Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Looks like I'm going to get to use this as a travel blog as well as a "normal" blog; my boyfriend and I are going to Europe in January! I'm excited.
I've decided I take everything too seriously and that I don't laugh enough. Even as my boyfriend was telling me about the details of this spectacular trip, I became intensely overwhelmed with fear about the appropriateness of going at such a time-- should I allow myself that time, even when I should be job-searching?, do I deserve this?, etc. I wish I thought about the good things first and the potentially negative aspects after, but I always think in the reverse order. Maybe I can change that.
Soon: pictures of Vienna.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Come January

I am so excited to finish my internship and move into working professionally as well as putting my life together.
I am pretty terrible at closure, so these next three weeks will be a challenge for me.
I have lists of things I want and feel I need to do, come January. But I need to be careful to keep myself limited in those things I do so that I do them well.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Four weeks until the end of my internship. Four weeks until the end of my six months at the hospital. I can hardly wait, to be honest. I look forward to income again. Even if I don't get a music therapy position right away, I will hopefully be able to work more often at the restaurant. Money is the necessary, always.
I worked on the rehabilitation floor of the hospital today. One of the patients said she loved me because she loved the music so much. The two hospice patients I saw today are declining. They both slept the majority of the time in their sessions, when one of them typically talks so much I can hardly provide any music.
I have been seeing the holidays and the end of the year differently. With all of the snow being experienced here, I see a lot of the same dead, cold winter. And the weight of the snow muffles if not snuffs out all sound. People in poor health tend to finish their fights at the end of the year. I wonder if this is because there has been such consistency in life, with the cycles from holiday to holiday, year to year, that the body is aware of the end of the year. I'm not trying to depress, I simply wonder.
I won't be done working at the hospital until the end of the first week of January, which is somewhat annoying in that I'd enjoy finishing with the calendar year. But I plan to use that week to introduce new priorities and a "smaller" lifestyle. I'll use that week to transition, yet again.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sudden or in slow process

I have been considering the definition of complicated grief. A question that was posed to me was, "What do you think is harder? Losing someone slowly, or suddenly?"
This week and last I worked with teens in two school systems who have suffered loss of someone close to them, both suddenly and in slow process. I've also been working with hospice patients and their families, some for months now. The clients I see who have Parkinson's Disease is an entirely different animal; each of these populations share qualities surrounding loss as well as have finite distinctions.
I can't answer as to which is harder-- losing someone suddenly or through a process of losing abilities and skills. I know I have a family member who died suddenly, about a year and a half ago. That sucked. I felt that my relationship with him was relatively close, and I find myself thinking of him often. I also think of his kids and their families. I think of his wife and his siblings, and I wonder how they are in their grieving process. I believe grieving happens, whether or not it’s an intentional act. I think grieving exists alongside living, or rather, within living. Grief glorifies the importance of living well. 
Sudden loss is likely horrible. Memories of the last time seeing the person who died erupt, and questions as to whether or not that person knows how loved he or she was arise. There is no time to have prepared for living in this person's absence. 
Slow death is another kind of sad, sometimes. Moving through the process of the disease or the disorder or even the treatment with the person can be debilitating. Watching as the person you knew as having skills and abilities decline and transition into a person who needs assistance can be agonizing. Life is an ever-changing organism, especially in dying. 
I still can't answer that question, and I hope I never try. Death is hard, in any circumstance. But it can help you see how you'd like to live.

Monday, December 6, 2010

How to help

I went to a yoga class this evening that was part of my one free week of unlimited classes. I'm still sore from the first class on Friday, and tonight I felt pretty limited. What was odd tonight, for me, was that I wasn't entirely interested in how the other people in the class were, compared to my level of ability. I haven't really done yoga for more than a few weeks at a time with years between those phases, but nevertheless, I see competition wherever I am-- even when I'm aware I cannot be that good at yoga as I've hardly done it. However, tonight I was more considerate of my physical needs than my emotional needs. I let the instructor help me without getting mad at myself for not doing it correctly in the first place. I adjusted as I felt necessary, for myself. Then I thought, "These people don't care about that. They're here to improve their own health, not to compete with everyone or anyone else." I saw the class from a different perspective. For a few moments, from time to time, I realized the instructor was there to help her students do what they wanted to do with their class. She was there to help and to guide (and eventually collect some sort of pay, as that place is spendy).
What I took away from that class, beside feeling generally fat, was that that class was a collection of people in one space at one time concerned about their welfare as well as that of their classmates. The instructor especially was very gracious.
The class led me to consider a group of high schoolers I saw today for a music therapy session I provided. I'd met these kids one time last week, and won't be seeing them again. What these particular kids have in common, apart from being students at the same high school, is that they each have experienced familial loss in the recent past. Some of the kids have lost loved ones to homicide and gang violence. I enjoyed them last week, but was anxious about leading a group today. They were great today, as I expected. Most of them were engaged in the experience-- songwriting with words associated to loss, grief, and memory-- and all of them had input. But what I found most fascinating was that when one or two of the students tried to agitate the group or move it off course, I wasn't so much the one to collect focus as much as two other kids. Soon, the group would become cohesive again and we'd progress in the experience. I admired that quality about the group. Each student responded in some way to one another, and most of it really was positive. Not all of them knew each other's names, and I am led to believe the only "class" they have in common is the grief group, but regardless, each student responded to and encouraged the whole of the group. They wanted to help. They wanted and needed direction, which I could definitely improve in doing, but once that was provided, they were on board.
Some of them are struggling with violence in their everyday existence. I am sure there are gang members in that school. A lot of them are trying to fend for themselves, I imagine, and some of them don't catch a break. But I really felt that the students in that particular group, dealing with that specific kind of death and loss, truly wanted to be helpful people in some respect. They just might not know how to do it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


In internship, I am realizing the painful pleasure of constructing my unique style of providing music therapy services to the variety of clients and patients I see. I am supervised by three distinctly different professionals, and I work with two co-interns who, too, have different strengths and limitations than me. The therapy I provide is also somewhat different from patient to patient and group to group, even within the same population (which is to be expected).
In the band in which I play, I am also responsible to upholding the knowledge I have accumulated over the years so that I may use it in order to be flexible. I have often found difficulty in maintaining a balance between doing whatever it is the band wants me to do even though I fear the health of my voice, for instance, could be compromised, and being entirely rigid and saying "No" with absolution. I recognize my responsibility, though, in finding that balance.
I can see my style in music therapy develop, and my personal style grow within the context of the band, but I'm having trouble finding that balance I need in other areas of my life. Finding people I enjoy is usually hard, and is proving to be so here as I am attempting to become settled in some manner here in the city. What I'd like is to be patient and to feel confident in myself when I meet someone and think, "Nope, not my style." My good friends reside in opposite sides of the country. My family is nearby, but not close enough to see on a weekly basis. I do have some close people here, and that is lucky-- I'm grateful for that-- but I shouldn't feel badly about believing myself. I've never been one to have a massive group of "friends," because I think having a large number of people with whom to generate a close connection would take an impossible amount of time (and I doubt there are that many people out there who are my style :) ).
I am going to attempt patience, and balance within it. I wonder how long I can make it last.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


One truth of mine that continuously fascinates me is that when I feel I would like to be alone and isolate myself from people, I find that I am entirely wrong. Some days I'll go to work and look forward at the day with anxiety as I consider the number of people I'll see who have some truly depressing life circumstances. On those days, I usually predict that I would feel worse about things in general when I'm done with work, because being around death and dying can be hard. But I am always wrong. True, some days I cry a lot. Typically, though, I am reminded of how fascinating people are. People are people are people. Some define themselves by their affliction, most do not. I love hearing people tell their stories, even when the stories are very short and address only the current situation. What's really special about working in hospice is that I get to hear more in-depth descriptions of family life. I am very lucky to be included in some families' stories.
I am also very lucky to have the friends and family I do. Tonight I got to take a free yoga class with my boyfriend and a friend of his, whom hopefully soon can be a friend of mine. I am surprised by how blissful I feel after such simple interactions, as well as some very complex ones.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quantity vs. quality

I am having trouble of late settling into any given task or activity. The end of the year is nearing, the end of my internship is close, and I feel that too few things are in place that I am constantly considering the vast number of items yet to be accomplished; I can hardly sit still without realizing the nagging presence of unfinished business.
The other day I heard an episode of "Radio Lab," one of my very favorite radio programs (out of WNYC, you can find all of it free as an i-Tunes podcast). The episode was about geniuses, and was challenging the commonly-accepted notion that people identified as geniuses are those people who have a talent beyond what is generally considered as only "gifted." In a lot of ways, the episode was speaking to nature versus nurture, asking questions such as, "Is genius born, or can it be developed?" They then looked at people who are accepted as geniuses, noting that they spend inordinate amounts of time and are simply obsessed with their talent. So much so that their passion for it overpowers all other areas of their life.
Ah, to be a genius. To insist on spending hours a day on one experience, and to wake up the next morning and do it again. Ah, to have such passion for one thing. I do believe there is an element of nurture the development of a genius person. Certainly, to be an Olympic gymnast at the age of 14 requires more than time to grow those skills-- the mechanics and the technique need to be in place-- but that gymnast had to be allowed that space by his or her environment, too. 
I am fortunate to be passionate about a number of people and projects, but I feel much too spread out. I feel that I am shoveling out quantity, and not quality. I hope for a time in which I have far fewer projects that I may spend much more time on one.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I was surprised by how much I liked the movie "127 Hours" that we saw tonight, and also by how much I enjoyed meeting two people who are interning at another site here in the cities. The movie was the story of a man who went hiking alone, having not told anyone where he was going, and then becoming trapped for, well, 127 hours. The cinematography was astounding and the music was fantastic (I now need to look up John Pugh), but most importantly, the director shaped the film to show not only the importance of determination, but the need people have for one another. The film opened with shots of masses of people and closed with the same images, solidifying the reality that there are people surrounding people, but that most, or at least some, of the time we shut out those around us for whatever selfish reasons we keep. 
I had the opportunity to meet some other interns tonight, and I'm so happy I took it; meeting other people in person and conversing about our common interests was so refreshing for me. Hopefully, the network of people I'm finding here in the cities will continue to grow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Control in flexibility

I had a surprisingly uplifting session with a patient and her mother today. Unfortunately, I was nervous about the session for the majority of the day. Another lesson learned: be flexible, but take control.
Another of my patients died today. I enjoyed him. I am grateful to have known him and to have been a part of his life.
I have only weeks left in my internship. I am feeling overwhelmed and pressured, but truly I want to be on my own in this now.
I am resisting an urge to seek out another "thing" to do. There are three "things" that excite me right now, but I need not entertain that until I get the rest of myself under control. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

People as people

I adore challenges. Usually, however, I take too many on at any given time, and then I over-commit myself to groups or projects, and then become distressed later on to find that each needs things from me. Then I become demand-resistant about everything (demand-resistant is a truly exceptional way to describe me, most of the time, and its concept comes from one of my favorite blogs, "The Happiness Project").
I get too excited about too many things at once, and typically I am passionate about very few things-- however, those few things, when they come to meet me, are all-encompassing. I love it, but I am unrealistic about the hours in a day.
One challenge that is inviting and also does not take any extra time or energy, other than the mental energy it requires, is to see people as humans before anything else. Ironically, I feel I have no trouble doing this with my patients and clients. I honestly do try my hardest to view them as people, with fantastic, phenomenal histories, before people with a disability or disease. However, with other people, people I do not treat in music therapy, I have the hardest time seeing in any other way than being identified as a group member in which I meet them. For instance, I went to church this morning and someone sitting in front of us introduced herself to my boyfriend and me following the service. The first thing I thought was, "Oh man, she's going to try to convert me or preach to me or something along those lines..." Granted, I have had a tumultuous relationship with religion, and the majority of people I come to know as being church-goers usually make me hesitant to trust that they will let me think as I may about religion and the church. But I should have recognized this sometimes-irrational prediction, and given her a chance before making that judgment. (As it turns out, I did leave our conversation thinking that she was on the other end of the spectrum as me.) I challenged myself in going to the basement for a brunch the church was giving. Almost always I leave immediately, but I wanted to see if I could connect with people I find, frankly, threatening. My boyfriend and I sat at a table with a family we didn't know, and, per usual, I sat back, absorbed and considered the people around me. They all talked about church, of course, which is exactly what usually lends itself well to silence on my end; if I don't know someone, and if they're talking about something about which I know very little, I'll let them talk it out until there is something to which I can relate. Sometimes the part about finding something to which I relate doesn't happen, and instead of putting in my work and exploring a different topic, I just pout and let it lie. (I know, how infantile, but people exhaust me.) This morning, I didn't. Even though they talked about church, and though I initially had little to say, I figured out something that could engage them and integrate myself into the conversation.
So hard. I wonder why I feel so differently about my patients and clients than I do anyone else.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Robert Frost

I read the following poem by Robert Frost, and it may as well have been written about a client I saw yesterday.
In Neglect
"They leave us so to the way we took,
"As two in whom they were proved mistaken,
"That we sit sometimes in the wayside nook,
"With mischievous, vagrant, seraphic look,
"And try if we cannot feel forsaken."

Friday, November 12, 2010


with scarf & skinny bones
Now that I have had opportunity to realize my power, I am finding the ability within myself to generalize this power into parts of my life that aren't directly related to my internship. For instance, tonight my boyfriend and I went rock climbing for the first time in months. The total experiences I've had rock climbing is four now, and especially after having months since the last time, I semi-expected I would have some trouble simply getting on the wall. I prepared myself, though, in an entirely different manner. I was intentional about creating the experience as being on my terms and withholding from concerning myself with other climbers' and acquaintances' potential judgments of my climbing. I reminded myself of the reasons I chose to climb, and recognized that the act was a choice on my part. My choice. Most importantly, I was able to work from my own bank of knowledge concerning rock climbing, and then add to it by experiencing another night of the sport. Climbing is all about the legs-- I use my arms too much, but my legs are strong. My task now is to integrate their capabilities.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Violin plateau

I wonder if playing an instrument is akin to growing out your hair-- there's only so long you can grow it before it breaks off. I'm hoping that my creativity isn't like my thin, dry hair; my violin playing is at a plateau in the band I play. Maybe this is because my violin concentration now is to facilitate movement of clients I have, or to distract my patients from pain; I don't play to perform or express myself. I never have, really. I sing for that reason, but I have never gone to my violin for any reason other than A) I have to, so that I don't entirely embarrass my mother at my next lesson, or B) to assist someone else in some way. Certainly I think of my violin as a family member, one who has grown up with me and has sat idly by when I neglected it for years. I don't think of it as a source of expression. I think of it as a dependable friend, or a horse that's out to pasture-- I can go get it when I want it, but mostly it's just stagnant and bored with me. There is so much more within my violin, and I feel badly for not drawing more from it. I feel that only a small percentage of its potential has been realized, and that I am disappointing it with my plateau.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Two reasons

A patient I had today told me that there are two reasons we die. One is because our bodies literally break down and are no longer able to withstand the stress of sustaining life, and the other reason is because our ability to tolerate and adjust to current societal norms and new generations breaks down and is no longer able to withstand the stress of sustaining life. She was annoyed, shall I say, with the "throw-away culture" in which we now live. I had a fascinating hour and a half with her. I hope to see her again, but I doubt I will have that luxury.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Suzuki process

Some time ago, I had a short conversation with an art therapist that proved to be one of the most important exchanges I've had with someone else, in terms of my musical and personal/professional development. We spoke for maybe 15 minutes, but I continue to remember fondly and excitedly our discussion. Having never met her before, and never again seeing her, our meeting was and remains uncomfortably enlightening.
We spoke about Suzuki. She asked what led me to music therapy, and I briefly described my musical history and the fact that performance wasn't, for me, all that music could be. (In the future, I may describe here what music really is to me.) In providing my musical background, I included the all-important fact that I began playing violin at the age of two (nearly three, though I don't remember it at all), and that I was instructed in the Suzuki Method. I saw the art therapist's expression change, almost sour, and she said, "I played Suzuki violin, too." She went on to relate to me her experience in uncanny likeness to my own. She started when she was three or four, played all the way through high school, and then promptly gave it up. My story is a little different in that I played into college, stopped for a few years, but then did again play violin when I started my music therapy coursework. What was exceptionally bizarre about our conversation was that she told me that she has never attempted to play another instrument because she gets alarmingly frustrated with her inability to simply know how to play it shortly after coming into contact with it. She told me she doesn't know how to learn to play it, and gives it up quickly. She pursued another kind of art.
Clearly she does know how to learn. She got herself through an undergraduate and master's level education, and was at that time an art therapist. She knows how to integrate knowledge and put together abstract concepts. And I, too, know how to learn. But what I found so striking was that she was iterating to me my frustrations, I just didn't know at that time to what to attribute them.
In my life, Suzuki remains a very powerful character. My Suzuki instruction itself, my teacher, and my mother shaped my life before I was able to contribute. Suzuki did much to facilitate my ability to perform and be a public speaker, and it provided for me poise, even when I was a toddler at a recital and didn't know why I was standing before an audience. I owe a great deal to my Suzuki education, but unfortunately it has dealt me some frustration as well.
Like the art therapist with whom I spoke, I become supremely agitated with myself when I cannot play an instrument the way I can play the violin. As a music therapy intern, I need to be competent and functional at both guitar and piano. I am not competent at either, though I'm trying to believe I am functional at them. My point is that because I started violin at such a young age, I don't remember the learning process. I don't remember teaching my body the mechanics behind shaping my hand to finger certain melodies in a given position. I don't remember the physical discomfort of that type of learning, but more importantly, I don't remember how long it takes to learn a given task. So now when I approach a new song or a new instrument, or a new skill of non-musical sorts (to a certain extent), I cannot remember how to learn it.
Now I need to teach myself patience with this, I'm supposing. I need to teach myself how to learn, gracefully.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


A few days ago, one of my colleagues looked at my keyring and made the comment, "There is no way you need all these keys." Deciding this statement to be a challenge, I chose each key, one by one, and described to him why I need them, even on a daily basis. This led me to think about the number of places I go, and why I feel the need to have with me, at all times, all of the items I keep close at hand. As the number of keys I keep is large, so is the amount of luggage I have surrounding me on any given day. I have both a guitar and a violin, and soon a keyboard, that live with me essentially wherever I go; I have two different bags of music, depending on which instrument(s) I'll be using; I have a bag of personal effects; a bag of internship-related binders and books; and even a second bag for hospice-related binders and paperwork. And in my car with me, I keep my three books of CDs. Some of them I have stored on my computer or elsewhere, but most I do not. Should they be lost or stolen, I would be heartbroken; that music is compacted memories.
On one of my drives today, I wondered why I feel the need to keep all of these things with me, at hand. Surely, some of these things could be left behind by some people. I think I keep the important material objects so close to me because I've never felt at home enough anywhere to believe I could leave anything safely. I have always been nomadic. Hopefully, this is changing.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I am four months in to my internship now, and I am ready to make money doing what I do.  I feel independent, for the most part. I feel that I do what I do when I need to do it. This is not to say I don't need support from supervisors and peers, but it is to say that I am ready for the challenge and change of being a professional in music therapy. I am ready to see myself through this oncoming transition. I have always been impatient (though I do enjoy delayed gratitude), and this impatience is more present today. I have some fantastic relationships with patients, and I will dearly miss them, but I am interested in moving farther forward.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A list of things I like

I don't think of my own physical comfort as being all that important. Maybe that's odd. However, I now know that physical discomfort (even if it's not severe, acute pain) affects all things. I know, this is obvious. I need to experience things before I really have learned them; I am an experiential/kinesthetic learner. Anyway, here is the list of things I like and enjoy:
1. Showers, or being and staying clean (I'm talking clean-clean-- I don't like when my hands are dirty or when I spill on myself. Luckily, my mother did not pass her spilling gene to me.)
2. Being dry (I can hardly stand it when my hands don't get entirely dry after washing them, or when my sleeves get wet when I'm washing my hands.)
3. Being very warm. I really dislike being chilly in the least.
4. Eating. Yet I rarely set aside time to do it.
5. Sleeping. But I feel so guilty when I nap. I think last weekend was the first time I've napped in a long time.
6. Using lotion.
7. Using Chapstick/lip balm (I don't like the word "balm," but at least I don't have to speak it here. "The weather is balmy." Gross.)
8. Reading. I rarely do it.
9. Writing. This, I do. And I think I'm happier for it.
Hmmm. I should prioritize these things.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wooden boxes

I was privileged, again, to attend a concert given by the Minnesota Orchestra tonight. The concert was entitled, "Osmo Vanska Conducts Future Classics," and was the final event of the week-long, tenth annual Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute.
I am thrilled and again amazed by the tremendous talent shared by the orchestra members, the conductor, and the new composers. One composer was only 20 years old. Some favorite pieces were "Winter Bells" by Polina Nazaykinskaya, "The Body Electric," by Clint Needham, and "Mutatis Mutandis," by David Weaver. And "Namaskar," by Narong Prangcharoen. And all the others.
As a dear friend of mine reminded readers in her blog, music is truly a component of our brain. Why else would someone, somewhere, so long ago, decide that he or she simply must build a box that would resonate in such a way as to create what we know as music? What would possess such a person to do something like that? Why is it that we are so strongly compelled to create music?
I don't know, exactly. I'm sure I could find in my reading a solid physiological explanation for these questions (anything by Daniel Levitin, Oliver Sacks, or E. Thayer Gaston comes to mind). But I do know that I respond very viscerally to the sound of that orchestra, and to those people playing those boxes of wood with their surprising, athletic dexterity.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Sometimes I have the opportunity to read the blog, "The Happiness Project" (, written by Gretchen Rubin. (There is a book by the same name, a predecessor to the blog, that was given to me by my sister. I find the subject to be well worth my time and energy.) A few days ago, one of the ideas about which the author wrote was that people with intensely positive or intensely negative personalities annoy one another, and that the people with these personalities can't convert the others into thinking and feeling differently. I have never been one to attempt to convince or convert people, save some times when it's been very trivial. One of my goals is to validate people's feelings about their experiences and situations, no matter what they are. And though I agree that conversion is never really a possibility, I do believe that my thoughts are products of choice; I "think" in a way that is flavored by emotions that I've attributed to the thought. I too often assign emotion to experiences or occurrences or inflection of voice, etc. This emotion is generally Debbie Downer in nature. I feel like every day something or someone surprises me, and today I surprised myself. Even though I was feeling pretty stressed and vaguely unhappy when I went to work, I changed myself so that I could lead a group session effectively. And I did this by deciding, by intentionally speaking differently and breathing differently and making myself smile. All of these actions have physiological effects that elevate one's mood. The choices to do things like smile trick the body into thinking it's happy, as usually the only time one smiles is when, in fact, one is happy.
I did that. I tricked myself and it worked. The group was engaged, I felt connected to my clients, and I was enjoying myself (I usually do, but today I had to use extra effort).
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Runner's breath

To the best of my knowledge and recollection, worrying has never done me any good. Anticipating the nature of a future experience might typically be good practice for most people, but not for someone such as myself who quite often expects difficulties ahead, or at the very least, judgment by others. More often than not, fortunately, I am able to reach said situation and feel a certain amount of pleasant surprise when realizing my predictions were wrong. However, I still have trouble remaining in the present and not foretelling my future. I believe I am getting better and becoming less anxious, and therefore unhappy, but the process is hard. 
Deep breathing is so important in relieving panic. I used to enjoy running for the breathing. I would get to a point in my run where I could think of nothing other than continuing to move forward, which, once the run was finished, I really appreciated. The act of running focused my attention on the very, very present. 
I have so much yet to do. To accomplish, to settle, to understand, to believe, to finish, and to grieve. I suppose my best bet is to breathe.
Thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Experts in transition

Today I saw a woman who is actively dying. When I entered her hospital room, she was alone, in bed, but seemingly awake. We exchanged a couple of words before she began breathing in a manner that is distinctive of the end of life. I began playing for her, attempting to match the rate of her breath, and hoping to play something soothing at that tempo. Her son came into the room soon thereafter, and he and I had a wonderful conversation about his mother. He told me that his mother had worked in a grocery store for a number of years, and that she accumulated a large group of shoppers who went to that store specifically to see her. She worked as a grocery-bagger, and her son said that the line of shoppers waiting to have their groceries bagged was consistently significantly longer than any other person's. The grocery store where she worked rewarded gifts of pins to those workers who received excellent customer service acknowledgments, and that drawers full of these pins were found when the family was moving my patient to another home. This other home was her daughter's, where she lived when she fell ill and had to be hospitalized for a short period of time. At the new home, the patient was also living with her 12-year-old granddaughter. According to the son, this past summer was very special for both his mother and his niece. They were able to spend months living in the same home. While working at the grocery store, my patient became accustomed to co-workers who were in their teens. Knowing popular culture and icons likely gave this woman a unique appeal to her granddaughter-- not only was the granddaughter given the opportunity to spend a great deal of time sharing her living space with her grandmother, but her grandmother was actually in-the-know. My patient's son said that his mother had been entirely lucid until Sunday, when the condition she has transitioned into something much worse. Now, she is unresponsive.
Speaking with my patient's son was an enlightening experience. He seemed very grateful and appreciative of his mother, and of his relationship with the rest of his family. The way he described his mother's life was joyous. He said that he is happy to know that she won't suffer long. 
The son of the patient I met today is likely experiencing loss and transition. Though not every person who suffers death of a loved one identifies the death as transition, what I find interesting is that each person who grieves a loss is never able to again live in the same reality as he or she was before the death. The grieving process is not a renewal, in regard to the idea that one will again live in the same way, or "get back to normal." The renewal following the grieving comes in the ability to normalize the newness of the living circumstance. Life is a series of transition. Even, and probably especially, on a molecular level-- we are constantly going through the breaking-down and the building-up of the fabric of our bodies. Quite simply, we exist in transition. We are experts at this process. We just have to acknowledge this fact and give credit where credit is due; we may be stronger than we think.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Half way

Today I truly felt that I am at the half-way point in my internship. I am assisting with orienting and training our new intern, and am taking on a larger caseload of patients. With this transition, I find looking ahead three months to be easy. This is not to say, by any means, that I am entirely competent at what I'm doing now; but it is to say that I know three months, especially during the holidays, will go very fast. Soon I will be applying to positions within my field-- even before the completion of the internship, hopefully.
In three months, with the end of my internship and the potential start of my professional career in music therapy, I hope to have cleansed my life of its debris so that I can face what's next, whatever that may be, with a degree of confidence, competence, experience, and training in transition.
And I am nearly there.
Thanks for reading.

House of a thousand rooms

When I was contemplating writing a blog, my thoughts about it were that the blog would be about everything other than my internship experience. Originally, I thought my writing here would be separate from that "professional" part of my life. However, one of the many lessons I'm learning from this internship and the music therapy work I do is that solid separation such as I thought I wanted is both impossible (for me, anyway), and undesired.
Separation is not synonymous with compartmentalization. The latter is a skill that some people are much better at grasping than others. I feel that I have always been good at separating, and much of the time, to a fault. I have always considered separation as being compartmentalization, and that's not the case.
In my mind, I have different rooms for people and the places with which they are associated. Events and items also occupy rooms, but usually they are in partnership with either people or places. I have never been comfortable socializing with someone I know from a workplace, for instance. These rooms don't have windows, so to speak. They are separate entities.
A couple of years ago, I went on a weekend trip with one of my best friends. She and I were in a band together, and we had a gig in Boise to play. During the trip, we spent some time at the library, mostly so that we could use the internet. But we saw that there was a book sale on the ground floor, and we looked through it. The books were of a variety, and I think we both both two or three. One that she bought was a book of short "inspirational" or motivational stories or essays. We read aloud from the books on the drive back, and from that particular book, there was a memorable selection. Of course I don't remember the title of the book, who wrote it, who wrote the selection, or what it is called, but I do remember what it was. The image portrayed was that of a four-roomed house. The author assigned Cognition, Emotion, Physicality, and Spirituality to each of the four rooms. The instruction was that the reader enter each of these rooms once a day. This made sense to me, and attributed a very clear visual to the thought. Clearly, it's stayed with me since.
My house has more than four rooms, and it has a basement. I take a mental picture of my house every so often and assess the condition of the rooms. The Spirituality Room is something of an addition, and it's under construction, so even though I visit it every few days, I still don't quite know how it's going to look later. The Physical Room usually is a-shambles, though sometimes I'll give it a surface clean. The basement, though, has been on fire for a while. The fire is slow-burning and mostly quiet, but every day it burns a little hotter. Smoke has been damaging the rest of the house, and lately the flames are no longer contained. The rest of my house is affected.
Separation and compartmentalization are two different animals. Compartmentalizing is a gift-- an ability to acknowledge the existence of strengths and limitations of daily living, but to keep those items and images and ideas contained somewhere should they not directly apply to the situation before me at that moment.
I am finding that I am no longer able to separate. And this is a good thing, because this means I am learning the truth in containment. To contain, for me, is to hold with me all of everything in my life, but to recognize that only tiny trinkets in that mammoth house are really useful in the moment.
Appraise the value of my house, and see that each room influences the others, but don't allow for one to burn the whole.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The power of C

I have never thought of myself as an adequate or even functional piano or keyboard player. Though I took some lessons when I was in middle school, and some in college that were required for any music major, I have remained ever-intimidated by the instrument and its complexity. I feel this way about most instruments (which possibly will be the subject of another post-- specifically the learning process in relationship to the Suzuki Method), but the piano has always been something that frightens me.
Today, though, I had the privilege to play it on one of the floors of the hospital where I work. Because lunch time was very near, I chose to play in the halls of the floor as opposed to having 1:1 sessions with patients who may be preoccupied with eating. I improvised on the keyboard, starting in the key of C. I don't think I give myself enough credit, musically, sometimes. I improvised for a while, and had two people come up to me to express that they liked what I was playing. (I promise I wasn't playing loudly or being intrusive.) This is a new experience for me, given that I actively avoid the instrument, so have little opportunity to receive any feedback from anyone. What was happening with my playing was that I was relaxing into music, as opposed to obsessing about technique or theory. And by doing this, I was sharing more of myself with the people who were listening. From there I moved into playing in different keys and different styles-- all things I can do easily on violin and with my voice, but definitely not things I thought I'd feel comfortable doing on keyboard. (Not that I'm magically functional now.) My surprise was in that I was able to find the music in the doing, the bigger picture, the point of the activity. Typically I see in front of me all the reasons I cannot play or do something, or I think that I shouldn't even attempt to do it unless I am pretty certain I can be great at it. Sounds ludicrous, I know. But I am being honest.
Today I was able to pry open, slightly, a well-shut door, and I did it of my own volition. Maybe, if I practice doing this, I might actually practice playing the instrument so that I don't have to feel terrified of it. We'll see.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I wonder if I have ever defined my sense of purpose. I don't know that I have. My boyfriend took me to a fundraising dinner for the Center for Grief, Loss, and Transition tonight, and we spoke about the possibility for music therapy to be utilized in this organization. This is an exciting prospect, but one that I will let incubate for a few more weeks.
Another piece of our conversation centered around purpose, and our own senses of it. I am going to take this opportunity to define mine, as it stands today: My purpose is to find ways to serve and to help other people, using my unique musical talents and abilities as well as my capabilities to identify and acknowledge characteristics of others that need be lauded as well as developed. I am fascinated by people and the systems in which they survive.
There. There's a change for me: I defined my purpose for the first time in a long time, if not ever.
Thanks for reading.

Delight in the genius of others

Tonight, I had the privilege to attend a concert the Minnesota Orchestra presented. I cannot recall the last concert of any orchestra I have seen. When I was younger, from middle school into high school, I played violin in the city orchestra. I remember feeling relatively indifferent toward the music I played for the concerts at that time in my life. I am sure I saw several concerts when I was in college, but since then, I do not remember having been.
I was so very excited to see this ensemble perform tonight. They were highlighting their upcoming season, and played a piece or two from different concerts on their schedule. So much amazed me about the performance, and some of that was how I was affected by it.
When I moved here, my primary focus was on my internship. The people I know here, I know because of the internship or because of their roles in supporting the internship (I can elaborate if you'd like). However, I have not sought out live performance for years, to be honest. I am beginning to identify myself as a musician (which still makes me uncomfortable), but I have been thinking in terms of research and academia for a long time. For the past three years, my thoughts on music related to how it helps other people, quite simply. My interests were concerning the research surrounding effects of music therapy in a number of populations. Even my reasoning for participating in a band, as I have since I moved here, had much to do with the potential development as a violinist in a non-classical context, which has everything to do with honing those abilities for music therapy.
Tonight's performance enlightened me. The orchestra and its soloists were phenomenal, and to see them use their talents in that way was especially wonderful for me tonight. I could hardly stop smiling. The energy and genius of those people was outstanding. I feel as though I am a better person for having gotten to participate in that experience. I am inspired, now, to believe in the music I have within me. I am encouraged to embrace the talent I possess, as well as to develop it further. But not because doing so will enable me to be a more effective music therapist (when I become a professional), but because I will be a happier, more fulfilled person.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Perspectives on music

Today I have had a fantastic birthday. I was privileged to spend it with people I love, doing the job I love doing. I have spent a fair amount of time today with my boyfriend, my co-interns, my internship director, and the patients who so wonderfully welcome me into their lives. Not only this, but I received numerous phone calls and cards from friends and family members. I am so fortunate.
One of the gifts I was given was six pairs of tickets to the Minnesota Orchestra. This particular gift is not only thoughtful, given that I am a musician (oh, how hard it is to identify myself as this-- we'll get to that later), but entirely timely and relevant. What an important present.
I started playing violin when I was two years old, and played for hours each week from that time in my life to my early 20s. In college, I stopped playing. I was burnt out. I didn't understand why I was playing, or for whom. I grew up playing a musical instrument, but wasn't making music with it. I wasn't able to see the violin for what it could be-- a tool through which I could express. In music therapy, we consider our musical instruments as tools, and music itself as a tool, to enable us to reach our clients and patients by using it in whatever fashion necessary. When I grew up playing violin, I was not able or given space to infuse the instrument with anything other than the sense of obligation I had toward it. I think of my violin now as a character in my life, a family member. I think of it now as someone, and I do mean "someone," with whom I grew up; someone who saw me through a number of life changes, as I am experiencing now. My violin is important to me for so many reasons, but only very recently have I identified it as being another range of my voice. Only recently have I given myself permission to melt together my violin-playing-self with my identity as I regularly see it, and only recently have I enjoyed welcoming that part of my life as one with other(s). Having been given opportunity to see the orchestra on a regular basis seems ever-important to me in my growing this part of myself. I doubt a more serendipitous gift could ever be given.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Today marks the final day of my twenty-eighth year; tomorrow, I will accept the opportunity and challenge that my twenty-ninth year brings.
I was telling stories about my childhood tonight. I told a story about how I never played with dolls, but much preferred Mirco Machines or some other car toy. I had a friend (and still do; we saw each other very recently, though she lives in another state) who seemed to enjoy dolls and all things having to do with them. I remember countless times she came over to play, she got so upset that we weren't going to play with dolls. She'd say, "I am the guest. I should be allowed to choose what we play," to which I would always respond, "Maybe, but this is my house, and we'll play what I want." (And we did.) After telling this story to my boyfriend, he said something to the effect of, "You clearly had no trouble saying what you wanted." I considered this briefly before moving on to share other stories of my peculiarities, but his comment brought to mind a question: Am I different now than I was as a child? Of course the answer is that yes, I am a changed being-- I am a certain number of years older, with a certain number of experiences that have weathered me. But am I a different person? At my core, have I changed? Have circumstances eaten me alive, leaving me to be disconnected pieces that were chewed and mashed and ground out to be single pieces of something that was once a whole? When I was a child, and even on through middle and high school, I was certain of things. The answers to questions were black and white; there was no ambiguity. I understand that maturity is the process through which I grew (and continue to grow) that declares, in a sense, the existence of ambiguity and importance of circumstance surrounding outcomes. But at least I had that certainty and that assuredness that allowed me peace to decide.
Today I feel very different from that person I remember being. I have changed. Now, were I to have a guest who wanted to play with dolls (at this point, I would hope that she or he would be the child of a friend), I would definitely play with him/her. There is something to be said, however, about that knowing what I wanted. I got what I wanted, at the expense of my friend's comfort and enjoyment (sorry, friend), and I remember really liking that we played with the toys I liked. I work in an extremely taxing environment where I not only serve my patients and clients in music therapy, but I also literally serve them food, beverage, and anything else they may need or want. I feel the need to be careful not to transfer my desire to help at all costs into my personal livelihood. I am recognizing the importance of identifying what I want, be it tangible or experiential, and not feeling guilty for finding ways to have it. I am excited to learn some lessons from my child self and to find and hopefully maintain balance once I do.
Happy birthday, Micro Machine-lover and doll-denier.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Daily routine

Essentially, I live out of my trunk. Not only do I stay some nights at my place and some nights at The Boyfriend's, which necessitates keeping things at hand (but not leaving them at either place), I also need to keep instruments in my trunk. I use the guitar and the violin on a very regular basis, and while I am not using them, they go in my trunk. My sweet little tiny trunk home.
I don't have much routine, yet routine is something I crave. This morning while I was getting ready, I realized that routine is something I desperately need to create for myself so that I can allow for sustainable stability, wherever I am. Certain routines, having to do with work-related events, I keep well. For instance, when I am about to leave for a home hospice visit, I get in the car, record the miles I have on my odometer as a voice memo on my phone, use hand sanitizer, make the drive in silence-- no phone, no radio, no sound that I can control-- and use the hand sanitizer again before going into the home or facility for the visit. This kind of routine I keep. But the other kinds, those that contribute to my personal well-being, I have the most trouble maintaining. I have always enjoyed writing and especially loved writing right away in the morning. I started the day feeling centered and balanced and successful. This I don't do any more. I have found excuses and reasons, some seemingly very valid, to abandon such an activity. I wonder why I leave behind and let disintegrate these activities I find personally beneficial, and stay committed to those that do not directly contribute to my happiness.
To implement something, almost anything, on a daily basis could likely assist my ability to adapt to these changes I am experiencing. Potentially, to blog every day could be this something.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Calving glaciers

Maybe two years ago, when I was doing my music therapy coursework, I came across the image of calving glaciers. For those of you who do not know what this is, as I had no idea at the time, I will explain to the best of my ability: The calving process is that which happens when a glacier loses part of its mass in a seemingly sudden way (or at least this is what I gathered from the image and the explanation of it that I found). The glacier purges a sizable percentage of itself in an explosive manner, leaving behind a refined portion of the original being.
I became fascinated with this imagery, but haven't given it thought in the recent past. Until now, of course. Change. Sudden and drastic and dynamic and loud. Loss and a re-forming that occurs because of it. These are the metaphors I assigned to this image.
I have moved from state to state many times in the past five years. In the last 12 months, I have lived in three states, have taken and left three jobs, have begun an internship in which I work with the chronically ill and dying, and have experienced the loss of a family member. Now, at my halfway point in this internship, I have the sense that I am about to calve.
Acknowledging these changes in life circumstance seems to be crucial in handling effectively the dying process of the patients I see on a daily basis. I have the responsibility to find within me the ability to make choices actively that will promote my sense of self, such that it is in this state of transition. In doing this, or at least in trying to do this, I am actively releasing my former self. Sometimes, this release is striking and sudden and manifests in tears or anger or both. But I need to do this in order to find myself cleansed to the core, where I am most authentic. I need to shed and to split. At the end of the calving process, the remnants of the glacier are not smooth and rounded, but naturally jagged-- in preparation for further calving, I suppose.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Surprise of a day

Today was somewhat surprising for me. I knew I would have a busy day, working with people who have movement disorders all day and working at a restaurant all night. What I expected was to be rejuvenated by the work I do in music therapy and to be, well, annoyed by the work I do as a server at a restaurant.
What actually happened was that I arrived at the center where I do my music therapy work feeling sad and down. Nothing unusually upsetting occurred on my way to work, I simply felt sad for whatever reason. I recognized the same sense of sinking that I've been feeling the past week. I love the work I am privileged to do, and I truly enjoy most of the people with whom I do it. Each person with whom I work is an individual, though the fact that his or her disorder is slowly and certainly consuming every piece of the life once had is a shared experience among them. Some people openly cry, while others find laughter, saying, "Laughing is the only thing that gets me through the days." One person today asked if someone could help him with his dishes, though he didn't have any dishes in his hands. Watching his face fall when this information was explained to him made me feel heavy.
I believe in these people and admire the courage with which they live their lives. Talk about change-- the outstanding characteristic of the disorder is that there will be decline, change, in ability, cognitive and physical, to be certain.
I left my internship work today expecting to be ever-irritated by the restaurant-goers I would be serving the rest of the night, but I wasn't. Instead, I found that engaging in further conversation with fellow servers energized me. I am a person who typically finds satisfaction in relationships that are very strong and well-attended; I have a handful of excellent, close friends. Sometimes I am afraid to take time and energy to connect with people whom I do not expect there to be a long-standing friendship, but I was pleasantly surprised that tonight, while working at the restaurant, I benefited from doing just that. I am learning that the more connected I feel to people in any given place, the more grounded I feel. Maybe this is common sense to you, but this is new knowledge for me. I realize, however, that any kind of relationship takes a massive amount of emotional energy, and today I experienced both ends of the spectrum.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

When is it that we are not in flux?

When is it that we are not in flux? When can we truly say that today is a day that is the same as another? In life, we live with death and loss, and with death, we live new lives. With each death we experience -- death of a loved one, death of a friend, even "death" in other terms (such as "loss" instead of absolute end of life) -- with each of these occurrences our lives are created anew, whether we like it, or ask for it, or even know it.
To know that loss is something I experience, to identify it and to acknowledge it as a piece of my life, is a new phenomenon to me. Loss -- loss of identity, loss of people, loss of place, loss of familiarity are each commonplace to me, though I did not recognize this until quite recently. Some of this loss is voluntary, and a lot of it is not. With all of this loss, however, there comes great opportunity for gain. Though these losses are not true voids in my life -- having lost my uncle just over a year ago has not created a vacancy that can be filled. Rather, my loss has created, or has begun to create, a new life in me -- a life in living with his death, and his absence, and all of the circumstances surrounding the suddenness of it.
Speaking of opportunity for gain, I think of opportunity for new relationships, strengthening of old ones, and the importance both kinds have when living in transition, as I am currently. Presently, I am in flux.
I am a person who, six months ago, moved to a city I had never visited and where I knew no one. I seemingly immediately found work (fortunately) and a band (also, fortunately), both of which occupied my time while I also prepared to begin an internship in music therapy. In this internship, where I have been working for three months now, I work with people in hospice, people who have cancer, people in inpatient care, people who have Parkinson's Disease and related movement disorders, and people who have eating disorders. I work the internship 40 to 45 hours a week, I work at a restaurant (the work I found soon after having moved here) about 16 hours a week, I practice and do gigs with the band between three and six hours a week, and I have a perfectgreatawesome boyfriend (whom I met here, too, soon after having moved here), with whom I like to and try to spend most of the remaining time in the week.
I have trouble finding calm. My hope is that writing about my experiences, in general and maybe specific ways, will help me find such a thing.
Thanks for reading.