20 Years in Asheville, Remembering and Giving Thanks

It is official. 2014 marks 20 years in Asheville for me and for my chiropractic practice as well. I moved here in 1994 bright eyed and eager to set up my first office. I landed in a big beautiful home on East Chestnut Street. My, how things have changed since then – both in my practice and in Asheville. The very first office was located in a little sun room on the side of the Chestnut Street house. The woman who owned the house, Carolyn Ball had a vision of a healing center. In fact, she even called our collective space “The Center.”  We were “The Center” at the beginning of an era when everyone moving to Asheville was moving here to start a healing center. (Remember those days?) “The Center” included Carolyn Ball who was a psychotherapist, Francois Hesselink, a wise French woman acupuncturist healer, and me. At “The Center” we had classes and meditations, meetings, visitations by spiritual leaders and all that sort of thing going on there all the time. We had a sense of community. Those were good days. Click on any of the images below to view full size.

Within just a few weeks, my practice got too busy for the sun room confinement. So the next move was into the adjacent living room. This move probably tripled or more the square footage of my office!  I outgrew my space yet again within just a few more months. The next move was to South French Broad Avenue. South French Broad is a street near downtown with a colorful personality to say the least. I was right next to Asheville middle school. It was there I would settle in and practice for the next 14 years. The office was in a beautiful home with wood floors and south facing windows. My plants loved it and so did I. The ceiling was hand done with fresco-like plaster. Beautiful. The building eventually sold out from under me and I moved out east to a still bigger office near my home in east Asheville. That was right before the great recession. Even though I have a lot more space now, I still miss the “old house” feel of the downtown office.

East Asheville Chiropractor office
The current setting for my latest office.

Just the other day one of my practice members mentioned during a regular monthly office visit  that he used to see me for his adjustments at the old house on Chestnut. I was shocked. Not shocked that he had been a part of my practice for 20 years, but instead, shocked that I had forgotten this about him. I knew he had been around for a long time, but I honestly did not remember that he was one of the very first. As a result of that moment,  I set out on a mission. I began the process of recovering archives and files from the “old days.”  I started going through those old files. Held within them were the names and information about people who have come and gone, as well as people who have come and stayed. I saw the evolution of my paperwork and the intake form revisions over the years. I saw that in those files lived the names of the children that are grown now and still take regular care of their spine. There are the children of those children now coming in to get regular checkups and tuneups and help with all the spills, bumps and bruises  that come with living everyday life. (I cannot wonder who I could be today if I had been taken to a chiropractor as a child and had a healthier spine growing up. What a blessing!)  Yes that is right, I am adjusting my third, and in one case my fourth generation. Going through those old files has really been a journey through my past and it brought up a lot of memories and feelings. As a result, I am preparing to send thank you notes to as many as possible of those people for seeing me when I first started practice. It could take a while though. There are hundreds of files.

The reason I am telling this story? For me, this is a story of gratitude. Asheville is not always an easy nut to crack business-wise. This is especially true in the arts department, healing arts included. But, the bottom line is that I am very grateful for my time here. Most especially I am grateful for the people who have been a part of my personal and professional life and growth here in Asheville. During my early days in Asheville, it seemed everyone I met in the grocery store line who had just moved here was going to start a healing center. (Remember those days?)  I have also seen days when almost everyone seemed to have some sort of  “Asheville name” as well! Some names were legally changed and many were not. I knew people named after trees, planets, poems, fruit, flowers, you name it. I loved that era. A few of the names lasted, but it does not seem such a popular thing to do now. Or, maybe my demographic has just changed. I am older now for sure.  I have watched as a literal in-flooding of healers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, psychotherapists, herbalists, chiropractors etc. moved here. In fact, when I first moved here there were only 25 chiropractors listed in the phone book Yellow Pages. I remember sitting in my first office and counting them just out of curiosity. Back then it seems, all the local chiropractors knew each other by name. We even had Christmas parties at each others homes if you can imagine that! Now, I don’t even know how many chiropractors there are in Asheville and I certainly don’t know most of them by name. At my last count there were about 125 with more moving here almost everyday. That can make it pretty tough to make a good living here, but I have been through a lot and kept on going. Many of my original people have kept on coming to see me and new ones somehow seem to find me despite almost zero dollars spent on outside advertising. Thanks to everyone for your referrals and testimonials!

Image of food raised by Whittington Chiropractic for MANNA Food Bank
Here is Symatha posing in front of food barrels from MANNA Food Bank. I think we filled 8 barrels that year.

I will have to say, my practice has changed throughout the years. Those people who have literally been under my care for 20 years have seen many phases and changes in just how things are done within my practice. They have seen changes in me and in the faces of the people and personalities at the front desk.  They have seen changes in technique and office setup. They have seen the results of a determined journey to gain more and more mastery at my craft. The goal has always been to grow and to learn new things as well as to remember the old.  Somehow, some way, many stayed and stuck with me and are still here showing up for care. Showing up for care through sickness and health. Through marriage and divorce. Through 9/11, through the great recession, births, yes, and even deaths.  I have even been blessed to be asked to take care of those who sought comfort physically or or help connect to a greater sense of spiritually at the end of life. It is through this lens that I have become so grateful for the people who are still with me to this day. Another colorful memory is the few years of doing chiropractic on animals with quite amazing success. Maybe some day I will write a book. (I keep threatening!)

Whittington Chiropractic Office
One of the few photos I have of the French Broad Office. It looks a little messy, but you can see how the plants loved the space and the light.

So what is the  point of my article? Here’s the point: I am so incredibly grateful. I am so grateful that I am moved beyond words. For so many people to trust me with the sacredness of being a part of their health and healing, birth, death, dying and whatever else for that long is an honor that not many people will ever know. Thank you Carolyn Ball for giving me a leg up on a longstanding career in Asheville.  Thank you Francois. Thank you to all the people who took a chance and tried something different by entering my office and receiving what I had to offer.  Thanks to Betz for basically being a co-creator of the space in the early days. And, thank you Robbin, my wife for all your support through all the years. Thank you to all those of you who have entrusted your newborn babies and growing children to my care. Thank you for those of you who, although you could not afford care, came anyway and paid or bartered or traded. Thank you to all of you who had something to contribute, a comment, a suggestion, a compliment, your music, your art, your sense of humor, and even putting me in my place when it was needed. Thank you for all your help cleaning, cooking and helping with parties and events. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our annual food drives, helping us raise literally thousands of pounds of food for the hungry in this county through our annual food drives for MANNA.  Most of all, thank you for your loyalty and all the referrals of your friends and neighbors for 20 years. I am thankful. less than 2 megs-1Even though the financial end of the practice has been up and down, there is no way to put a price on the many hearts that have touched mine. The stories of healing, (some quite amazing) the kind words, the appreciation, the gratitude, and the smiles and hugs. I could go on for days. After 20 years in Asheville what do I have to show for my time? I have the blessing of the people who have touched my heart as I have touched their spines. That blessing has enriched my life beyond what words can say. So to conclude,  I would like to add here that even though I am going to try to reach out to many of you who were there in the beginning, I will not be able to reach you all. If you are reading this and you were in my office at any point, even if you did not stick around, just know how grateful I am for you all. Thank you.

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