October 23, 2013
Recently, a couple of things caught my eye.
One of these things was a commentary in “The Onion” about life and passion and time. Read it. It’s funny and poignant at the same time.
The guys who wrote it jokes sarcastically that we should definitely keep working at a job we don’t like and do the things we love the most after a long, exhausting day for about five minutes before going to sleep (rinse, repeat).
The second thing I saw was a commercial. I don’t even know what it was for, but it centered on a mountain bike tour guide whose voiceover explained that he once worked at a job he didn’t like and spent most of his time making other people’s dreams come true. AND NOW? He works as a mountain bike tour guide in an awesome place.
Yesterday, I was cleaning up the “mess” after a large and rowdy music therapy group at a nursing home, and a new staff member asked me if I have a job “other than this.” Regardless of what this curious woman meant, what I took from her question, was “Do you have a real job?”
I’m sure many of us are asked those kinds of questions on a regular basis, and while a big part of me really really wants everyone in the world to understand that music therapy IS a “real job,” and not ask me that question anymore, I ALWAYS am happy to inform my inquirers that this is a part of my full-time job as a contracting music therapist and business owner.
It’s a hard job. A FUN job. A rewarding job. A job that requires worlds of patience, optimism, knowledge, and integrity, and a job that is uniquely conducive to a full life.
I find this work ever changing. I began working as a music therapist in 2006, and my “job” has morphed many times since then. Every time I have found myself getting tired of the same old songs, the same old groups, something changes. I started supervising undergrads, I got new contracts, I quit a part-time job MT job, I started blogging about work, I got some more contracts, I started a contracting agency with a friend, I did presentations, I started an internship program, I got some more contracts, and finally, I hired a subcontractor. During the summers, and for about a month in the winter, self-imposed diminished scheduling allows me to work on things I normally wouldn’t have time for, and that. Is. Glorious. There are so many things that make my job interesting, that I AM excited about work. I like the variety and I like the ability I have to shift things when I get antsy. It doesn’t even matter that I spend ungodly amounts of time in my car every week – it gives me a chance to catch up on world news and events on NPR, and maybe even listen to an audiobook.
Now, getting back to the Op-Ed I read this week, and that commercial I was talking about earlier in this post…
When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a hairdresser for a minute. Then a singer. Then a movie star (this was just so I could marry Elijah Wood). In middle school, I wanted to be a surgeon (this was before I found out about the educational requirements). Then I wanted to be a social worker. In high school, I completely lost track of what I wanted to be. I didn’t like school very much, and nothing except for classes in the music department kept my interest for very long. So… I went to college for musical theatre. I am happy to say, that if it weren’t for that very poorly reasoned decision, the two years of wasted time, and the tens of thousands of wasted dollars, I never would have discovered music therapy, I never would have transferred schools, and I would not be where I am today.
What do I want to be when I grow up? Now that hindsight is 20/20, I’ll change that up a bit and say, what do I want to DO when I grow up? (Ahh…if only guidance counselors had all the answers).
I want to work hard enough so that I can continue to have a good career, but not so hard that I don’t have any balance in the rest of my life. I want to want to go to work, and have variety in my week so things don’t get stale. I want to make my own decisions about my job, and I don’t want to have to ask someone for permission before I take a vacation. I want to be recognized for the passion I have for my work, and I want the people I work for and with to respect and support me. I want to make music with other people on a regular basis, and I want to make others feel good. I want to be able to see my friends and family regularly, and I want to be able to do what I WANT to do the same amount of time as what I NEED to do.
I am almost there…
It’s so cool to meet other people who love their jobs, and I am virtually surrounded by those people, but not everyone is surrounded by positivity, and I think most people don’t love their jobs. Does our culture put too much emphasis on quantity of labor, and not quality? When I look at European culture in some areas, I wish that our culture could be more like that. We’re so rigid here, and there are so many expectations we put on ourselves, and so many rules for life that don’t make sense. We are working for the weekend, and that’s a shame. A friend of mine from high school once told me when her older brother got a job out of college, he said, “I’ll work there for 40 or 50 years and by the time I retire, I’ll have a good amount of money in my 401K, and I’ll have a lot of fun in retirement.” She was horrified, and so was I.
Let’s save all the fun for retirement? Puhleease. A wise person once said, “Life happens when you’re making other plans.” Or, more spiritually, “When you make plans, God laughs.” What happens if when you retire you have a terrible accident which leaves you paralyzed? What happens if you develop early-onset Alzheimer’s? What happens if that money gets squandered by an irresponsible family member? Saving fun (and more importantly LIFE) for when you retire is just a bad idea. End of story.
If you are able to work at a job where you are still able to have a fulfilling life on the side, OR…shhhh even LIKE the work you do, you can have fun RIGHT NOW! You can live your dreams at this very moment! Despite the fact that money is certainly an object for most of us, there are ways to make at least some of your dreams come true, even if it wasn’t just how you had imagined it in fourth grade.
It all starts with a direction. And some courage. And some patience. And a positive attitude. And maybe at some point, you will find yourself working, playing, and living the dream all at the same time.
L’chaim! To Life!
January 4, 2013
For any students of mine reading this…I am no longer irresponsible in the ways I will describe in this post. However, my past errors in judgement have only made me better at calling BS on almost everything, so take my words to heart and take responsibility for your choices.
I had a student a few years ago who rarely turned in assignments on time, if at all. When I would follow up, this person would tell me something to the effect of, “I’m really sorry – site reports just aren’t a priority for me right now,” or “It just didn’t get done.” I appreciated my student’s honest statements so much that I didn’t deduct as many points when I gave a grade at the end of the semester. Since then, I generally have much more respect for the responsibility students take, even if means that it’s really just honesty about being lazy or unmotivated or going out too many times and losing track of priorities.
Most of us aren’t like that.
We make excuses. Specifically, we make excuses about why we didn’t [insert anything here]. We didn’t have time, our dog ate it, we spilled wine on our computer, we had a surprise hospitalization, our battery was dead, we were sick, our toenail was itchy, we had a headache…the list goes on. Most of the time, these excuses come from not taking responsibility for our choices and subsequent actions.
Have you made those excuses, and in hindsight realized the error of your ways?
Well, I have.
When I was in school (every school, forever) I had my own ideas about the way things should go. Here are a couple of examples:
When I was in early elementary school I didn’t understand the rules of kickball, so I would develop a “stomach ache” about once a month (kickball day) prior to gym class. My mom would come and pick me up, and I would spend the rest of he afternoon on the couch pretending to be sick. She eventually caught on and made me ask the teacher how to play. I was fine with kickball after that. What I should have done, was ask the gym teacher how to play kickball from the get-go. This wouldn’t have been so bad, since I was just six years old, but the patterns continued…
I also didn’t like doing homework. My parents didn’t allow my brother and me to watch TV or play video games until our homework was done, so I would do my homework in a cursory manner in order to watch a little “Doug” or “Rugrats.” Sometimes, I would say I did my homework but actually didn’t and I’d wake up the next morning with a “stomach ache” and stay home from school, for fear that I would get in trouble for not completing an assignment. My parents eventually caught on and began checking my homework for errors and level of completion. What I should have done was go to school anyway and take responsibility for the fact that I didn’t do my homework. I’m sure the same irresponsibility happened in middle school, but nothing comes to mind, so…
When I was in high school, I did not enjoy gym class. I did not have any interest in getting sweaty and having to shower or change in a room with my classmates. So I wrote fake notes from my dad (who was a department head in that school system and worked in the building) getting me out of gym class. The thing with doing stuff like that, is that someone always catches you. Damn. I was also a procrastinator and was easily distracted by everything that high school has to offer, particularly extracurricular activities like the plays and musicals, a social life, boys, so I left EVERYTHING until the last minute (except for stuff having to do with music or art, surprise surprise…). I can’t even think of what I should have done for these examples because they are so flagrantly unacceptable.
Which brings me to college. There was something attractive about going to college in Boston – there was a lot to do, there was a bustling atmosphere, and culture and liberal ideas. I love Boston, but in hindsight, I should not have gone to college there. I am so distractible even without the bustling atmosphere and I ended up having many of the same issues as I did in grade school, except in college I was expected to be responsible for my choices and actions and accountable for myself, and I wasn’t ready. (I also didn’t know anything about nutrition or exercise and gained 50 pounds, but that’s a story for another day).
Luckily, I became ready at some point during internship and began taking responsibility for myself. And you know what? It felt good. I was calmer. I was able to say, “I didn’t do this because I got distracted and didn’t use my time effectively.” I was able to make the decision to get to sleep early so I would be well rested for an early morning the next day. I was able to really plan ahead and make smarter choices so I would be successful in my internship, and when I didn’t, I was on edge and nervous, and it didn’t feel good.
Which brings me here, almost seven years later, to a place where most of the time, even if I don’t do something when I’m supposed to, I take responsibility for it, and try not to make excuses.
Something that comes to mind when I think of excuses is the notion that there are these obstacles that we can’t get around, and I notice this in many areas of my own life. When there is a reason that something that needs to happen can’t happen, chances are it’s an excuse. It’s like that with homework, bills, getting to work on time, exercise, eating healthy, walking the dog, and there are many many others in that same vein.
Do I want to exercise every day? Of course not. It’s inconvenient, and there’s not as much time as I would like. I’m also pretty lazy. BUT!! Do I have to exercise every day? Yes, at least most days, or I will gain weight and become unhealthy. If it’s cold, I run and become warm. If it’s snowing, I shovel or snowshoe. If there’s no time, I probably could have made more time, but either way, I make up for it the next day.
Do I want to go to work when I’m sick? Of course not. I feel crummy and can’t sing as well. BUT!! Do I have to work so that I can actually make money (self-employed people don’t get sick days) and maintain reliable relationships with my clients and contracts? Yes. Unless I’m really symptomatic or contagious, I go. I lead types of sessions where I’m not forced to sing as much or at all, and I rest in between groups.
Sometimes obstacles are serious and inhibit certain other things from happening, but usually, they are petty and exaggerated. When there is an obstacle in our way, do we see only the obstacle, or do we see a solution? Do we see a way around it? If we don’t, then the obstacle is probably an empty excuse in disguise and should be treated as such.
So, all you excuse makers out there…pull yourselves up by whatever bootstraps you have, acknowledge the obstacle and come up with a way around it, or you will never survive in this world.
November 8, 2012
Tuesday was a big day – regardless of which way we voted – and I’m glad it’s over.
As I stood in line that morning for two hours (freezing my tuchas off outside for one hour, and inside a gymnasium for the other hour) I did some reflecting on what it means to be considered.
In 1920, something big happened. Women in America, after hundreds of years of being second class citizens, and thanks to the 19th Amendment, were finally given the constitutional right to vote.
In examining this I found out several things: Some women didn’t want the right to vote; men thought that if women were given the right to vote, arguments with their husbands would ensue and break up the family; women were delicate flowers who couldn’t handle such “hurly burly” things; women were too emotional and made irrational decisions which did not belong in politics; men belonged in the public sphere, while women belonged in the domestic sphere; women couldn’t physically handle the consequences of their political actions; there would be more women voters than men, which men feared would cause the government to focus on female views or an anti-male agenda; some men thought that women were already represented and influenced by the men in their family, which would mean that some men would theoretically have more votes than others. I could go on, but it’s really not worth it. Women got the right to vote, and even though some women’s rights laws are in danger of being undone if certain people (who shall remain nameless) were to take control of the government, this one is here to stay.
You might wonder what this has to do with music therapy, or my work in general, and believe it or not, I have an answer. Some women I work with were alive before the 19th amendment was passed in 1920, before wearing pants was acceptable for us, before women were able to enter the same education and careers as men, before divorce from abusive husbands was possible, before birth control was available, before they were allowed run a marathon, before Roe v. Wade. I talk with them, sing with them, drum with them, write songs with them, and because of all that I learn from them. I’m amazed at how strong they have been in the face of of war, genocide, grief, loss, abuse and exclusion. In talking with some of these remarkable ladies, I am humbled by some of their desires and subsequent efforts to be more than a wife, mother and housekeeper. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people who choose to stay at home with their children, who couldn’t imagine life any other way, and that is awesome – and their choice. But, that choice is really what the women’s suffrage movement, and the current women’s rights movement were/is all about.
Ladies I work with have allowed me to grow as a person this year. While this was not my first election (it was my fourth!), it WAS the first election where I didn’t take my ability to vote for granted. I have never felt more privileged than I did on Tuesday, standing in line without anyone telling me I couldn’t, and proud that I was using my ability to vote to try to stand up for others, like those suffragettes did in the early 1900s.
All around the world, women have struggled. Women ARE struggling. A few months ago, I heard a story about a female singer in Pakistan, Ghazala Javed, who was hated by religious extremists and assassinated because she was too outward with her talent and voice. Just last month, a 14 year-old girl, Malala Yousufzai, also from Pakistan, was shot in the head by members of the Taliban for going to school, and for being a loud voice regarding the education of girls. She did not die, and the Taliban who shot her have said that they will not stop until she is silenced for good. These are just two stories of many that show me/us that we are so lucky, here in this amazing country. Because we were allowed to vote in the election on Tuesday, some of our rights will be preserved for another four years.
Here, we are capable of and entitled to make our own decisions about how our lives are going to go, we elect female political leaders, and we empower each other. No one should be able to make our decisions for us, except for us. Welcome to 2012.
We are strong, we are invincible…
We are women!
October 2, 2012
I am a crier. I cry all the time.
I recently cried while watching “The Blind Side,” “Crazy, Stupid Love,” a random “Friends” episode and almost cried when listening to a random movie theme.
Truth be told, I have been meaning to write a post about emotion for quite a while, but the interns started a couple of weeks ago, and things have been a little crazy.
Here we go…
To be in this profession, empathy is key. We all know that. We need to be able to make the right decisions about how to handle a situation based on our ability to read someone, and putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes is how we do that. Duh.
There are situations when our own emotions come out at unexpected times, and I think we have to be okay with that, at least for the most part. One of my interns said to me recently something to the effect of…the more we cry at movies and weddings and Hallmark commercials and anytime anyone else is crying, it reflects how empathetic we are as people.
I agree. But sometimes we miss the boat.
Last week in the psych unit, we had a group singing session. I have piles of lyric sheet copies which are laid out on a large table for patients to choose from (I know there’s a better way to do this) and a few tissue boxes. I encourage patients to choose a song that speaks to them or that they enjoy, and to take the entire pile of copies to hold on to. Each person shares their choice, and I ask them why they chose that particular song. Sometimes there’s a deep and meaningful story attached and sometimes they “just like it,” but regardless, we sing the song (sometimes using small percussion instruments, if the person wants us to) and when we are finished, I thank the person for choosing that song and we move on to the next patient’s choice.
Last week during our group singing session, a patient began to cry during “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which was a song chosen by another patient in the group. I thought to myself (during the song) that I should process with her when we had finished, but I stopped myself. I didn’t know this person, and since another patient had chosen the song, I didn’t want to make the other patient feel that her choice wasn’t honored. We finished the song and I moved onto the next patient’s choice.
Following the session, when we were all processing, the intern I mentioned above posed an extremely good question, wondering why the tearful patient was crying during that song.
I forget sometimes…I forget that crying is an individual’s situational outpouring of emotion or pain or joy, and that in a psychiatric unit, it might be something worth asking that person about. So many people cry when music is present (especially in those forums) that I forget how new it is to my interns, and how much better I should be about making sure I process those feelings with patients. Not only that, but spending the time at least asking the person if they want to talk about how they’re feeling, which I have done in the past, but didn’t that day. I forget that not everyone is attention seeking, like a patient who was in the unit several weeks ago. I forget that crying can be significant, even if it’s an every day occurrence in my life because of sitcoms and pictures of cute animals and human interest stories that turned into movies.
After I responded to my intern’s question, I went out to the milieu and, sitting down next to the crying patient, asked her if she was okay. She responded with “Yeah, I’m fine – that song always makes me cry – I have it on CD…but I’m okay.” I thanked her for coming to the session and told her I hoped that she would come to the drumming group on Monday if she was still there (she did).
I thought about my lack of good judgement in that moment all weekend and realized that I got lost in the structure of my session and forgot the important parts. Having tissues on the table is not enough. Surely, some people just want to be alone with their tears and are crying for no reason in particular, but what if someone was crying about something very specific? What if someone was crying for the first time in years? What if someone was crying for attention? Or out of frustration? Or anger? Or despair? The significance of any of those may not ever matter. We don’t have to pry if we think the person may need that solitary safe space to cry in, but we should at least ask.
Everything seems new-ish again with my interns asking simple but poignant questions, and I feel so happy that I’m able to share my knowledge with them, even if I make mistakes sometimes.
I’m so happy, I could cry 🙂
(But I won’t because I met my quota today during an old episode of “How I Met Your Mother”)
June 23, 2012
When I was feeling burnt out last year, all I wanted to do was write. Every group I had gave me an idea for a blog post, and between August of last year and January, I mostly wrote more than once a week. Alas, things have changed.
My schedule changed at the end of January, which kept me much busier than usual (in a good way) and left less time for blogging and ideas.
I became more motivated in my work after leaving one of my contracts, so I have been spending more time doing work I like, and less time thinking about liking work.
I began religiously listening to NPR in my car between groups instead of thinking about work.
I started a lifestyle change in search of balance in food consumption and exercise which left less time to blog.
I have been making more creative meals for myself and my boyfriend in an attempt to get out of my “chicken meatball and brussels sprouts” rut. This takes more time.
I began working on three fairly complicated work-related projects/proposals.
Anyway, the list goes on in terms of things that have kept me away from WordPress, but the truth is that I miss blogging and I wish I had more time to write. However – I haven’t given up! I have 6 posts that I started months ago and never finished that are waiting for edits and publication, and one that I finished earlier today that I’ll post later. I wonder though, if I will be able to get back into the swing of things in the same way as before…
Two things happened this past week that motivated me to start writing again. One, a former student of mine asked me for some advice on beginning contract work and I found that I enjoyed answering his questions quite a bit. Two, I heard a story about a young Pakistani singer, Ghazala Javed, who was shot and killed for no obvious reason. I’ll write more on both of those topics in future posts, hopefully soon, and maybe that will get the blog ball rolling once again.
My goal is to get to 100 posts by Labor Day. This is 71. Can I do it? We’ll see. In any case, thanks for reading and I’ll try to come by more often.
February 29, 2012
I may have mentioned that I am extremely lucky in past posts. I am. I am very fortunate in my life, professional and personal, and I don’t take it for granted – ever. I believe that sending positive energy out into the world will bring exponentially positive things back to me, and as far as I can tell, it works. Since breaking free of the requisite evil teenager phase, I have tried very hard to do only good things and to appreciate all I have in this life. Not only do I try to make others happy because it makes me happier, but because the world becomes a better place when positivity is paid forward.
Or maybe my luck is all a coincidence.
When I was in my internship, I was told, “There are no coincidences.” At the time, I was not terribly open minded (though I thought I was), and I thought that admitting to my own spirituality meant that I was on the road to religious extremism. Following internship, I made peace with my spirituality and read a wonderful book (given to me by my internship director and which I have since paid forward to a dear friend) called The Celestine Prophecy. My four line synopsis is: “There are no coincidences.”
Was it a coincidence that when a table full of idiots I was waiting on (during college) walked out on a $200+ tab, one of them, who had left earlier, had accidentally left behind a backpack with John Hancock employment papers in it? (The “short-version” result: Thanks to local police, I got my money back plus a 20% tip and no one was charged with the misdemeanor that they committed).
Was it a coincidence that two weeks after my guitar was stolen out of my office, I went to the place I got it from to buy a new one and was shown my own guitar, complete with the same serial number and chipped varnish on the head? (The “short-version” result: I did not have to pay more money for my guitar, and I even got my Levy’s gig bag back).
Those questions will never be answered, so I just have to believe.
Believe in what, you ask? I don’t even know. Maybe if I treat people well, I will be rewarded somehow. If I follow my own ethical and moral guidelines, I will find peace and understanding and tolerance and grace for people who have missed the boat. I just have to believe that good things will happen to me if I do good things. Which brings me to the main but generally insignificant point to all of this philosophical jibber-jabber.
Today I got a new contract. At a fabulous Assisted Living in the small, on-site residential dementia program there. Alongside an activities coordinator with a master’s who knows what music therapy is. Working with clients who will be capable of participating in all the kinds of interventions and exercises my training and expertise has to offer (sorry about the sentence fragments). I’m ecstatic. I really shouldn’t be this excited, since I get new contracts frequently and I’ll only be going there every other week to start, but I just experienced such a great energy from every aspect of my meeting/interview/audition, and as James Brown once exclaimed, “I FEEL GOOD!”
I cannot be given full credit for most of my contracted work because things tend to fall in my lap. Don’t get me wrong, I really really appreciate that, because I have not been a very motivated advocate for myself, but this job came about because I actually tried. I made the call on a whim during a ten minute break on Tuesday afternoon. The woman called me back the next afternoon, wanted to schedule a meeting for today and said she would be “delighted” to talk to me about starting a MT program in her dementia unit. Delighted! Has anyone ever said that to me about starting an MT program? You can guess what the answer is there…
Something feels different in the air today.
Earlier, at the geri-psych unit, I gave a 5o-something year-old a choice between “Love Me Tender” and “I’m a Believer.” He chose the latter and we sang it while he quietly listened and tapped his feet to the song. Following the session, I turned on the TV for the remaining patients. I skipped over three “bad news TV” channels and stopped on one that wasn’t showing horrible images of horrible events. “Davy Jones, 66, Dies of a Heart Attack” was on the banner at the bottom of the screen and the next several minutes were full of exclamations and saddened Baby Boomer nurses. I JUST played “I’m a Believer” ten minutes before that! Strange.
I was watching the latest episode of “Modern Family” a little while ago and one of the characters opened the door to two men, half-dressed like the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz and holding masks. The dialogue went as follows:
Man 1: Hey.
Man 2: Hey –
Man 1 & 2: We’re the Monkeys.
January 18, 2012
In two weeks I’m leaving a job I’ve been at for four and a half years. It’s at a nursing home in the Boston area and while I love the residents I work with there and have become very attached to some, it’s become a twice-weekly reminder that we do not care for the elders in our country with the right priorities.
There are other reasons why I need a change, but that’s all I’ll say for now, because this post is actually about the transition I am helping to create with the music therapist who is taking over my position.
I gave almost three months notice, and while I’m no Mother Teresa, I admit I feel some responsibility, not only to the residents I work with but also to the person replacing me, to ease everybody into my absence smoothly.
So…for the past few weeks, my lovely replacement has been attending my groups, meeting my clients, learning their favorite songs and asking priceless questions about technique and interventions, as well as exhibiting a wonderful personality that fits into the group dynamics well (If you’re reading this, L., I really mean it). What’s interesting about all of this is that she wants feedback, which I am comfortable giving because of my love for supervision and, I feel like I’m training someone, which wasn’t my original plan but seems to be working out quite well for everyone involved.
Today she and a Master’s level expressive therapy student (who has been observing my group for several months) led the entire session and my residents really seemed to enjoy it. They have always loved it when I’ve had students in my groups and I think the fact that a familiar face (ET student) will still be there after I leave, and that my replacement is able to spend so much time with them before I leave, is hugely helpful for them. Some of them have known me for nearly five years and have voiced their sadness that I’m leaving, but seeing them so enthusiastic and open to the new MT makes me feel like a giant load has been lifted off my shoulders, and makes me feel less like I’m abandoning them.
When it’s time to ease out of a job, thinking about everyone involved may be inconvenient for us, but it’s worth it for them.
My advice is this: When quitting a job, if it’s possible for you to prepare your clients, co-workers or supervisors for your absence with good feelings, peace of mind and a smooth transition, do it. It makes all the difference in the world.
January 17, 2012
I’ve been telling my self for years that I don’t need an advanced degree. Here’s what my monologue usually sounds like:
“I’m a clinician. I’ve been working on building a client base forever, and the people who work with me have passed my name to others and know what my skills are. If I got a Master’s, the only thing that would be different is that I would have a Master’s! At this point, for the population I work with, I can charge pretty much what I want per/hour, so my pay wouldn’t increase, and all it would do would create more debt in my debt-filled life. ALSO, since I would want to keep working, getting a Master’s would basically be like going to work all day and then also working all night. Is it worth it? I’ll revisit the idea in two years.”
Here’s a little update, and some things that have changed since the last time I ranted at myself about not going back to school:
I have realized that I don’t necessarily always want to ONLY be a clinician. I want to teach college students. I want to counsel people with aging family members, learn more about gerontology, and learn more about my own field so I can better do my job.
Most of those things require me to get a Master’s degree, but where do I begin? Based on my statements prior to this paragraph, there are many possibilities. Do I want to go to school part time? Do I just want to take one class per semester and just chip away at the degree? Do I want to get a Master’s from an inexpensive online program to save myself the debt, or do I want a brand-name school to teach me? What I’m finding is that there are more questions than answers at this stage of the game.
January 7, 2012
This afternoon, my parents and I took my step-grandmother out for a birthday lunch. She turned 93 on Sunday, and I must say, she is my hero.
A little background: My dad’s parents were married for a really long time before his mother, my Grammy, died of lung cancer in her 70s. Things were always touch and go in his parents’ relationship with their four kids and their offspring because of some lingering control issues that my grandmother seemed to have, and things got so bad at times that my grandparents didn’t go to two of their kids weddings. Somehow the philosophy of “sweep negative things under the rug” kept the family together, even through the really tough times. Because my grandfather, Pop Pop, was a devoted husband, he went along with some of the crazy things my Grammy wanted and therefore, they both were somewhat alienated from most of the family for years and years. When Grammy died, my Pop Pop became a different man – probably the man he had always wanted to be, and because of this, our relationships with him changed significantly, and for the better. He joined a senior bowling league at the age of 75 (the year Grammy died) and shortly thereafter met 80 year old firecracker-of-the-year, Elsie. They fell madly in love, got married and spent the better part of a decade traveling the world, spending a lot of time with family, and enjoying their life together. Pop Pop passed away four years ago, but because of our connection with the woman who brought him back to life, we have stayed in contact with Elsie since then.
I wish I had a picture of Elsie. She’s petite and always dressed to kill. She wears makeup, keeps active, and still bowls twice a week. She also doesn’t look a day over 78. I got to her house a little earlier than my parents, so I went in and we chatted for a while. One of the first questions she asked me was, “Are you still working with the old people?” I chuckled and said yes, and we talked for a minute about how hard it is to lose friends and relatives as they age. She then said to me, “You know, you must have a lot of patience to work with them – old people can be difficult.”
Elsie knows full well that she is 93. She is as sharp as a tack. My guess, is that she doesn’t see herself as an “old person.” She knows her limitations and doesn’t drive long distances or at night anymore, but still lives her life to the fullest, and is even taking a trip to Prince Edward Island this year with her brother and his wife.
One thing that I’m amazed by, and that gives me hope for not only my own life, but the lives of my friends and family members, is that Pop Pop and Elsie met at a time in their lives when they both needed companionship, and ended up finding the loves of their lives. At 76 and 81, they got married (I have a distinct recollection of Elsie swinging her hips to “The Thong Song” at the reception) and both said that they were never happier in their lives than when they were with each other. I hope that if I’m ever alone in my later years, I’m able to see light through the fog and have hope that things will be fine as long as I keep living. Not just being alive, but really living my life until it’s time for the next great adventure.
When I first got to her door, I said happy birthday and gave her a hug, and she said, “I’m not having any more birthdays!” At this rate, I beg to differ.