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.