Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The state of "I don't know"

There are a few recurring themes (if I may go all musical on you) which I've noticed in my work with Bc.  One is that sometimes he shows up, and sometimes he doesn't.  Another is that sometimes he seems very interested in what we're doing- all involved, playing music, engaged, and sometimes he doesn't. Yet another is sometimes he's very groggy in his sessions (and sometimes so am I), and sometimes he's not.  

Okay, so maybe there's actually only one theme here:  sometimes yes, and sometimes not so much.  

I haven't worked with Bc all that long (comparatively speaking).  I'd say it's only been, maybe, three or four years. I've often found, having worked in an institution for almost (gasp!) twenty-one years, that it takes more like six to eight years to start to get a sense that maybe we have a relationship happening here.

On two separate occasions, in the past month or so of working with Bc, I've had this very strong sense of feeling bothered.  Not exactly bothered, really- it was more a wondering, "Does this man really want music therapy? Am I just getting on his nerves?  I have to work so hard to get his attention, and even when I may actually have his attention, I'm not sure that he's interested in this.  Do I even exist as something or someone who matters to him?  I just feel like he's avoiding dealing with me, and I'm constantly trying to get a sense of 'does this matter?  Do I matter?'"

So there I was, pondering these things, and it suddenly hit me. "Is this how Bc feels in his life? Like he has to work so hard to get people's attention, and then maybe they'll be interested in paying attention to him, and maybe they won't. Maybe Roia will stick around, maybe she won't. Is it worth the effort to trust someone who's probably going to disappear anyway?"  

It has occurred to me that it's possible that my clients spend a large amount of time experiencing uncertainty. And I, by extension, as their music therapist, spend an equally large amount of time feeling uncertain. I've written (well, I've made mention of) ambiguous loss in two previous posts (here and here). Families disappear.  Staff comes. Staff goes.  The thing is, I think it's connected to this constant state of "I don't know" that my clients and I seem to co-experience in our sessions.

If you've ever been in an institution (for whatever reason), then you start to notice that, in spite of all the schedules and the "you're supposed to be here at this appointed time" and the regimented this, that, and the other thing, the menus, the activity schedules and so on...there is still a strong sense of uncertainty in the experience of being there.  

By uncertainty, in this instance, what I mean is, "Which staff is on today/tonight? What kind of mood is s/he in? What is that going to mean for the kind of night I'm going to have or not have? Is this person still my staff, or has s/he moved on to work in another building? When will my family be visiting me? Do they know I'm here?  Do they care?" You get the idea. 

As a music therapist, I'm called on to hear this somehow and translate it to music.  To give it a voice.  To acknowledge it. This constant state of "I don't know."

No comments: