We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Castor and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Balance is such an interesting concept to me. It shows up in so many parts of our lives – in many ways, we are in constant states of finding balance. When I first started my business, I was certain there were more linear equations to creating balance. Like, if I just do x and y at z time, then I will have achieved work/life balance and live happily ever after. But that’s not really the person I am nor the kind of work I’m engaged in. And, as I reflect more on balance, is not really how work or life plays out either. Instead, I see balance as more of this kind of constant re-calibration to see what works at a given moment. There is no “arriving” or achieving with balance; rather, it plays out more like a practice. As any business owner will tell you, there is always *something* you could be doing to be working on your business. And there is always going to be someone or something that needs your care – yourself (first and foremost), loved ones, passions and other hobbies, etc. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the curveballs life will throw at you. That’s part of what makes up our whole – all these different relationships and interests and values, etc. And we have to figure out how to be in active relationship with nurturing all those parts (life, work, love, etc) – because that matters for the wellbeing of our whole selves. Apart from recognizing balance as a practice, I would say the biggest thing that has changed with balance over time has actually been my relationship to boundaries, and a commitment to dismantling the concept that my worth is tied to my production. I have become more steadfast in my commitment to nurturing all the parts of me, to nurturing my whole self. Which, in turn, nurtures all my relations, my community, and allows me to show up with greater presence and integrity in my work.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My business, Agua y Sangre Healing, is an offering of compassion to the change makers, the care takers, and the emotional laborers. It is a hand, a nest, to help hold the space with those that are really holding our communities down. Prior to the pandemic, our work was centered pretty squarely in massage therapy and therapeutic touch – with offerings of herbal education and remedios and other healing circles. Now that myself and so many other business owners are learning how to shift and “pivot,” we’re transitioning these offerings to the virtual sphere. And figuring out how to lift up the other parts of this business (a balance practice in it’s own right) to still offer support and nurturing space for our community. These days, the work looks like virtual healing circles with somatic practices to ground and nourish our nervous systems. As well as holding space for members of our comunidad to show up in their whole selves, without judgment or needing to immediately fix anything, to share their stories and truths as a form of healing. It looks like heart to heart sessions to offer intuitive guidance, somatic tools, and taking care coaching. It looks like herbal wellness classes to facilitate the connection between herbal allies and the people. And it is also re-balancing and re-calibrating in how I take care of myself, so that I can be more present in this work. This work was born out of an offering of love for my communities and a want to center the healing of BIPOC and LGBTQ peoples, while offering nurturing, compassionate, and competent care. And this work continues to be fueled by my love for my BIPOC and QTBIPOC and LGBTQ fam. I know that I am resilient. Some days I have to remind myself of that over and over and over. And I know that I do struggle/have struggled along this path of life, and as a business owner. The (business) world as we know it was built by and for rich white men. And to be a queer, mixed latinx femme in that world is an inherent clash, a struggle. It’s almost hard not to think of the struggles, what I’ve “overcome.” (“Overcoming,” may be a better term, and it’s reach is still not big enough to cover things like systemic oppression, but I digress). And to be a small business owner during this pandemic (amid an uprising, amid these fires, amid…) is a.mind.trip. I want so much for us to be able to rest. To tend to ourselves, to tend to our loved ones, to tend to our communities, to tend to our *lungs* and to our hearts – without the worry of keeping the lights on and the doors open. I want us to be able to rest. Especially my BIPOC fam. (And I acknowledge that sometimes our work is that tending – but I want the hustle out of the work! Just as I want for reparations for my Black siblings (and deep, societal investments in Black communities). Just as I want our siblings providing our food to have adequate pay and protection and health care. Just as I want our first responders to have adequate pay and supplies (protection) and care. Just as I want my Indigenous siblings to have full autonomy of their lands and sovereignty. And that’s just scratching the surface…) This question of overcoming challenges and struggles makes me think of grieving. One of the ways I have been called to healing work is via grief tending and grief stewardship. And the more I work with grief and all the things that feel so hard about it – the pain, the exhaustion, the anger, the sadness, etc – the more deeply I feel connected to joy. The important that connection becomes. (Joy is our birthright!) The balance between joy and grief is similar to me around the balance between struggle and strength. The struggle does impact upon us, (just like grief will) but it is our strength (just like our love for another and/or for ourselves) that allows us to truly transform and grow. Our strengths are internal, external, inherent, and practiced. Our strengths are our heart and our values. Our strength is in our communities. Our strength is in caring for one another.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is such an interesting question to mull over right now, all things considered. Of course, there are the wonderful standbys of chilling at a park or going on a hike. But what this question is making me think of is how much I miss the connections that would happen in the “small” moments. They weren’t really small at all, but, perhaps, akin to emergent strategy that adrienne maree brown writes about. Like running into a friend at Whittier Cafe or Rosehouse or Alchemy Ritual Goods. Or swapping stories and goods with the fellow vendors at the Witch Collective markets. Or the laughter and joy that radiates from life-giving conversations had over dinner (like US Thai or Pho Duy or Masalaa or Shish Kabob or Frida’s or Rise Westwood Collective or Los Gallitos or Arada or Abyssinia Ethiopian or my kitchen tableTM – ha!) I know there are some amazingly fun and wonderful and radiant beings all over the city, at a mix of all different events and venues, and, this is what is bubbling in my brain at the moment.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh my goodness. Who doesn’t deserve a shoutout? This work, this business is a *labor* of love, through and through. And it would not have come to fruition, it would not have developed into what it is today, nor continue to thrive, without the love, support, mutual aid, and wisdom of my entire community. I know I’m forgetting some folks – but let me do my best at my award acceptance speech 😉 I want to thank my ancestors, first and foremost, for conspiring to get me earthside and on this path. I want to thank my teachers past and present (and especially Estela, xochitlcoatl, Lakshmi, Letitia, the ocean, my plant and fur-babes) for offering your guidance and nurturance. I want to thank my friends, family, my ex, my hermanxs de la medicina, co-conspirators aka co-collaborators (I won’t name everyone specifically cuz I am blessed by many – and I am hella afraid I will forget someone, lol. But also because some were my first clients! But y’all know who you are!) who let me practice on them, who sampled my remedios, who shared my posts, referred me to other organizations or individuals, offered listening ears, who got me to register my business, offered wisdom, who made my website aaand my logo, who took my pictures, and who purchased gifts for loved ones. (and for every single drop of support and all the ways you lift me up – from your affirmations to your laughter.). To Tameca who rode with me all those years, offering their healing and magic to me and this comunidad! To everyone who has trusted in themselves, trusted in me, and trusted in this work. And to Rocky Mountain Microfinance Institute (RMMFI) for your guidance and education – I truly do not believe I would be a business owner without your bootcamp program. I am so so incredibly grateful for all the ways you all hold me and hold me up. Thank you!
Professional photos by Mandy Cantu of Fatberry Photography