Photo of Carolyn “CC” Hart, CMT by Annetta Kolzow

The trees are turning all yellowy-gold here in California, and I can’t help but think of my mother. Autumn was her favorite season, and tomorrow marks her 81st birthday. She’s been gone for almost twenty years, but her impact on my life lingers on, particularly in regard to my vocation.

My mother helped me get my license to practice therapeutic massage, and I’m forever indebted to her for her generosity and support. I’ve been a Certified Massage Therapist for more than two decades, a career that continues to spark my intellectual curiosity. I love the body sciences…anatomy and kinesiology and biomechanics…and I feel well suited to a job that helps other people feel their best. While most massage therapists wash out of the occupation before their seventh year in business, my manual therapy practice is thriving in its twenty-fourth year. For all of this, I’m thankful.

But I am most grateful for the strange conflation of the senses that is mirror-sensory synaesthesia. I was born this way, with my vision and my mirror neurons and my skin all entwined together. When I give people therapeutic massage, I feel as if I am the one getting a massage. When I work with tight muscles and my hands palpate their shape beneath the skin, my own muscles quiver and twitch in response to the knots and trigger points uncovered by my fingers. And, when I see my clients injuries…their bumps and bruises and cuts…I immediately feels shocks of pain akin to electricity that shoot down my dermatomes from my hips to my heels. This synaesthesia-for-pain facilitates my sense of empathy.

My grapheme-color synaesthesia is immensely helpful in my career as well. My dirty little secret is that I never write any of my appointments onto a calendar. Instead, they appear like a vibrantly colored hologram that surrounds my body. I know who is on my schedule on what day and time simply by the colored patterns created by that appointment when it was booked, whether in person, on the phone, or by email. And, that colored pattern occupies the three-dimensional space around my body, so it’s quite easy for me to find my upcoming appointments.

Friday October 7th, is the prettiest shade of pale ocher punctuated by a stripe of deep scarlet. I will think much of my mother tomorrow, and once again wonder if I got my synesthete genes from her.