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Adventures from Karen's Clinic

Transcript from The Radical RMT Podcast #028 - Karen Munro-Capel

This is the radical RMT podcast where I talk to radical massage therapists chat about the unique lifestyle we have in this profession and cover topics we care about beyond the massage table. My name is Krista Dicks. I'm a registered massage therapist with over a decade of experience, if you want an inspiring career that leads to an incredible life. Stay tuned.


Krista Dicks: Karen, thank you for connecting with me on the radical RMT Podcast. I'm speaking with Karen today who is basically the comic that you'll see in many massage therapy resources. Her comic is adventures from Karen's clinic. And I'm a big fan. And it's always nice to see at the end of an email, but there's just a little, little something that you can relate to as a massage therapist that puts a smile on your face. So thank you so much for agreeing to chat with me today. Um, basically that you're out of Ottawa, we're both in Ottawa and you have an extensive history of animation in your past and then you became a massage therapist. So you're doing animation for 20 years in the Toronto area and a little bit here?

Karen Munro: Actually more here in Ottawa than in Toronto. I started in Toronto, I studied at Sheridan College, worked on Scooby Doo was the first job I had out of training, and different commercials at Navanna. And then worked on Inspector Gadget, and went overseas to Japan and Taiwan.

Krista Dicks: Okay, that's where it was created, like the animation was done?

Karen Munro: It was truly international, because it was created in the States, the idea of it and then it was moved around. They were able to animate and produce it cheaper overseas, but they needed to have things set up here. And so that was some of the work that I was doing and my husband at the time we're doing here. And then we were asked to go over there. It was an interesting job.

Krista Dicks: Lovely. And so what you mentioned in your bio, as I've sort of scoped out your website that you've been drawing for as long as you can remember.

Karen Munro: Artists are in my family, my grandmother taught painting, my aunt, she went to the Toronto Ontario School of Art years and years ago, and she married an artist and my cousins are artists, and we're all doing something mine is I have painted, I have done those things but really, my love has always been cartoons, and consistent all the years. And my mother kept the drawings I did as a kid. So it's really weird to look back. Not only how strange the little drawings were, but how odd my humor was. It's very weird to look back.

Krista Dicks: Okay, interesting. So, but you would have had a lot of influence, obviously, from the artists, you know, in your family or things that you were exposed to. So certainly that would come through in.

Karen Munro: My dad was a watchmaker and clock repair. But he had an artistic eye. And as my mother did, they wouldn't say they were artists. But my mother had painted taking lessons from her mother-in-law. But she would insist that she wasn't an artist, but she had an eye. The house was always done in a way that had a real flair to it. But she would still no I am not an artist.

Krista Dicks: Okay, and then there was no external pressure for you to create, as well. It was just something that naturally came out for you?

Karen Munro: It did naturally come out. But I would do cartoons for people for birthdays and events. And there did I was consistently doing and so there was a pressure I brought to bear on myself, but the family did expect. Well, gee I didn't get a card this year, or I didn't get something. And so there would, be this pressure to do it. And sometimes I really didn't really have an idea or didn't really want to do it. But there was that pressure, but there was certainly no pressure to go into the business. When I was in childcare. I've studied childcare for two years at Fanshawe College, decided to get out of it. And I wanted to take animation at Sheridan College in Oakville. And my parents were not really happy about that. I even asked my aunt who was an artist saying what do you think? Do you think she should be doing it? My aunt said no it's a tough life being an artist, I would recommend she not do it. And they hung up the phone within half hour, my aunt phoned back and said, ignore everything I said because if she wants to do it and be an artist, she should do it. And I made a living at it for 20 years. But it was something I really love to do.

Krista Dicks: Excellent. And so after, like, what drew you to a close of your animation like full time career, and that you'd then were interested in becoming a massage therapist or transitioning careers?

Karen Munro: There was an element of as much fun as it was being in animation. It was a high pressure job environment, because often, there would be a project that would be in the system, we would have often been behind schedule, we needed to get it done yesterday, it would be overproduced and you wouldn't have very much money. And there was always this push, and after so many years we kept is this never going to change. And it really didn't fundamentally change. And after a while I grew quite weary of always being under somebody else's directions. And I thought God would be great if I could just run my own show. And I always like doing massage I had studied massage down in Kripalu it was a health and yoga center down in Massachusetts, and I'd taken an intensive program there. So I was considered a body worker not registered. So I came back. And I advertised myself that way I worked at my home, while still doing freelance animation. I did crafts, I did all sorts of things to keep body and soul together. And I did that for about nine years. Finally, Algonquin College opened up a school for massage therapy, because there had been no schools. I would have gone and been more official about it, but there was nothing in the area. Finally, they opened up the school I dived into the second stream. And again, while I was studying, during summers, I was still doing freelance animation. And finally, upon graduating and getting a job, and setting up my own clinic, I was able to go I don't want to do animation again. And I didn't draw for quite a while because I was so sick of it. And it was mostly there was this pressure. I love the people. I'm still friends with the people I met in animation, but it more fun money my own show. Yeah, so it just made I had the best of both worlds I get to draw, but I get to do massage now. So really, to me the two things go really well together.

Krista Dicks: When did sort of the drawing come back in your massage practice?

Karen Munro: I moved out I was living with a sweetie, we broke up and I moved into a place of my own, where I was able to set up my animation table. That's, that's my animation table. That's awesome. And because I really didn't have any other place to work when I was sharing an accommodation, although I did draw didn't do very much. But once I had the table, if I got an idea, I could just draw it. And then when you have a light box, you put another page over and I can quickly make changes or tweak it really fast. And so because of that speed and the availability of the table, then it became more fun. Then I started to do more drawings. And I didn't do any of the massage stuff right away. But I did do just my own drawings for people, for just friends and things like that.

Krista Dicks: Yeah. Do you know how many comics you've created so far for adventures from Karen's clinic? Like how many scenarios you put on paper?

Karen Munro: Okay, I started in 2005. And I done one cartoon pretty much every month. So you think I'm not

Krista Dicks: working on math? Yeah. Massage Therapists aren't always awesome at math. Well, I'm sure someone out there has figured it out already.

Karen Munro: Even as an artist, an animator I thought, why do I need math? I'm an artist. And then then in animation, we were told that we had to calculate pans and different things and then I was at a loss again.

Krista Dicks: Do you remember the first idea you had to create for the comment like what happened?

Karen Munro: You know what I'm going to back up I just wanted to tell you about how it started. And then, um, I don't know if you know Pam Fitch. She's well known in the Ottawa area and she is a teacher at Algonquin College. I met her because I was also teaching through Algonquin doing outreach. She at the time was the chair of the OMTA, which now is called the RMTAO. And they were had a magazine called massage therapy today. It was called something else before but she was the one that asked me back in 2005, would you consider putting together comic strip for massage? And so that's what we did. And so then in those issues of the magazine, some were black and white some then got coloring, and we went back to back in black and white. And that's where the format of the shape of the cartoon came in. Because it isn't just in a line like other cartoons, because I had to fit what was to fit into the magazine. Right? Then they said, you know, we really would like the magazine to be more academic, more serious. And the cartoon didn't really quite fit with that. So then they said, well, let's publish you once a month with the Friday file. Although it came out every Friday, I'm on the last Friday, every month. So then I remember sitting down talking to Pam about this, and already, in my mind had some ideas. And one of the ideas, one of the first ones was the idea of how our clients, it's very difficult to get them to tell us accurately how much pressure and how for some people I had a drawing of the jackhammer, somebody’s back, and they're going, can you go a little deeper, and then somebody that I'm just coming in the door, and they're like, that's a little too deep, just lighten up a little. So that idea was bouncing around. And so then, that was, I think, one of the very first.

Krista Dicks: Amazing, it's wonderful. And, I mean, I'm sure it's just recognizable, so many of the scenarios are recognizable to every massage therapist. And it's just that, that feeling like oh, it's not hasn't just happened to me, like it's happened to other therapists before and, and putting that humorous spin on it, I think really, really helps in some of the more difficult situations and you are really good at creating a comic for both sides. What's funny for us, or what might be funny to the client and then some of like, the some of the scenarios that are like even the one about like, bad breath, let's say like, but on the client part, right? And it's just like, yes, like that is just something that that happens, but then they turn around and might say something about yours. And you're like what, like, it's not, it's not like that at all. So there's I love like how many angles you can come at it. And it's all relatable. You mentioned that the magazine said that they wanted to be more academic and I need to remove that humorous side to the profession. But that I'm understanding is very important to you is humor for like your well-being. Can you can you elaborate on that?

Karen Munro: I personally use humor a lot when I'm working with my clients. So separate from the cartoons. I find it a really quick way to connect. And a quick way to find out about my client because I'll say a little joke. And I'm watching to see what their reaction can be. And there's something that had happened to me, it actually happened to me where I went, I said, No, take a couple of nice deep breaths right into your belly. But it got mixed up and said Take a couple of deep breaths into my belly. And so I often will say that to a new client that just say, oh, yeah, I got mixed up one time, and I watch and some people just about fall off the table. They're just, their whole body goes up and down and they laugh so hard. In some people, it's like they didn't even hear me, right? It's not they're not and so that says a great deal to me about how the rest of the treatment will go. Okay, this is someone that they didn't laugh. This is someone I'm not going to be talking a lot with or joking around with. I'm going to just be really straightforward. Some people that like a laugh and I can see them relax. From laughing. I think okay, when it's appropriate I might say something else. Not all the time. You don't want to be joking all the time. Especially I don't talk about them I'm joking about you, me. And so then they can relax and know that okay. And some of the most prickly irritable people start. They're scared usually but yeah, for some reason we don't know why. And they'll come in and be all, you know kind of pissy pants and not want nothing we do will be good enough or right? And then a little joke can be interjected. Next thing I know they're just smiling and relaxed. It doesn't happen every time but I just find it as for it as a tool. It's something I have at my disposal, and I definitely use a lot. And that thing about thinking that the cartoon was really for massage therapists. I had that in mind for a long time. It's only they will find it funny. And then a couple of my friends had seen them. And it's Oh, that's funny. Yeah, you get this? And I Yeah. Okay, so then that as time passed, that's when I began to post them in a more public format on my Facebook is I didn't at first think my clients would find them funny. But they did.

Krista Dicks: Yeah, that's good. I was going to ask if any clients have recognized themselves and wondered if that was about them.

Karen Munro: Sometimes I will, something will happen. And I'll deliberately send it to that client. Because I think there was one girl who loved heavy metal music. I was sort of surprised. Can I play my own music? And she put the stuff on, it was really loud and raunchy, it was great. I enjoyed it. But so I said, Man, that's a good cartoon and, and I said, Can I use that? And she said, Okay, so then when I did a cartoon about that, playing air guitar on her leg, she thought that was funny. And she was someone that was really quite deadpan, and not particularly humorous. But when I used her idea, she then found it funny.

Krista Dicks: Yeah, that's awesome. How are you creating right now, with, you know, I mean, certainly, you probably got an archive of material that you could use?

Karen Munro: I'm drawing brand new things. And I found that the whole pandemic, a lot of funny ideas started to come to me. So I'm doing a couple of things. I just started to do cartoons about the pandemic, I did one, just me with a cone on my head saying, I'm trying not to touch my face. That had nothing to do with my adventures from the clinic. But then I thought, hmm, I need to send something to be RMTAO for the Friday file. And so my first one was just my clinic with a banner that said, closed for the duration. And so that was that sort of just sets the tone. And thereafter, I began to think, well, when, what are we doing at home? What are some of the funny things that we're doing to kill time? And so that's been the series that I've been doing? I call it “the busy life of a self-isolator”. So it's funny, silly things, dancing, eating too much, trying to learn to knit, you know, different little scenarios of what are we doing at home, shredding, you know, so many people had heard for shredding all their old taxes and things. And I was doing it too. And then oh, that's, yeah, I was doing on shredding. But of course, the shredder never works when you want it to work. And then you get that stuff all over the place when you try to carry it down to the recycle bin and the trail and stuff like that. And so that's what I'm focusing on, but I'm also just doing silly cartoons about other things not to do with the clinic stuff. That has to do with looking around at what I enjoy. Um, I took them all down. Oh, people standing at the window, looking out, trying to watch what's going on in the street and getting distracted like a dog. Squirrel. That kind of thing. How silly we are at home.

Krista Dicks: And that's so fun. How important do you feel is creativity is to one's well-being like humor is obviously very important? Do you feel that creativity and maybe especially during this time is important to explore?

Karen Munro: Absolutely. And I think that we have had a very narrow view of what creativity is. I think that we as human beings are fundamentally creators. We create our lives, we create everything, and we don't need to paint a picture or build a sculpture, or dance to be creators we create all the time. And I think just sitting coloring in, I think that's why those games where you just color in not games, but there's books and books of it. It's distracting to our brain, it gets us off our habitual way of thinking to something that's very common. And when we create, we just draw our own things, or we do some sort of tasks that we are making out of our own heads, I think is really good chemically really good for the brain, they've found a sub scientifically. Sages and gurus and things have figured that out long time ago, that kind of it's meditative. And there's lots of things you can do that meditative and creativity ultimately, to me, it's a way of calming, and if anything, we need to calm ourselves at this time. And we can't do it as our normal jobs, which I think is very noble about our jobs as we calm people. But self-creativity is something that I think it's vital. And I'm really lucky that I have an outlet for it. Not everyone has this kind of outlet, but we can all do something.

Krista Dicks: Yeah, that's wonderful for you to say that we can all do something, we don't have to be good at it. We don't have to be willing to put it out there into the world, it's just important to engage in something even if it is just a coloring exercise.

Karen Munro: To see it, no one has to see right, especially for isolating at home, nobody has to see this stuff. Yeah. And I think it's just great to be doing something and well, I'm easily bored. And so I like to have something that I can like little projects around my apartment that I can just move to when I'm tired of sitting in the chair. I'm darning socks, my mother knitted socks, and I’m darning some socks, that kind of thing.

Krista Dicks: Little things to keep you busy. Within your clinic, do you have any particular focus Do you find that there is more of a draw to a particular client that comes to see or is there something in particular you love to work or type of client you'd like love to work with?

Karen Munro: I certainly started in a general way I did, I took all corners I was doing sports and elderly. I did volunteer work with the AIDS Committee. So and, and I never minded working with people that were very ill. And so as time has passed, those more fragile clients or people that I have been drawn to, or they've been drawn to me that I became the supervisor through Algonquin working at a senior's residence because I'm used to working with elderly people or people that are quite ill, I guess if I tend to, I never thought I'd be the specialist and seniors are fragile clients, but it sort of has drifted that way. Although I also work at another clinic, and I get lots of kind of sports type injuries or people that think they're all athletes, and not really a hurt themselves, working with them. I mean, I think most practices tend to be kind of general. But I do get a little bit more of the fragile people. Also, I tend to be very interested in the whole spiritual side of what we do. And so I'm getting those clients that are interested in that as well. Unbeknownst to me, it's not like I'm asking, or putting it out there verbally or written. But I'll have more and more people on my table that will start to talk in terms of more metaphysical type things. And I'm sort of startled and thinking that's of interest to me, but I did not at all think that would be of interest to them. So we might talk a little bit about that. I mean, I'm careful about getting into too deep of discussions, of course because that gets into opinion but it's fascinating to me how certain clients are drawn to certain therapists.

Krista Dicks: Yes. Yeah, a recurring theme that I've noticed with this podcast the massage therapist is that they notice and one thing that they continue to tell you know, the listeners is that we attract the clients that we need or we get the clients we deserve. You know, there's been different ways that it's been worded and I certainly I agree with that for my own practice, as well. And it changes too sometimes.

Karen Munro: I find it amusing. And I found other people this that for like, three or four clients in a row all have their left shoulder. How does that happen, but I've heard other people say, oh, yeah, that happens to me too.

Krista Dicks: Very, very interesting. Do you ever teach animation or teach art or creativity?

Karen Munro: I have, in the past, I certainly have I did down at the Ottawa School of Art. I taught cartooning and kind of animation to kids. And it was one of the toughest gigs I ever done. I thought I had this, like I have each day planned out, I had it planned, like, days and days ahead. And within the first hour, they ripped through a couple of days’ worth of information, and was like, oh, geez, what am I going do now, and I'm sweating bullets, and these kids are looking at me waiting, okay, we've done that. What's next? And I thought, I don't think I want to teach anymore like this. I haven't been doing it lately but over the years, I've taught a course just out of my living room, called “keep the humor in healing”. And I see it as a bridge for people that are interested in having fun, but looking at some spiritual things, or some types