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  • In the summer of 1988 I was suffering from another bout of anxiety and depression. I could not sleep for many nights in a row. My husband was on a buying trip for our business. The boys needed me all day long, and I felt desperate.

    I went for consolation to my closest friends in San Cristobal — two elderly American women. They introduced me to a newcomer in town, a sturdy young woman from southern Germany who claimed to be a healer. Her name was Isabel. Isabel was as confident as I was desperate. She said she healed through very special massages. I was thrilled to find a promise of help from a woman who spoke my mother tongue.

    Realizing that I was terrified to face another long, frightening night alone, Isabel kindly offered to stay with me. Once the kids were in bed, she gave me a long massage. It was neither strong nor technically special, but I did fall asleep. I woke up, though, several times during the night. Each time I awoke, the terror immediately surged up inside me. But Isabel was there to take my hand and calm me until I fell asleep again. The next day I felt much better and was deeply grateful to Isabel.

    Anxiety attacks and sleeplessness kept returning in the following weeks and months. I visited Isabel regularly to receive her massages. Sometimes, before or afterwards, we would talk over tea or a plate of beans. She constantly talked about her special healing powers. Isabel had left Germany many years ago to travel around the world. I admired her because she had accomplished this with nearly no money, supporting herself with massages and courses she offered wherever she went. In return for her services, Isabel accepted whatever the client wished to pay. Along the way, she had even given up her German passport. In its place she said that she had received one issued by the UN for those who prefer to be citizens of the planet instead of a country. A major disadvantage of these passports, however, is that they are not recognized by a number of countries. Isabel did not care about those countries, though, and was very proud of her global citizenship.

    Only once did she talk about something personal from her childhood. She said that the kids in school had mocked and rejected her. As she shared this confidence, she was in tears. It was the only time I ever saw her as vulnerable.

    Quite a number of people in San Cristobal went to Isabel — hippies and foreigners as well as traditional San Cristobalens. Isabel attended to them all and her Spanish became quite fluent in a short time. One man brought his gardener’s son to her. The boy’s legs were paralyzed. Isabel treated him and a miracle happened — the boy started walking!

    Once we sat over herb tea in her small house. She had just returned from visiting ancient Mayan ruins.

    “You know,” she told me with a great deal of excitement, “One night as I lay in my hammock there in the jungle, I suddenly felt something very peculiar. I realized that the earth was moving faster than usual. Nobody felt it but me. I am much more sensitive than normal people.”

    I did not know what to say.

    A few weeks after that, a male friend, whom I had told about Isabel’s massages, confessed to me, “My massage with Isabel was strange. I did not want to take off my underwear, but she insisted. Then, just as I was relaxing she started talking. She said that she knew me from centuries ago when we both had lived in Tibet. That was too much for me. I don’t want any more of her massages!”

    Next, one of my employees appeared in the gallery one morning. Half of her face had dropped! She was a young woman and I could not believe that she had had a stroke, but that was what it looked like. Very alarmed, I sent her to the doctor. She returned and reported that the doctor thought that her slack face was a reaction to a severe shock.

    “Have you suffered some shock?” I asked her.

    She broke into tears. “Yes,” she sobbed. “My husband has started going to this new healer in town. A few days ago she came to give him a massage. I happened to enter the room, but no one was giving any massage. They were making love!”

    Her husband stopped the massages and slowly her paralyzed face returned to normal.

    One day Isabel came and told me that I had a problem. I had entered into a symbiotic relationship with her, she said, and I did not know who I was anymore.

    I decided that I needed to create some distance between us. Then, one day she left town.

    People have told me that she has been back to San Cristobal several times, but she has never looked for me, nor I for her. I do not know if she really has special healing powers. She unquestionably did help some people including me and I remain grateful for her holding my hand and soothing my inner demons that desperate night so many years ago.

    Art by Kiki (Taking Care Of Each Other)
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