The Changes, The Waves

Writing this — just so the words could contain and carry it all for me, even before I am ready to understand and embrace the logic of what is happening.
Today I started my application for Doctoral School abroad.
Today I entered an international music collaboration that has as much meaning for me as Lucidus Quartet had, if not more.
Today I took my business to a new level: not bigger, but truer, trusting myself with it.
Today I came to terms (or is it an «almost»?) with the idea of no more babies in my life.
I wonder what’s in the air…
Sometimes therapy is like that, too: being stuck in patterns, visibly worsening, letting go, — and then the change comes like a big wave, and there is no way to resist, and no need to.
P.S. The ocean has been perfectly stormy and warm today. I am learning to trust him.
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Musica Humana: Portuguese

“Tantos veces eu soltei foguete…”

I never learned those lyrics. Miriam always sang this song, and I accompanied her on the guitar and pretended that I was singing, too, but, of course, I hopelessly floundered in Portuguese. Miriam used to play in her young years, too, and now it was all coming back to her, and, as time went by, the guitar became the anchorage, or the lifeboat, in the raging sea of her oncological diagnosis. A year passed, and, once, when I gave the guitar to Miriam, she could not press a chord. In several more weeks, the arm stopped moving altogether. We met in the waiting room eventually, and Miriam did not look me in the eyes. I said that I still could not master the lyrics, and she started to sing…

She sang and cried. With the last chord, she breathed out and told me that during the last five minutes she felt alive again. And she laughed. About a month later, her oncologist came up to me and quietly told me that Miriam was gone.

 

 

«Moonriver» was another song that we often shared. Now it will always stay «Miriam’s song».

 

 

 

Phoenix: Self-care

1

My city is burnt to the ground.
No way I am rising from ashes
any time soon.
It’s been half the moon
since I started feeling this way.
The air is too loud,
and the day
ahead brings nothing but splashes
of pain in my temples and blur in my eyes…

But wait! I’m a bird in disguise —
and I’m flying!
I’m flying
away.

2

My utmost consolation,
my dream,
my focal point,
my breathing pattern,
is that in the relatively foreseeable future,
for a month at least,
I shall stare straight before myself
directly into the ocean,
no movement,
no sound,
no thoughts,
and if I shall have to write
those will only be some random words
on the sand.

Art of The Pause

May 4, 2017. The day I left my dream job.

I am not longer the music therapy program director at Harvard Vanguard Hematology and Oncology, and I am not longer a clinical training supervisor for Berklee College of Music at the site.

 

How did it happen? Why? When did it start? What could possibly go wrong?
But here I am. Burnt out to the ground, to my very roots. Packing my belongings. Leaving.

 

And it is good. For it is important to recognize your very own limits and to step out (step down? step up?). To see the whole picture.
I am incredibly lucky to be given this opportunity to take a break, to take a breath, to pause. To be gently, but powerfully supported on both sides — and beyond.

 

And I am grateful. For every moment of it. For every patient. For every student. For my valiant colleagues — nurses, doctors, pharmacists, social workers, receptionists, patient navigators, administrators, security. For my incredible, whole souled boss. For my music therapy family at Berklee. For my kin who stand by me no matter what.

 

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It has been an exciting, glorious adventure, and I  learned a lot from it. Starting the program three years ago, entering the unorthodox, challenging realm of an outpatient medical setting, exploring options, managing expectations, always balancing — between art and science, academics and medicine, admiration and criticism, body and soul, pain and pleasure, living and dying, laughter and silence… Earning trust — of the patients, of the staff, of the students, of my own self (and that was the hardest!). Getting stuck. Moving forward. Dumping ideas. Coming up with decisions. Letting go of an agenda. Embracing imperfections.

 

338 patients.
537 individual sessions.
407 hours of environmental music.
26 students.
3 1.5 inch thick binders of clinical documentation.

 

Patients dancing during their chemo treatment.

 

People singing about their lost hair.

 

Nurses playing drums amidst the treatment.

 

Doctors slowing down for several seconds to listen and to breathe.

 

Caregivers saying they are looking forward to the next week.

 

So, what happened? Why do I have to leave?

 

I can not exactly tell when it started. In the fall? During that colourless, excruciating winter?

 

As much as I tried, I could not find the balance. Homeschooling my two young children (no nannies, no extended family); house hunting on a limited budget and finally making the decision about moving to suburbs; cramming the supervision of six students, with all the paperwork and organization, into the 12 hours of music therapy work at site; ongoing, emotionally draining at times, music therapy advocacy in Russia. Isolation. The worst of all, yes, was isolation.

 

Long hours, no break, commute. Never ceasing professional need to initiate new relationships — patients, caregivers, students — and to bring myself wholly and authentically into those. Homeschooling crowd, church crowd, extracurricular activities for kids, driving, nagging — no time and space for silence, for thoughts, for the inner music, no privacy, and at the same time — no one to fully relate to, no one to talk with. Isolation.

 

I managed by detaching and disengaging myself, by functioning in energy saving mode.

 

I’d become a better teacher than I am a music therapist. I’d become a disciplinarian in place of a mom.

 

I managed by traveling internationally for brief amounts of time, for only this intense, aggressive motion in space allowed me to, actually, feel myself.

 

Whenever I had a chance, but rarely, I came to the shore and stared at the snow flocking into the ocean.

 

Sometimes it felt as if I was dying. I got too sick too often, I was physically falling apart. I dragged myself from one day into another, many weeks in a row. And today it stops.

 

What do I take with me?

 

Discoveries. A lot of «needs».

 

I need my time.
I need my music.
I need myself.
I need to be nourished in order to nourish others.

 

Knowledge.

 

I can only relate deeply and authentically to a few people at any given stretch of time (or, at least, I, hopefully, will, soon).
My family is my priority.
I am a project thinker, a strategist. Routine does not work well for me. I am a gypsy.

 

Gratitude.

 

For every single person who touched my life during the time I have been sensing my way through the transparent, fragile reality of an outpatient oncology unit.

 

Gratitude.

Foguete

Я так и не выучила слова. Мириам всегда пела эту песню, а я аккомпанировала ей на гитаре и делала вид, что тоже пою, но, конечно, безнадёжно путалась в португальском. Мириам тоже играла в юности, и теперь вспоминала, и постепенно гитара стала для неё опорой, спасательной шлюпкой в бущующем море онкологического диагноза. Прошёл год, и однажды я дала Мириам гитару, а у неё не получилось зажать аккорд. Ещё через несколько недель рука перестала двигаться совсем. Мы встретились в приёмном отделении, и Мириам не смотрела мне в глаза. Я сказала, что никак не могу выучить слова, и она запела.

Она пела и плакала. С последним аккордом она выдохнула и сказала, что за последние пять минут снова почувствовала себя живой. И рассмеялась. Еще через месяц ко мне подошла врач-онколог и сказала, что Мириам больше нет.

To Each of Us is Given Only a Moment

«To each of us is given only a moment. Each moment.
Our faith, while uniquely and powerfully tied to past and future, is all about _now_: What will I do, in this moment of time, to reflect God’s love and grow in Christ? <…> And each moment is potential magic».

«We must have some boundaries. Although I never wish to be limited by my job description, I must for the sake of my sanity, if nothing else, erect some fences indicating how far I am capable of going. My fences are:
Don’t ask the _why_ question.
Don’t bang your head on what you are incapable of doing.
Don’t pump your ego on what you are capable of doing.

Babies with cancer, little girls with a leg severed at the knee, abusive parents, the way death often swallows up the last ounce of energy and hope, the look in mother’s eyes on the day of her child’s last, weak grasp — these things are beyond me. I simply choose to believe, by an act of will and by the authority of the Word of God, that God, somehow, is in control»

«My greater struggle, I think, is feeling that I should be doing more. Sometimes with my bags of kazoos and maracas, I feel so helpless, so limited at the face of such suffering. I feel like a match in a desert light. <…> Again and again, I have to remind myself that I am simply to do what God leads me to do and leave the question of eternity with Him».

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Deforia Lane, «Music as Medicine»