Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"He's not cranky- he's mischievous."

Her exact words were "he hasn't been cranky- he's been mischievous!" 

I was thinking about what she'd said the previous day about S as we started our session.  As his support staff, she probably was finding him to be rather frustrating. But, in my mind, there has to be a reason for it. 

What does it mean when someone's being mischievous? What if he's learning to assert himself? What if this means he now has enough of a sense of 'self' to assert? And he's not there yet, but he's trying to figure out what having a 'self' means?

That's kind of cool!

Now, back to S in his music therapy session. He was very quiet. His music was also quiet- contemplative, more interactive (in contrast to his usual energetic crashing and playing with great energy and a few brief pauses). He didn't play when I played. He was clear that this was a conversation, not a jam session where we play together. 

Self and other. Separate beings.

Wow. A major developmental step!

A modern chorus line
A modern chorus line (Photo credit: Wikipedia
A part at the very end of the first song from A Chorus Line ("I Hope I Get It") came to my mind as we stood together (a part which, frustratingly, they didn't include in the video I'm linking):

Who am I anyway? 
Am I my resume? 
That is a picture of a person I don't know. 
What does he want from me? 
What should I try to be? 
So many faces all around, and here we go. 
I need this job. 
Oh, God, I need this show.

I sang it for him, and I talked a little bit about the context for the song. It's sung by a man auditioning for a part as a dancer in a chorus line- which, to me anyway, seems to be a sort of anonymous group of dancers in a Broadway play- the goal of which is to be as uniform and in unison as possible. The character who sang this section of the song was thinking about his identity. I interpreted the lyrics as saying here's a man who is trying to come to terms with the face, the persona he has to present in order to get a job as a dancer.

I connected it to how I thought perhaps S might feel as a man with a disability who lives in an instituionalized setting. Having to put on a face (a persona), perceived by people, based on his behaviors and what is written about him in the institutional paperwork

Perhaps he too is wondering: who am I anyway? Who or what defines me? How do I define myself? And what does it mean in terms of safety, my identity as a man, as a disabled person?

Again, his musical responses (taps on the drum or tambourine) were very thought out and short.

We had about 5 minutes to go. I invited S to help me know if I'd been on the right track (by glancing my way) or if not (by making a sound). After a while, he looked my way, and he went slowly to the door and walked out.

Thinking he was done with me (and that either I was way off and misunderstood him- or he needed a bathroom, or maybe he felt a bit overwhelmed), I packed up my stuff. 

I was just about to follow him out, when he reappeared at the door!

He came back over, and I took out my guitar again. I sang a goodbye, in it telling him how excited I was for him. This is a truly important, although difficult, period in his life- one with the potential to offer him growth and a deeper self-awareness. He stayed until we finished, tapped the tambourine goodbye, and we walked slowly back to the day area.

Once we got there, he hovered near me (he doesn't usually). Then he reached into my instrument bag and borrowed the tambourine again, tapped it a few more times, put it back in the bag, and he headed off slowly in a different direction. 

See you later, S. 


Noah Potvin said...

What a lovely vignette Roia! S's music appeared to be an acknowledgement and active exploration of the message you were sharing with him. When I think of the tambourine, the type of adjectives that come to mind are "bombastic" and "intense", not "contemplative" or "quiet", yet S appeared to develop a unique voice using the tambourine that was profoundly introspective and intimate. In doing so, he showed you how his persona, much like in "I Hope I Get It", belied a depth not readily compatible with the box he felt compelled to fit in to make others more comfortable. He gave you a glimpse into how his character has as much nuance and subtlety as the tambourine. What a privilege to share in such an intimately authentic moment, and what a testament to the trust he has in your relationship!

Jason Mihalko said...

It's so hard of us so-called adults to get out of our own way sometimes when working with other people. So much about behavior can be understood as an impulse to do our best to get what we need out of an environment. If we listen closely enough, we can frequently find that impulse in people's "misbehavior" and help them learn how to stretch and get to where they need in ways that are more comfortable and effective.

matthew janssen said...

Hi there!

I really like your blog, interesting stuff!
My name is Matt and I am an occupational therapy student from New Zealand. My blog is about music therapy for the elderly, would love it if you checked it out!


Roia Rafieyan said...

Noah, I'm ages late in responding, but thank you for reading and commenting. It's true, that the tambourine isn't exactly the most reflective instrument, and it's amazing that he is quite capable of getting it to express his process. Gosh, there's not much else to say- you described it beautifully! Thank you.

Roia Rafieyan said...

Jason, it's true. And nicely put regarding stepping out of the way. In an institution, especially, our tendency is to hover (in a big way) and be overly protective, squashing people's efforts at being and becoming. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

Roia Rafieyan said...

Hey, Matthew, Glad you found the blog interesting. If you post a link, I'd be happy to check out your blog. Good luck in school!