Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is failure an option?

Oh. My. God.  Today was long.  It was annoying.  It was frustrating.  It made me wish I did anything but music therapy.  

As guilty as I'm going to feel, I have to say it.  Sometimes I hate my job.  Okay, so now you know. I felt like a complete failure by the end of the day anyway, so I may as well publicly (yes, publicly) admit that sometimes it sucks raw eggs to be a music therapist, and I entertain evil thoughts about some of the guys I see for music therapy.  

Initially, I was just having a boring day, because a lot of my clients seemed to be out and unavailable.  Then, when they were available, they were exhausted (yes, I am rolling my eyes heavenward, why do you ask?).  

Well, okay, the real problem was one particular client who has been challenging me for...let's see how long have I worked with him? Almost five years maybe? Let's just say there has never been a time in our work together that didn't make me wonder "why the hell am I still doing this? Why is he still getting music therapy?" (or, to quote a wonderful bumper sticker I bought many years ago, "where am I going, and why am I in this hand basket?"). 

Yes, there's something wonderful and likable about him, but, for pity's sake!  I am tired of asking him to stop licking the walls, the table, the dirty clothes bins, etc.  I am ready to claw out my own eyeballs from asking him to stop writing all over his face with the ball point pen.  And, for crying out loud, enough with the kicking, punching and pinching at me!  

I think I'm most upset, because I have sincerely tried and tried, and the reality is I can do no more for this man.  I just don't have the energy to keep arguing with him.  If he doesn't want to change, then he doesn't want to change, and I'm wasting both our time trying.  

The distress part for me (until now anyway) has been that, to my way of thinking, I have to keep trying.  See, now this is why I needed to take a break from working for a little while- so I could finally recognize that my thought process was ridiculous.  It is now glaringly obvious to me that "trying" in this case is more about my need to not fail than about his need for music therapy.

I wonder if other music (and non-music) therapists go through this madness.  Or am I just insanely Don Quixotic about it all ("to fight for the right- without question or pause- to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause...etc.").  Clinical supervision anyone?

*Heavy sigh.*


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A visit to the cemetery

On my way to rehearsal last night, I decided to stop at the library.  Well, as it happened, the library had just closed, so I was too late.  While I was waiting to turn out of the library parking lot, it started to occur to me that R was buried in the cemetery across the street.  On a whim I pulled in to visit him.  I couldn't remember whether there was a gravestone, but I had some idea of where he was buried, because he's toward the back by the trees.  

I got out of my car and went to look at the gravestones.  No luck.  I noticed a little metal grave marker, and when I looked closely I saw his name on it.  Then I realized that someone who knew and loved him had placed a little metal smiling bee next to it to mark the space as belonging to R.  I started to cry, because I was very touched.  Back in February I wrote about how R used to come up to me and yell "BEE" at me and want me to yell "BEE" right back to him in his ear.  When he was younger, bees would sit gently on this man's finger- this man who, for a large portion of his life, yelled and slapped and kicked at people (often because he was likely in a lot of pain).  

Now he has a little smiling bee watching over him.  I think the other thing that made me cry was knowing that it meant someone else, probably from the institution, has been visiting him and is missing him. I don't know about anyone else, but I think it's comforting to know that, even when we mess up some things in this life, even if we yell and lash out at people because we're in pain of some sort (emotional, physical, spiritual) or we're scared- there's usually someone (or several someones) who still love us and will miss us when we die.  

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Beautiful voices

One of the things I didn't know I missed when I was away from work for the summer was the collection of little and big sounds that go along with my music therapy groups.  When I hush and listen (and sometimes I have to give myself a mental nudge to remind myself to do so) I can hear the voices and sounds made by the people who don't use speech to communicate.  

On Thursday afternoon, we had quite a crew gathered (I honestly don't know how so many people keep ending up in our group).  There were at least ten men, and we were all sitting (or standing) in a sort of long circle in various forms of chairs.  Everyone who wanted to use an instrument (well, all three guys) had their preferred objects to sound, and even though we looked (more or less) prepared for action, we couldn't seem to get any kind of a musical improvisation going.  

To be truthful, there was some unrest.  T, who was sitting next to me, was a bit agitated, and he was up and down a bit- biting at his hand and then taking my hand and pumping my arm up and down a few times.  The recreation person came in and asked if he could borrow one of the guys, so they left together.  B wanted to sit in the windowsill- which, on principle, I'm not against, but his staff have asked that I not let him do that, because he tends to urinate all over the windowsill area, and, well, you get the picture- so I usually ask him to not sit there.  P, who usually wants to be in the session before anyone else and stays longer than almost anyone else, decided to return the tambourine he likes to use and left the room entirely.  

I think it was in between dramas that I finally quieted down, uncertain as to how I should proceed, and that was when I noticed the sounds:  R's quiet, breathy "hah, hah, hah" (accompanied, as always, by his quick forward rocking motion), B's- also quiet- melodic humming (he usually uses a very small range, and it's often in a minor key), and S's consistent, somewhat higher pitched, "ee-mmm-aaahh-mmm-eee-aaah", punctuating his sounds with gentle clapping sounds placed at various intervals.  K had the seed pod rattle, and, as always, he held it tightly in one hand, making it difficult for the seed pods to actually rattle, and he used his other hand to tap at it very softly.   

I listened with such pleasure, suddenly aware of how much I'd missed these sounds and these moments.  I tuned my low and high E strings down to D (the sounds felt very open and D-ish to me), and I joined in with my quiet sounds too.  The energy in the room shifted, and we were all able to settle down and play together.   

Monday, September 1, 2008

Walking slowly together

On Saturday (I work on Saturdays) I went to pick up D from his cottage.  I hadn't seen him for two and a half months, and I wasn't sure how he would react when I showed up after all this time. I mean, I told him I'd be on a leave of absence, and I explained that I would be returning at the end of August, and we would resume music therapy.  Since D doesn't use speech, and he's rather a quiet man (at least he is when he's with me), I wasn't sure how he had experienced my announcement.  

Anyway, he smiled when he saw me this past Saturday, and I must admit I was glad to see him too.  He pulled me to the door, and we were off.  It was a quiet morning, and D tends to walk- more like an amble actually- very slowly and deliberately.  His heel always goes down firmly first and then the rest of his foot follows along in sort of a rolling motion, his toes always pointed out. He holds on to me- to my hand- with his right hand, and his left hand usually goes up and rests gently on his chest or on the drawstring from his jacket (or the drawstring on his shorts).

A good word to describe D's pace, I'd say, is "leisurely".  Very.  I have often found it difficult to walk with him because I have to slow down quite a bit in order to not end up dragging him along. The thing about this particular day was that I had just returned from taking my own "leisurely" break.  As we walked slowly together, I immediately noticed how much less hurried I was, and how it was so much easier than usual for me to adjust myself to D's gentle rhythm rather than indulging the tendency I have to move along at my usually frantic trot.  

As we strolled along D hummed quietly, and I enjoyed listening to his singing- not a particularly wide range, but he was very present and lovely to hear.  Nice... to slow down and pay attention.