a straight forward massage, but the practice of touch therapy in general. The research of Tiffany Field regarding the benefits of touch is a good example. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiffany_Field).

I am a full-time private therapist now. And I enjoy the freedom that it gives me, but again, how to differentiate what I do vs. what they do?

A few fellow MT friends of mind have pointed out to me, that, essentially, we are all a ‘tribe of healers’. That sometimes the type of healing varies, and that some people will connect with you instantly. This isn’t a competition here. This is a community.

I appreciate that line of thought.

And adding to that, I say that I am not the healer, but that the client is. That ultimately what we are doing as bodyworkers is awakening the ‘healing energy’ that we all have, whether it be through a simple touch massage, energy therapies like Reiki, structural bodywork (that feels like you’re being run over by a steam roller), (Cough cough) Tantric massage (Cough), or just simply talking. We can help open the doors to that inner healer in you.

(Lights a little patchouli incense and sagely strokes on my beard.)

I’ll have to mull on this further. My thoughts regarding this subject will most definitely evolve. I question myself the more I learn, and the more I communicate with other MT’s. And I believe that to be a good thing.

A very good thing.

So now, back to work! Thanks for reading!

PS,
Any thoughts or words of wisdom from other MTs, ‘healers’ or seekers is much appreciated! But in keeping in line with the ‘healing comminity’ vibe, please leave any cynical shade in the lighting aisle at The Home Depot. Thanks a bunch for being awesome! 🙂

Yours in health,
Brian aka Cuojoe

 

 

My road to health, aka, “Why I stopped eating whole apple pies before going to bed…”

So, it’s October, the New Year is around the corner. For me, it’s a time when holiday invitations bring palatable dread. The temptation to overindulge is EVERYWHERE.

I have written about my ongoing battle with Type 2 Diabetes a little, but given the format that was a very condensed version of my story. I had abused my body by eating shitty most of my life, and the accumulative effect of that self-abuse lead me to have full-blown diabetes by the time I was 38.

There are a lot of people who have Type 2 Diabetes that don’t know it. Those particularly at risk tend to be low-income folk that might not have healthcare benefits. Or who have insurance, but don’t get regular check ups.

Over the past few years, as I’ve made the transition from duly employed office monkey to my pleasant but inconsistent life as a beginning freelance MT I haven’t had health insurance.

I generally consider myself to be a healthy eater, but since May my habits haven’t been the best. As a consequence, I began to feel ‘heavy’ inside, with an ever so slight malaise.  Also, I started feeling a light tingly to the skin, reminiscent to the electric shocks I felt from the neuropathy I suffered through when my symptoms were at their worst. (Like swimming in a swimming pool in Palm Springs at noon, it just didn’t feel good.)

I decided to go get a check up. I signed up for MediCal (the state of California’s version of Medicaid) and had a long overdue physical. A few days after my blood work came back. My blood sugar, that I thought I had under control, was now at around 400 mg/dl. 

The normal range should be 70-100 mg/dl, or around 135-140 mg/dl after a meal.

I had BBQ sauce for blood. 

Another downer, not helped by the high blood sugar at all, was my testosterone count was below 300. :-/ Which for a man’s health can be a very bad thing.

So, for the second time in my life, I have had to make the choice between eating empty calories (Whole apple pies before going to bed…), or eating for my health.

I spent a good half hour of shaming myself for being a dumbass. Then I went downstairs and cleared out my cupbaords of carbs. Crackers, flour for making baked goods, anything sweet and unnecessary, all gone.

For this last week, I have been weaning myself off the taste for carbs and sugar. All my meals have been low carb, and I only eat when I’m truly hungry. I drink plain water, unsweetened green tea and coffee, and water with citrus, vanilla and/or rose.

The past 5 days have been a mixture of heaven and hell for me. Already my body has been adjusting to this new way of eating. The main thing I notice is that the flavor in my food, like the subtle sweetness of lemon, mushrooms and salad greens are far more pronounced. With eating a breakfast full of fat I have less hunger by the afternoon that if I had a high carb breakfast. This morning I had an egg fried in brown butter, a side of mushrooms, red bell pepper, and a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese served on a 6 inch salad plate.

Everyone is different in their nutritional needs, for me I feel healthiest when I eat moderate amounts of red meat and pork, and foods like whole yoghurt and butter, nut butters without additives, garlic and onions, and green leafy veggies, bell peppers, beans, low sugar fruit like berries, and mushrooms.

For whatever reason, I have never been big on most fish, and I only eat chicken if it’s prepared by someone else, and will go for the fattier portions even then. My body thrives on healthy fatty food. So I’m eating a modified low carb cross between the Keto and Paleo diets.

So yeah, day six and I feel much better. But this isn’t a passing phase, this is my life now. As is my current focus on massage therapy and writing.

So as I finish up this post I wish you the best in your own journey to health, through diet, relaxation and massage! Hopefully my experience will help you somehow! Food is fuel!

Thanks for reading!

B.C. Tolbert, The Humble MT

1st Meal
My first ‘low carby’ meal a week ago. Well, with the exception of the beans and the sparse crotons. 🙂