Healing a vurp-worthy word

“Ampersands &” claims its purpose

Even before I could write, I was a writer. I’m accepting myself as one of those humans who was just born that way. Can’t be helped or changed. Good luck stifling it. Not even a debilitating, brain-scrambling smash with a tractor-trailer accomplished that.

It follows, then, that when I first became an acupuncturist, I geeked out about the content marketing potential of my new profession. (Quick summary for the non-dweebs among you, content is generally accepted as having four functions: inspiring, educating, informing, and entertaining. Anything you write for your business can and oughta do one or two of the above. More if you’re wicked skilled with the words. M’kay, you’re up to speed; let’s get back to it.)

Acupuncture and herbal medicine as professions in America need a shit-ton of savvy and sane positioning and educating, especially in my neck of the woods.

So back when I was starting out in private practice, I felt excited about and prepared for what I probably thought of as “a marketing opportunity,” bless my heart. I was eager and energetic and in my early 30s. I had one small toddling child and thought I understood sleep deprivation, among many other things whose edges I had only glimpsed. I was precious.

As I fiddled around with my content and marketing plans, I realized two undeniable and uncomfortable truths: the word “healing” made my skin crawl, and the word “healer” made me vurp. (But I wish it was “purp.” Puke is so much more my speed than vomit.)

My figurative hives and indigestion were due to the fact that the term “healing” has been co-opted and misused, abused and misunderstood, kidnapped and misconstrued.

Healing lounges about, secure in its position at the top of the List of Things People Reaaaaaalllly Want: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial, environmental, racial, sexual, and likely many other -al healing.

And some opportunistic people greedily exploit that want, and/or they try to own healing. These schmucky perverters can be found anywhere - in new-age alternative health, big pharma, supplement companies, fitness and fashion, mainstream medicine, the patriarchy at large, and religions. Hi, that’s some baggage.

Endemic to this problem is a behavior I call “healier-than-thou,” which is exactly what you’d guess. A smug and condescending approach to all things “healing.” Typically with a hefty price tag - monetary or otherwise. Ew, count me out.

Furthermore, the label “healer” just made everything worse. It sounded like a combo of delusional and creepy. And also something that could possibly get me burnt at the stake or dunked in our local swampy pond. I decided I’d pass.

So I wrote about healing without naming it directly. And that was fine; it helped me figure lots of things out and make my peace with the word. When people called me a “healer,” I eventually stopped cringing, rolling my eyes, or otherwise outwardly flicking off the label. Maybe to them I am a healer; I’ll more or less accept that.

What is healing?

Over the years this has been my driving question. I’ve asked it in various forms. I’ve asked it of various people. I’ve asked myself. I’ve asked my husband. I’ve asked my clients. I’ve asked my children. I’ve asked my ancestors. I’ve asked rocks. The answers differ, as you might expect.

What is healing?

Is it a misnomer? (Often.) A cure? (Rarely.) A myth? (Occasionally.) A belief? (Always/never.) A delusion? (No comment.) A quaint lil outdated superstition? (Nothing about healing is quaint.)

This questioning led to a prior question. Is healing even real?

I’ve landed on yes. Without a doubt, yes. Healing is real. But it’s usually not what we’ve been taught to believe it is.

It’s an awkward, alienating, experiential, stupefying, powerful, accessible, and incalculably beautiful trigger-storm of awakenings and releasings.

(I think, too, healing is a place. When I’m disoriented and look around asking myself What is this place? The answer is usually, Oh yeah, it’s healing.)

It’s hard to encapsulate healing because it’s wrong to try. Healing is not a pill.

Healing is a practical art, and it’s learnable if not entirely teachable.

Who is the doodling healer? Me, that’s who.

I’m no stranger, then, to healing; professionally and personally, theoretically and practically. Yet after the previously mentioned wreck that wrecked and rerouted every facet of my life, I found myself hard at work/fumbling in various new-to-me arenas of healing.

My mantra became “slower,” and then “slower still.”

Recently I’ve had the energy to turn some of my attention to writing plans - a shockingly optimistic course of action for someone who still can’t look up at the ceiling without falling over, but hey! I’ll take it! I deleted my personal blogs, pulled a bunch of pages from my website, and wondered what I’d do next.

A writer friend recommended Substack, so I started Ampersands & without a defined sense of what I would do here - other than explore my creativity and hope a reader or two enjoyed that exploration with me.

Now I’m starting to see this newsletter is about healing, and that of course it is. It’s not a how-to, healier-than-thou fix-a-thon because aw holy hell there aren’t enough vurps or purps in the universe to express my disgust with that.

Rather, through Ampersands & I seek to communicate healing by way of experience and observation. Tools include doodles, poems, and commentary. Results vary.

Sometimes people tell me I’m a little different. I think we’re all a little different, especially when we pause to examine ourselves. I love what happens when humans do that, and when we put it to voice with other humans.

That’s called healing, and it requires overlaps.

As a generality, I love overlaps and edges and intersections; I am not down with the dismemberment and compartmentalization of human experience… a.k.a. relentless binary thinking to the exclusion of feeling and wisdom. That’s why the name of this newsletter isn’t Either/Or. We got plenty of that out there, thanks.

I’m not a “put nature on the rack” kind of girl. That shit leads to downright suffering every time.

Many are the lenses consciousness offers humans, and when we use them in combination, we can see some amazing things. But we have to keep choosing to.

Right now I think healing requires justice, awareness, joy, and creativity. So I made us a Venn Diagram, because fuck yes I did.

Here’s how I see it. Justice begets and needs clarity and trust. Awareness begets and needs clarity and devotion. Joy begets and needs devotion and connection. Creativity begets and needs connection and trust. And through all that we get to the juicy center of healing.

So that’s what I write and doodle about. I’m glad you’re here. Please spread the &.

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