February 10, 2014
In December, I found out from one of my contracts that they needed to cut my hours in half. I was disappointed and thought that I could talk the new dementia unit recreation coordinator into reconsidering with my
Jedi mind trick knowledge of how beneficial music therapy is for clients with dementia, etc. I called a couple of colleagues for advice, and came up with a plan to meet with the woman in person, after a lot of negative thoughts and anxiety made their way into my brain.
I was sad and nervous and had been rehearsing with myself all morning. No sooner had I walked through the door the day of my meeting, than I ran into an activities employee I know who informed me that they had just hired a new Director of Resident Life (who hadn’t started yet), and that she is also a music therapist. I asked who it was, and as chance would have it (eh – it’s a small world – who am I kidding…) it was someone I had met at our regional conference last year. I became more relaxed after my conversation with the activities person, and decided to throw my “plan” from earlier out the window. I decided to just talk with the new rec. coordinator about regular things and then explain my situation logistically, philosophically and financially when the subject came up in an organic way. This was a much better approach, and I didn’t feel as much on my guard as I had earlier. It turns out it was a budget issue, more specifically, that our weekly sessions were taking up literally half of the monthly budget, and that they wanted to have a bit more variety on the unit. I guess sometimes things just don’t work out! I was still somewhat frustrated though, and to add to that frustration, I had been doing a lot of cold calls in order to get my sub more work and I hadn’t heard back from any of them (even after following up) so I was a little defeated in general, especially after so many months of doing really well in that regard.
Over the next couple of days I had some moments of negativity (which is not common) but on Sunday, I just sort of accepted things and thought to myself…”with every closed door, comes an open window.” I decided to be okay with my less than successful month of job-getting, and get back into my regular mindset. Maybe something would come up?
On Monday, I signed in to my LinkedIn account to write a message to the music therapist/Director of Resident Life at the facility that was cutting my hours, just to say hello and tell her that I work with the facility she’s starting work at. When I logged in, I saw her name on the screen and was very confused as to why this person’s name was on my screen when I hadn’t done anything to bring it there, and then I realized that she had written ME a message (that same morning). Her message stated that she was leaving her private practice, and asked if I had any interest in taking on her clients (if they were interested). UM. Yes Please.
I wrote her back and told her the bizarre circumstance under which I signed on to LinkedIn to begin with, and then agreed to take any clients who wanted me. I received e-mails from three of the several contracts, and am therefore now working with an early-childhood music program (not MT, and if you’re familiar with my blog, then you know it’s not my population either), a Day Program near the hospital I work at, which includes adapted piano lessons for one – soon to be two – adult men with special needs, and an assisted living facility within the same company as others I contract with. Through the latter, I have also gotten e-mails from administrators in other facilities under the same umbrella. So basically, stuff is happening.
Also in December, a music therapist I spoke on a panel with last year got in touch with me about an opportunity working in a special needs classroom. I am not taking on much in the way of new work because my schedule is pretty full, so I asked my sub if she might be interested. She started last week and though there have been some minor kinks to work out, I think it’s going to be a good experience for us all, and she really seems to be enjoying it.
This is such a crazy adventure in self-confidence and acceptance of the things I cannot change. I have to remind myself not to take anything personally, to continue to foster good relationships with everyone I meet, and to never never let anything keep me down for long, because something awesome is waiting around the corner if I just believe it’s there.
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!
February 25, 2013
Helping others can be a healing experience, particularly when you’re feeling blue. Here’s a little blue stream-of-consciousness post for you.
A few weeks ago, I was taking a walk with my mom and my dog, and we came across a duck-ish bird limping down the street. It was dark and cold. The bird would take a few steps down the street and then lay in the road. The dead end street headed toward the ocean, where we usually enjoy the view for a moment, but we never made it there, because I decided that we must rescue this animal from certain death. The short version of the rest of the story goes like this:
I took the bird to my parents’ house after catching it with my jacket (which I took off in 30 degree weather :/), put it in a cat carrier, took it home, and in the morning brought it to a wildlife clinic an hour away from my house. I went on vacation after that, and when I returned, I got a call from the wildlife clinic telling me that “your bird” is ready to be returned to the wild. Here are a couple pictures of him on the way to freedom:
I’ve been struggling with some minor seasonal blues, and this made my day – my week. I felt so capable and calm, and on top of things.
And it felt good.
I think as long as there is good in a person, helping feels good, and will make people want to do it more.
I see it every day in my clients with Alzheimer’s; I say, “Can you hold these [maracas] for me?” They almost always say yes, even after I have asked them if they want to play an instrument, and they decline because they “won’t be good at it.” When I frame it in a way where the client is able to help me, they are immediately ready and willing, even if they “won’t be good at it”. For some reason, they are willing to risk [perceived and imagined] failure and humiliation in order to help someone by holding maracas. I might also add that these usually end up being the people who most surprise me with their rhythmic abilities – but I digress…
When a person has lost so much, they are still able to naturally help – to give.
In the psych unit, when patients help and support each other, it is heart-warming, and so telling of human instinct. When there’s a patient who is having a particularly difficult time, others will often encourage and prompt that person, even when they themselves are in the midst of turmoil and sadness.
The phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is something that comes to mind when I think of a dear friend of mine who was abused as a child and now has made it part of her own journey and healing process to help others find peace in their own similar experiences through a blog talking about pain, vulnerability, relationships, and spirituality.
It is incredibly rewarding to help others, because we can see ourselves in the people we’re helping. Because we would want to be helped. Empathy is a powerful thing.
I lead songwriting exercises in some of my groups. A few times, I have asked clients what makes them feel good/happy as the “theme”. “Helping others,” is a popular response. In the psych unit, we talk about coping skills sometimes, and “helping others” often shows up on the list as well. We are hard-wired to help others – maybe because we all have weaknesses. If we are able to help someone – whether it’s helping an elderly person with a door, a busy colleague with some papers she dropped, returning a cell phone or wallet (intact) to it’s rightful owner, rescuing a limping bird, or helping someone find peace within themselves out of trauma – it can give us strength.
Finding strength (through whatever journey) allows us to do remarkable things, and it can change us. It can change the whole story.
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.
October 24, 2011
And thus begins the series on lyric substitution!
(The header on this – Substitute – is a Gloria Gaynor/Ramones song, not to be confused with The Who’s song of the same title).
Today I had quite the enthusiastic session on the geri-psych unit. The unit has twelve beds, and it’s not always full, so sometimes my groups are very small. NOT TODAY!!! Not only did I have 9 patients, but I also had 9 family members and friends (on this unit, visitors are allowed all hours of the day, and are encouraged to go to groups with the patients, when appropriate). I’m on this unit three times a week, and on Sundays (yuck), I usually lead a casual type of sing-along with some songwriting exercises blended in. We sang some songs that patients suggested, and did The Great Day Song, which as usual got people talking, laughing and reminiscing. A patient’s son, a jazz pianist, performed sporadic songs (that I didn’t know) and we all generally had a wonderful session that was low-key and flowed nicely. At one point, a patient’s husband suggested the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” I of course know the song, and we sang the familiar verses, but I used it as an “in” for a second songwriting exercise, but just using lyric substitution.
After all the verses, I asked the group what else he has in his hands today, and over the next five minutes or so, I got a really nice variety of responses, and everyone in the room got involved and was supportive of one another. Some of the suggestions I received were the following:
He’s got the Middle East in his hands…
He’s got the U.S.A….
He’s got all of the veterans…
He’s got [the hospital we’re in]…
He’s got the navy…
He’s got the Marine Corps…
It was really nice to hear so many genuine responses so quickly.
Howevah – it’s not always that easy, and when it’s not, I try to find a more concrete question to ask residents or patients instead of “What else does he have in his hands?” I sometimes ask each group member “who or what would you like to pray for today,” or “who needs a prayer?” Often residents will name another person in the group, or themselves, and in that case, we sing that person’s name, and then we sing a verse about each person in the group. They always seem so happy to hear their own name in a song, and many have told me how comforting it is to know that we were all singing a prayer for them.
He’s got the whole world in his hands,
He’s got the whole, wide world in his hands,
He’s got the whole world in his hands,
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
Because the song is so repetitive, it’s very easy to successfully use this lyric substitution exercise with a group of people with varying cognitive abilities. We sing the substituted lyric for the first three lines, and finish with “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
Anyway, that’s all she wrote. Today, I’d like to send a little friendly vibe or two in the direction of a resident I’ve worked with for several years and who is declining, somewhat rapidly, after four years of enthusiasm and an infectiously positive attitude toward everything in her life, despite hardship, loss and an aging mind and body.
Today, He’s got G. in his hands.