What Was I Thinking?

Barrett L. Dorko, P.T. 

I recently got a call at my office from a massage therapist who had seen one of my patients. “The way she described what you did was fascinating,” she said, “and it certainly didn’t sound like any physical therapy I’d ever heard of. How can I learn more about what you do?” I suggested she visit my web site, to which she replied, “So, what you do is all explained there?” 

This question made me hesitate, mainly because I didn’t know the answer, and it led to this essay. 

I spent several years writing a very popular column to a well-distributed weekly called Physical Therapy Forum. This was in the early 90s and I still hear from people who read this faithfully, saved it, posted it in their departments and even designed staff meetings around something I had said. When this magazine folded in ’95 I continued to write but never found another venue with anything resembling the distribution or popularity I’d once enjoyed. I don’t think my writing suffered, but the reading of it nearly disappeared. “Why don’t you write anymore?” is what I hear from many of my colleagues at conventions, and I try not to visibly cringe. “My stuff is mainly on the Internet now,” I say, “you have to go there.” I leave out the crack about how my work no longer lands in their lap free of charge, requiring no more effort than turning a page. Today, in the middle of the year 2002, I remain amazed at the number of therapists who remain unwilling to make the effort necessary to get to a web site. But I guess that’s a different issue, and if you’re reading this, I’m preaching to the choir.  

The story goes that an aide once handed Winston Churchill a thick sheaf of paper. He said, “Young man, the size of this document guards it well against it ever being read.” I really like this, and I strive to keep my ideas contained in a few paragraphs that rarely exceed 600 words or so. I know that learning requires a commitment up front, and when the subject is laid out in a compact form that commitment is much easier to make. My essays don’t ask the reader for much in the way of time and it’s my job to make them readable and relevant.  A reviewer of my book Shallow Dive said: “The Vase, like the others in the book, is a one and a half page essay. The entire essay is visible at a glance - but this is only the apparently simple form as set down on the page. Barrett's style of writing makes his wisdom easily accessible and then allows further layers of meaning to emerge gradually in the process of reading.” My point is that brevity can be effective but only if it encourages the reader to pause and reflect, to add something of his or her own experience to mine. 

The “From Dorko’s Desk” section of this site has grown enormous. People tell me that just scrolling down the list of titles intimidates them to such a degree that they despair at ever finding what they are looking for. Remember Winston’s large sheaf of papers? To them I say, “I add essays as I write them and if one requires that you read another, that’s indicated in the description beneath the title. Otherwise, any single essay can be understood alone.” I’d also recommend you visit Soma Simple.com (there’s a banner at the bottom of my home page you can click on) and go to the “Barrett's Forums” section. “The News From Cuyahoga Falls” has been appearing there for years and often contains  shorter pieces of a more personal nature about my life and its relation to my practice and, hopefully, yours. 

I’d love to hear from anyone visiting this site. Pick any essay that catches your eye and let me know your own thoughts. I promise I’ll reply. The truth is, this rarely happens and I wonder about it. I really am readily accessible and willing to discuss any aspect of my writing or practice. Try me. 

Finally, I should say that the massage therapist who called me that day never contacted me again.  I can only guess that she came to my writing hoping to get a clear idea of what exactly it is I do and instead found only what I think. To me, one follows the other quite naturally but I know many clinicians who don’t work in this sequence very often. I can’t seem to function any other way. I think first, and the doing arises from that. After all, this is therapy, not sports. I’m reminded of what the comedienne Rosanne Barr said after recounting all the crazy choices she’s made in her life: “On my tombstone it will read, “What was I thinking?” 

This web site answers that question about me.