Family

Carry On

So a couple of nights ago, I was cooking dinner for my live-in family like I often do. I love being in the kitchen, and I love listening to music while I cook. “Rock Me Amadeus” came on, and I began to reminisce a bit. I told my wife that I had searched for 30 years for this particular version of the song. Today, it's known as the “Salieri Mix”, but in 1985, on that cassette tape I had in upper elementary, it was just “Rock me Amadeus."

When I bought a CD of the Falco 3 album several years ago, I was disappointed. The version of Rock Me Amadeus was not the version I loved so well. This began an exhaustive search for my beloved version of the song. Year after year I was unsuccessful.

I recently discovered that in 2016, a 30th anniversary album of Rock Me Amadeus was produced. At last! There it was! Track 2: Rock Me Amadeus (Salieri Mix)!

As I was relating the story of this journey to my wife, it hit me… I've had similar relationships with several songs over the years.

Songs that for one reason or another connected with me on a soul level. Songs like Kylä Vuotti Uutta Kuuta by Värttinä, and The Thing by Phil Harris.

The stories of how those songs came to me are for another time.

I learned about the concept of carrying songs by participating in song circles for the past few years. I realized I had been carrying these songs for years.

It was at that moment, standing there in our tiny kitchen, cooking an amazing cabbage dish, I was overcome with chills. I've heard some people called them "truth tingles." The idea is that in those rare times when we stumble across a concept that resonates so completely with universal truth, our bodies and minds are overwhelmed with physical sensation. Usually for me, this type of sensation send chills down the back of my neck, and maybe makes the hairs on my arm stand up.

This time, my entire body was overcome by the tingling sensation.

I realized, I am a carrier!

While at Music Medicine training with Christine Stevens, I learned the concept of carrying drums.

A friend at that training brought a powerful, and unique drum with her. The voice of this drum inspires community, and togetherness. We discussed the fact that my friend does not own this drum, but rather carries it. She has been entrusted with the responsibility of caring for and sharing the beauty of this drum. Eventually, she will pass on this responsibility to another.

In that one moment, while cooking cabbage, I realized that I have been carrying many things for many years.

I am a song carrier, I am a drum carrier, and I am a story carrier.

While working as a music therapist in long-term care, and hospitals, I learned about the responsibility of carrying stories. People would often share their stories, or part of their story with me. With honor, I was able to bear witness, and when appropriate, share their stories with others.

Of course, with this new realization, comes a greater sense of responsibility.

I have known for years my life was to be a life of service. I realized quickly that the songs, drums, stories, and medicine I carry are not for myself. I carry them to serve others.

Maybe that is why I often end prayers with something I've read is a favorite of the Dalai Lama: guide me, and heal me, so that I may be of greater service to others.

What do you carry?

What gifts are you meant to share with this world?

To quote Manifesto by Nahko and Medicine for the People, find your medicine and use it.

Carry on my friends.

Christmas Eve Travel

 

The Super Shuttle picked me up 10 minutes early. A pleasant, stress-free ride to the airport.

Got through security in good time.

Several people smile and say how much they like the flashing Christmas light necklace...one woman even said that I made her day!

Found some good vegetarian food to take on the plane...oh! Time to board!

Almost get to my seat when they make the announcement:

“We need two people to get off the plane...we have another flight in six hours. You’ll be compensated.”

I volunteer.

I get off the plane, crew members thanking me profusely.

“Your gate checked bag will be at your final destination.”

Processing the new boarding pass. Processing the gift card compensation.

Staff on the phone: “No, the door is still open. We had a couple going to Brazil that weren’t checked in for some reason. No, they’re on the flight now. Two people volunteered to take the next flight.”

“Thank you so much sir for helping us out! You’ll get an email by this afternoon about the gift card. Here’s your new boarding pass. You know what? I’m going to buy you lunch too!”

The staff is so grateful.

A couple continues their international travel.

The plane leaves the gate a mere five minutes after scheduled departure time.

I’ll see family later than expected, but now there can be some after Christmas gifts too.

I text my wife: “I’m taking a later flight. Almost midnight before I get in.”

She responds: “You’ll be our Christmas gift!”

I find an outlet to charge my phone, and open my podcast app, content.

May you find all the peace and love you deserve (and you deserve bunches, and bunches!) this holiday season!

Advice For New Parents

Some of my social media music therapist friends have newborn babies (or will soon). When chatting with one tonight, I mentioned I have three biological children. My friend commented that I had some experience, and that she and her husband were complete newbies. Got me to thinking...maybe I should share some of my experience!

Really though, I think I can sum up my vast child raising experience, specifically advice for new parents in just two simple points:

1. Babies are the most powerful magnetic force in the Universe

You will have people constantly coming up to you in public, staring, asking questions, and the pushy, creepy ones may even ask to hold your bundle of joy (walk away quickly!)

The experience of being a new parent is exciting, life affirming and exhausting. You will have strangers approach you frequently. This can be fun, since your baby is the most amazing thing the world has ever seen (it's normal to feel this way!) but sometimes, all the attention can be overwhelming. Just be prepared for it.

2. People will advise you on best practice for your baby

Everyone who has ever seen a baby thinks they know the absolute best way to burp them, calm them down, change diapers etc. They will share this information with you, whether you ask for their opinion or not. Of course, this is to be expected from family members and close friends, and sometimes you will ask for this advice. What constantly shocked me was when complete strangers were sharing this unsolicited advice (see point 1).

I chose to deal with that by affirming their idea, thanking them politely and going about my business. There were many times when I thought, "What a stupid idea! That would NEVER work!"

Since I had already affirmed the person's idea and moved on, I avoided lengthy debates over the merits of the idea. Remember the old saying, "Never wrestle a pig...you just get dirty and the pig enjoys it?" Same applies here.

And you know what? You're going to figure out most of it on your own anyway!

I tell people to take a Bruce Lee approach to parenting advice...keep what is useful and discard the rest.

Even advice like the kind I am giving now...maybe you think these ideas are stupid. If so, discard them!

But please, smile and nod before you go about your business.

How Parents Frak Up Their Kids: Advocating for the Hoffman Process

Parents... YOU are frakking up your kids.

Almost every day.

Whether you know it or not.

It's not your fault, it's simply the way of things.

Your parents frakked you up, you're frakking your kids up, and they will frak your grandchildren up.

My parents, the sweet and loving people that they were, frakked me up. I am frakking my children up, biological and step. When my wife and I have a baby, we'll frak that beautiful child up too.

Welcome to life!

But there's hope...there's always hope. In this case, the hope comes from the work of a man named Bob Hoffman. Over 40 years ago, he created something called The Hoffman Quadrinity Process. It's an intense transpersonal psychology...workshop, for lack of a better term.

I won't go into too much detail, but the goal of the Process is to identify patterns of your own behavior developed through something called the Negative Love Syndrome. As children, we either embrace patterns of behavior our parents exhibit, or we rebel against them, creating new patterns. We enter these patterns of behavior over and over again and this is how we relate to people in our lives.

As well as identifying these patterns, one learns to break the patterns, and learns how to break new patterns that arise.

My wife wanted me to go through the Process, as she had, before we got married. In fact, she required it. It was the most emotionally challenging, draining and uplifting experience of my life. Intense bonds are formed with the people you go through the Process with. Those people know more about me than almost anyone on this Earth.

The Process helps one strip away the layers built up around each of us and helps one live authentically. One might think that to live authentically might break the patterns of the Negative Love Syndrome and allow us to stop frakking up our children.

Remember when I said that my wife and I would frak up children we have together?

But I also said that we have both been through the Process...in theory, if we can live an whole, integrated, authentic human beings, we should be able to raise our child without imparting our patterns.

When I made this point to my very wise wife, she said, "Ah, but we still have patterns. We have the tools to deal with them more effectively, but we still have them."

The Hoffman Quadrinity Process may not create utopian parents, but I think everyone can benefit from this sort of grueling personal work.

I know a lot of great parents. I'm blessed to see the love and compassion they share with their children...and I don't often think "Doesn't matter how good of a parent you are...you're still frakking you kids up!"

At least with the Process, we can understand how we're frakking them up...and maybe we do it just a little less.

Long Weekend in Santa Fe

I had rare gift this past weekend...time alone with my wife. We do get to have date nights occasionally, although those are few and far between when we are living in different states, and most often we have some combination of our children with us. In fact, we haven't had this much time, just the two of us, since our honeymoon last June.

My cunning wife made an amazing opportunity happen for us. The Unitarian Universalist church we belong to in Iowa holds a Treats and Talents auction every year as a fundraiser. Last fall, my wife won a stay at a couple's home in Santa Fe, bed and breakfast style.

Esther and Bob are a spry and active couple in their early eighties, married over 60 years now. They belonged to the UU church many years ago in Iowa and offer a stay at their beautiful home every year for the auction. My wife spotted the potential for the two of us to have a weekend together, and she made it happen. Neither of us had ever been to Santa Fe and we were excited to discover the city together.

My beloved was scheduled to arrive just before 1300 on Friday after Valentine's Day. We discussed me leaving around noon that day from work to pick her up. From my office, it would take me at least three and a half hours to drive to the airport. She was content to have a leisurely lunch, maybe catch a shuttle or cab into town and explore until I got there.

What I didn't tell her was that I was working extra hours so I could take the entire day off on Friday and meet her when the flight landed. Surprise honey!

Neither one of us realized how small the Santa Fe airport is. My first clue was Thursday night when I put the address for the airport into my Garmin and the listing read Santa Fe Municipal Airport.

I arrived at the terminal about 45 minutes before my wife's plane was scheduled to land. I noticed signs stating that parking in all areas of the airport was $3.00 per day. When I parked and walked up to the terminal, I saw a sign that said "Did you remember to pay your parking? Cash or Check, No Credit or Debit Cards...Use Drop Box. I started to wonder if I had passed the hitching posts for the horses in the parking lot...

When I finally found the drop box inside the terminal, I realized my checkbook was not with me, and I didn't have exact cash. I opted for staying in my car until the arrival time, then moving my car to the 15 minute spaces for loading and unloading.

The airport was small enough that I was able to see her get off of the plane, then conceal myself just a bit to add to the surprise of me waiting there for her. After a brief and joyous reunion, we set out to find our hosts for the weekend. A quick meet and greet and dropping off our gear, and we were checking out the city.

There are so many great local restaurants in Santa Fe, we were glad to get recommendations from Esther and Bob. One of our favorites was Jambo Cafe...African and Carribean fare. The place was super busy when we arrived, but we got a table pretty quickly. After ordering, we were waiting for our food and enjoying each other's company. Soon, the owner/chef was delivering food to another table and took a long look at our empty table. A moment later, he stopped by and asked if we had eaten already. We told him we had not, and he looked frustrated, made some comment of acknowledgement, and disappeared into the kitchen. A couple of minutes later, our server came to our table with two bowls of soup, the daily specials. He told us the soup was on the house and apologized, but someone had closed out our table, and our orders had to be put in again. After he confirmed our orders, we dipped into the soups...and they were amazing! Coconut, lime, lentil (my favorite) and black bean, sweet potato (C's favorite).

We didn't actually wait long for our food, but I was impressed with the owner's pride and commitment to service. Jambo Cafe is a definite must when you visit Santa Fe!

We spent most of our time together exploring shops, art galleries, restaurants and doing one of our favorite things...talking.

C and I talk...it's our thing. When she was making travel arrangements for our honeymoon, she asked me if I would rather fly from Wisconsin to Florida, or drive. Without hesitation, I answered "drive!" All that time together, talking? No doubt...drive!

This weekend we had a lot to talk about. Our own spiritual journeys, our life journey together...planning for life when we are living in the same place again, planning for life until we are.

What we realized is that by the end of our time together, we had rediscovered "us" as a couple and remembered the reasons we fell in love. The intimacy we share was renewed and strengthened, and we could be just us...life partners. Not mom or dad, or any other role we have...just us.

When I was driving her to the airport this morning, before the sunrise, we were talking about the beginning of our relationship. She realized that I must have had strong ideas about where I wanted our relationship to go long before she did. We reflected on when each of us knew we were falling in love...it happened at different times for each of us, and much faster than either of us expected.

It's good to reflect on those moments from time to time. This weekend was so important for us. We had been married for a little over two months before our marriage became a long distance one. This time to reconnect as a couple was priceless.

Now, as C returns to the Midwest, I linger in Santa Fe, realizing the city has lost some of its luster now that my beloved is not here enjoying it with me.

Tomorrow, we both return to our respective jobs, so grateful for this time together, hopeful for our path forward together, and more in love than ever.

A Dozen Years Later

I remember where I was and what I was doing exactly twelve years ago to the hour as I write this. I thought I was going to die...and I was scared.

Not easy for a warrior musician to admit, but it's true.

The short version of the story is that a failed intubation during a routine surgery left me with an infection that was reducing my ability to breathe. Exactly twelve years ago, I was losing my ability to speak.

The day was much like today as my friends back in Iowa post weather updates about the blizzard happening at this moment. They wanted to fly me to the University of Iowa hospitals for emergency surgery, but it was not safe to fly.

When I went in for surgery, they told my wife, my first wife, five months pregnant with our oldest daughter, to call family and call life insurance...they did not expect me to survive.

By nightfall I was awake and breathing through a tube in my neck, unable to speak.

A lot has happened since that day.

I've been blessed with three beautiful children and I buried my father

I developed type 2 diabetes and became a martial arts master

I finished my bachelor's degree, I'm finishing my master's and preparing to apply for a doctoral program (if only my high school counselor could see me now!)

I went through a painful divorce and I married the perfect balance to my soul

I've known the depths of darkness and the pinnacle of ecstasy

I have loved and I have grown and I have lived

On this eve of the winter solstice where the promise of life is renewed and of the Galactic Alignment that harbors a powerful yet subtle shift in human consciousness, I have this message for you:

The Ancient Wisdom is true...there is life, there is death and there is rebirth.

I've been there.

Sometimes It's Okay To Fall Apart

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel sick enough to be lethargic and feel yucky, but not really sick enough to stay in bed all day? Just enough parts of your body are scratchy, irritated and sore that you want to curl up with your blankie and have someone sing you to sleep while tenderly rubbing your back? Days where you feel whiney, but you don't care how undignified it is and one little thing makes you start crying and you just can't seem to stop? That's my day today.

All of this melodrama I've just described has helped me realize one thing: I have had it!

I think getting sick just pushed me over the edge of tolerance I have been teetering on since I moved to New Mexico. The energy I am putting out is drawing some strange things to me. Today I noticed for the first time there are some really bad drivers in New Mexico. Of course there are bad drivers everywhere, but today a lot of the ones here seemed to cross my path. Means I need to examine what kind of vibe I am putting out there. The phrase "I'd better check myself, before I wreck myself" comes to mind.

Granted, there's a lot on my mind...new culture, first time really living in my own, newlywed and 1200 miles away from my wife and my kids...as a matter of fact, that's what set of an evening worth of sobbing.

I went to the store after work to get some chicken noodle soup and saltine crackers...comfort food of the slightly sick for generations. The only reusable bag I had in the car was one I discovered when I unpacked a few weeks ago. It was a bag that my son had carried some toys in, maybe going to the Unitarian Universalist Society back home, I don't remember. I was a bit sad when I first found them, realizing I had packed the car right over the bag of toys, but today something different struck me. As I pulled the toys out of the bag, I found a partially consumed bottle of Sprite...and I lost it. For whatever reason, seeing that mostly full bottle of soda instantly drove home all the sadness, all the guilt and all the grief I have been consumed with since the night I said goodbye to my children.

Going through the Hoffman Quadrinity Process was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, then saying goodbye to my children that night was the most painful. We clung to each other, crying. I don't know if they understood my reasons for going. I tried to make it a teachable moment for them. I explained that there were some kids in New Mexico that don't see the same way a lot of people do, and they need a special kind of teacher who can help them learn...that's why Daddy was moving far away...to help those kids.

Maybe when they are older, I can explain the other reasons I had to go. Maybe I can tell them that after being it of work for over a year, I needed a job. I needed to feel like I could make a difference in people's lives. I've long taught the message of service to my children, but it had been a while since I felt like I was truly of service. That, and I needed to get myself right...emotionally, financially and spiritually. This is a vision quest for me. I am trying to find how I fit into this world, as a dad, husband, step dad, teacher, healer, music therapist, maybe even as a shaman. How do I best serve this world? I co-created a job in one of the most spiritually rich parts of this country to figure it all out.

Now all of this might be enough to make most of us want to fall apart from time to time...but there's more.

I just found out last week that I got an extension to finish my masters degree...good news, but a lot of work to do. One of my dear friends has been dealing with significant life issues of her own which I would fully support her with, but for the last few months we'll talk or text briefly, then she will say she will call me the next day, and doesn't. Have to admit I wouldn't mind some support from her either.

Another dear friend is dealing with the terminal diagnosis of the man she's been with for years. I feel helpless to do anything, and her pain resonates strongly with me.

A financial situation that will be resolved in the next few weeks may make it very difficult...to do a lot of things.

There is the visit of my wife and stepdaughter at the end of this week that I eagerly anticipate. I hope they're practiced up on their hugs.

With this deluge of emotions, it may be difficult for some of you to see strength in me at all. It's no secret that I am a sensitive guy. Sometimes I have a tough time keeping everything together. I think most of us do, but I think that sometimes it's okay to fall apart. The key is to not stay apart.

One of the many ways music touches us is through lyrics. Every nice in a while, if we are lucky, we find some lyrics that let us know that someone else up there understands what we're going through.

One of my favorite songs for picking myself up after falling apart is "Bounce" by Bon Jovi:

I've been knocked down so many times Counted out, 6, 7, 8, 9 Written off like some bad deal If you're breathin', you know how it feels...

Listen to the song while following the lyrics...it will help you feel like you can keep going after a meltdown.

As for me, my ears and nose are plugged, my throat is scratchy, my glands are swollen and I have a headache.

I'm going to whine until I get my blankie and a backrub.

The Stories We Tell and The Stories We Don't

Since my post "Everyone Has A Story" the concept of life stories has been at the forefront of my thoughts. I've been thinking about this part (the part I'm living through right now) of my story because, honestly, I have a lot of time to think right now. Before I go into my story in the present, I want to share how I became aware of the stories each of us have. A couple of years ago I started working as a music therapist at a rural hospital...25 beds. It was the first hospital gig I had, and I was the first staff music therapist they had. I had some ideas about what a hospital MT should do, but there was a lot of feeling my way through things on the beginning.

Within the first week or two, I figured something out that shaped the way I have lived as a healer and a music therapist ever since. It was at this time that I realized that yes, everyone has a story to tell but, most of the people I served were willing to tell me their story.

I have been told for years that I am easy to talk to. One of my co-workers told me I have "listening eyes." I found is person to be quite intelligent and quite insightful, so I trust her judgment.

Regardless, I soon figured out that music was the gateway for many of those patients to share their stories with me. A familiar song provided a sense of comfort, or perhaps triggered reminiscence. Often these people would discuss their concerns about their state of health, talk about the good old days going to dances with their spouse. Their children, grandchildren...the grandson who just shipped out to Iraq, the young mother who was on the cusp of spiritual enlightenment, but the reality of her unenlightened family and husband was overpowering...

People would share their very personal stories with me and I listened with respect and a caring ear. I offered insight when I could and commiserated at times. Sometimes I cried with them.

I realized the gift each of these people gave me, entrusting me with their stories. I also realized the responsibility that came with those gifts. Sometimes, those people just needed someone to hear them. They needed someone to listen. When I would try to explain this to others, they were often confused. I said, "Sometimes I would see a patient, sing one song, and we'd start talking. I would leave the room 45 minutes to an hour later, and it was a good music therapy session. One song, and it was a good session."

Now my music therapy friends will appreciate this idea. We try to meet the client where they are and take them where they need to go. Sometimes we make music for them. Sometimes we make music with them. Sometimes we cry with them or laugh with them and sometimes we just listen.

If you pay attention to people, they share parts of their stories all the time. There are people that always seem mad at the world, or happier than could be expected of even the most optimistic person. There are varying degrees in between, but I think the point is made. We have to realize that the stories people are willing to share with most of the world is only part of their story. Most of us walk around behind a facade, a mask. It's human nature...a defense mechanism, at least in the Western world. Let's face it, most of us would feel too vulnerable to put out there our real stories all the time. It would be open season on our emotional selves! Who needs that?

I have learned in my experience as a music therapist and healer that my openness can encourage others to be open too. Often that openness helps facilitate the healing process. Yet I keep parts of my story to myself.

This became evident to me at the chiropractor's office the other day.

When one of the ladies that works in the office was doing electro stim therapy on my neck, I shared with her that my wife and step daughter were going to visit me the following weekend and how much I was looking forward to it because it had been a month since I'd seen them.

One of the other girls who works in the office walked by and was teasing me in a good natured way about something that had happened soon after I started seeing this chiro. One day when I came in for an adjustment, this girl asked me if I wanted to do the stim therapy before the adjustment. I became slightly panicked, and stuttered a bit before saying no, I wanted to do the therapy after the adjustment. As it turned out, I was having an especially hard time dealing with feelings of loneliness and missing my family. That one small change to the routine seemed very upsetting.

The other day, this sassy blonde girl was teasing me about not liking change. She was doing so in a good natured way. Anyone who knows my wife, knows I like sassy. And she was just saying those things in fun, but today I decided to share part of my story I hadn't shared with the office staff. In mock exasperation I said, "You know, I've only been here a month and I've never lived anywhere but Iowa and I just got married for the second time in June and now I'm 1200 miles away from my wife and kids, so if sometimes I come in here and I'm a little neurotic, there's a reason for it."

I tired to keep my tone light even though my words weren't. I didn't want her to feel bad, but I felt it was important for her to understand where I was coming from. I'm careful who I tell this part of my story to and how I tell it. I don't want to be one of those people. You know the ones...the people who unpack their drama for anyone within earshot. It's a form of energy vampirism really. "Feel sorry for me so I can get your attention and thus your energy."

I don't want to be one of those.

Sometimes though, I feel it's important to let select people know that I am dealing with some personal challenges and that sometimes I might need some extra gentleness or just some understanding.

This seems to be the time for me to deal with some of these things in a very direct way.

Two different times this week I found myself in conversations where people were asking about my emotional adjustment to my job, my living situation and such.

The first was someone who will be mentoring me in my job. I admitted that around the second week I was here, I was talking to my wife, in tears. I said, "I don't want to be do this anymore. I miss you, I miss my kids. I want to come home."

I nearly broke into tears recounting that conversation.

My mentor's face grew sincere, intense. She asked me, "Can you do this?"

I assured her that even though I had tough days, that I could. I told her, "Besides, I'm a martial artist...I don't give up."

The second was my supervisor asking how I was settling in. He asked informed questions about if I had found a nice place to live and if I was developing a social network. Good questions to ask someone in my situation.

For every story that a person shares with someone else, there are many they keep to themselves. What would it be like if everyone wore their heart on their sleeves? I will guarantee you this: no matter how open and honest someone is, even if they say they are telling you their whole story, there are stories they keep to themselves. Sometimes they realize they are doing it and sometimes it is pure defense mechanism and the stories are buried deep. That's okay though...that's how a lot of us keep our sanity.

My friends, the stories you have collected in your own lives need to be given a voice. Not just the stories you share, but also the stories you don't share. That voice can still be safe, still remain protected. For me, my journal sees most of the stories I don't give voice to anywhere else. Even so, there are some things I keep to myself. But maybe, just maybe we can coax a small bit of one of those untold stories out to share with someone...even if it's only on paper.

You might be surprised though...sometimes the things that you think will shock and horrify people actually encourage them to be a little more open.

"Hey, I have to tell you, I'm kind of a freak."

"What a relief! So am I!"

Who knows?

But I've got a strong intuition that if, as a global culture, we could all share a little more of our inner selves, there would be a lot less conflict in the world. Maybe we could all relate to each other a little better.

More relating to each other and more understanding; yeah, I think that would be good.

Curse of The Modern Family

My sister in law just gave birth to a beautiful little girl a few days ago! In preparation for the blessed event, my wife has been spending every weekend in Michigan (she lives in Iowa) to help out with my three nieces before mommy has the baby.

I've been in New Mexico for a month now, and I've found out that I have a challenge...knowing what time it is where my family is.

My kids are in Iowa, and have been staying there. Easy to figure...their Central Time Zone is one hour ahead of my Mountain Time Zone.

With my wife however, she keeps traveling between Central Time Zone and Eastern Time Zone. Based on her teaching schedule, I can usually tell where she is going to be, but not always.

I mistakenly thought she was going back to Iowa now that our beautiful niece has arrived...

Wrong...

She's staying in Michigan until she has to go to her college alumi weekend this weekend...still Eastern Time Zone...different state.

What time is it here? What time is it there?

Can we talk on the phone, text...Facetime?

First world problem to be sure, but also indicative of a mobile family in the 21st century!

Everyone Has A Story

During my last MT gig, I learned a universal and undeniable truth: everyone has a story. In a follow up post, I'll explore how I learned those lessons. For now, a few thoughts about those stories we all have.

The idea for this post came to me at a restaurant.

I was sitting perpendicular to a table with a large indigenous family...at least twenty people celebrating a child's birthday.

After the cake was served, a couple of the younger kids, three years old or so, started chasing each other...crawling.

I kept glancing at the kids and smiling. A couple of the moms saw me looking and got up and put a stop to the chase.

I don't know if the parents were embarrassed by the behavior or if they didn't appreciate the guy sitting alone in the restaurant looking at their kids.

Then I thought back to something another white teacher said to me. She got the impression that a lot of the indigenous families in the area are strict with their kids...maybe I was witnessing a cultural expression.

I wanted to say, "Your kids are cute! I'm far away from my family and seeing your kids happy gives me hope that maybe my kids are happy too!"

But it seemed out of place to intervene in their parenting...especially not knowing their stories.

It's for similar reasons that I try to make friends with every dog I see...so I don't miss the furry friends I left behind. Or the reason I smile when I see a couple holding hands or talking sweetly in hushed tones. I remember how good it is to be with the love of my life.

I think about the line from the Bon Jovi song Bed of Roses, "As I dream about movies they won't make of me when I'm dead."

He viewed his life as a story, just as I do. I can't count how many times I say something like, "I guess that's part of my story" or sometimes our story when talking with my wife.

I share bits of my story with people here...I'm newlywed, away from my wife and kids...I smile when kids are being joyful children...

Almost as an afterthought, I enjoy "The Most Interesting Man in the World." One of his thoughts seems appropriate here: "It's never too early to start beefing up your obituary."

What will your obituary say?

What's your story?

If you don't like it, change the plot,.change the characters, but YOU write it.

Live your story every day!

The Warrior's Journey/Hero's Quest Part 3

As this logistics and planning trip to establish our neurologic music therapy practice draws to a close, my thoughts are turning to the journey ahead. In a couple of days I will go back to Iowa for about a month. In that time I need to organize the pragmatic areas of my life, spend as much quality time as I can with my wife and my children, then pack as much of my life as will fit into my Subaru Outback and head off for the Pacific Northwest and my future. This is one part of the Warrior's Journey...the physical, or outer journey.

The outer journey will consist of over 1900 miles of driving, several rest and fuel stops, truck stop food, motel stays, lots of scenery and lots of podcasts. That journey will also include a stop to meet, in person, fellow music therapist and social media friend Faith Halverson-Ramos. All of these things are sure to be an adventure, but they are all secondary to the most important journey...the inner journey.

All examples of warriors' journeys and heroes' quests we find include the physical/ outer journey. What we find though is that the truly important part of the process is the inner journey the warrior takes. I believe this to be true with my own journey.

There are many places I could say this journey started, but I will begin the tale with losing my last job. Almost three weeks earlier, to the day, I proposed to L. I was elated! I was ready to be in a lifelong relationship again. I was designing and teaching Reiki classes at work, and starting to realize my vision of a staff wellness program through rhythm. Things couldn't be better! Okay, I constantly dealt with anxiety for a reason I couldn't figure out. But I was dealing with it.

Then everything changed. No job, no insurance. The reasons for the position ending are unimportant. In my word against their word situations, I like to remember that each viewpoint is skewed and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Right away I applied for a couple of jobs...no luck. I kept looking and applying, but days turned to weeks, then months.

I entered a very dark place. I found myself in a deep depression; a depression like I had never known before. My self confidence and self worth were non-existent. I truly felt worthless. If I couldn't be a music therapist, what good was I? I was a financial and emotional burden to my fiancée, I was no fun for my kids to be around...

I looked the very blackest part of my psyche in the eyes and it scared the hell out of me. I didn't know if I could come back from that place. I very nearly lost myself forever.

That amazing woman that I am proud to say is my wife now kept right on loving me, supporting me...even crying with me.

One day in February she said the words that truly became fateful: "I think you should do a national job search."

If you read Part 2 of this series, you know what happened next.

So what have I learned so far on this journey? I learned that it is foolish and dangerous to tie your sense of self to a job or even a career path...Eckhart Tolle reminds us that none of the external ways we identify ourselves have anything to do with who we reallyare.

I learned that anyone who supports you through your darkest times and loves you for who you are even when you are at your worst, deserves a lifetime of love and devotion...and to see you at your best.

I also learned a new way to look at human potential. It can be best expressed with a quote from Bruce Lee:

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus and you must not stay there...you must go beyond them."

I decided not to accept limits anymore.

In this lifetime, the most powerful adversary I will face is my own dark side. My journey is far from over. This warrior musician lost faith and hope for a while, but there are many battles left to fight. There are neurologic impairments trying to steal quality of life from people in Oregon and I cannot let that go unchecked.

I now pledge my skills and expertise to this cause. I will not waver from my quest.

I embody these words from Steve Vai:

"I am fearless in my heart They will always see that in my eyes I am The Passion; I am The Warfare I will never stop Always constant, accurate and intense"

Self-medicating with music

Typically when we hear the term "self-medicating" we hear it in relation to food, or shopping or illicit drugs, alcohol...the list goes on and on. My oldest daughter taught me something today about self-medicating with music.

The typical scenario in our house on school days finds me choosing some sort of upbeat music to gently wake my children up with. I leave this playing in their bedroom until it's time to head out the door.

This morning was challenging. For whatever reason (perhaps for the simple fact it's Monday), my oldest was having a meltdown. She was upset I forgot to wash the clothes she wanted to wear, she was refusing to take her meds, refusing to get ready for school, refusing to listen...

After persuading her to take her meds, she was even more upset and stalked off into her bedroom. I was exasperated, but tried to continue my morning routine. I soon noticed that the music I had left playing had changed. I heard a cover version of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds."

The significance of this is not apparent for most of you, I'm sure, until you know that my daughter has been listening to this song over and over again lately. She often sings along with it as she listens over and over and over.

Part of the hook says, " 'Cause every little thing's gonna be alright."

It hit me...she was using the song to soothe herself.

My beautiful, intelligent, spirited daughter was self-medicating with music...and I couldn't have been prouder.

All the cards on the table: Love is never wrong

I have spent some time considering the creation of this post. While a social networking friend seemed intrigued by the subject, my beloved L cautioned me with connecting personal and professional lives. After much careful thought, I am now laying all the cards on the table.

I am in a polyamorous triad. I'll explain what that means for those unfamiliar with this language.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed I sometimes use the term "beloveds" in the plural rather than the singular.

I am in a loving, committed relationship with two women. I have two beloveds.

To provide a bit of discretion, I will refer to them as "L" and "A."

We do not try to hide our relationship, because to do so would be to suggest there is something wrong with loving more than one person at a time. I have three children and L has one child. We have discussed our relationship status openly with them. The children are young, so there is a different level of understanding for each of them dependent on age. We chose to explain our relationship to them in age appropriate language and we made clear that most people do not choose to live like this.

Although the conversation with our children took place a few months ago, I think they are still adjusting to the idea. My youngest daughter, in a very loud and public way communicated to a few people after soccer practice that "my dad has two girlfriends."

Our strategy with the children is to act like this relationship is not an oddity, and it is simply one way to do things.

This same daughter was telling a friend at school that she has three moms and two dads (my ex-wife and my two beloveds, me and L's ex-husband). While I thought this was wonderful (after all, as L reminded me recently, it takes a village to raise a child) my ex-wife frowned upon my daughter's understanding of the situation. She fears that we are confusing the children.

I have the utmost confidence that our children will grow up loved by many parental role models and will learn that there are many ways to do things in life. We are rooted in a place of love, honesty and open communication in our relationship. How can that be confusing?

We live in a state where same sex couples have the right to get married. Yet to some people, the idea of a poly relationship is nearly inconceivable. The church we attend, more specifically the Unitarian Universalist Society we attend is proud to perform marriage ceremonies for same sex couples. Yet L, A and I feel some bit of anxiety of being accepted even in our own spiritual community. Even so, I will not hide the nature of our relationship. I will not be ashamed for the deep love I feel for L and A, or the deep love the feel for me and each other. I will not apologize that our relationship configuration does not fit within the mold of societal norms. Yes, we have our relationship challenges, but who doesn't?

We entered into this relationship with many discussions, with love in our hearts and the consciousness of present moment awareness. We hold no secrets in our relationship and we talk about everything.

Maybe we are part of forming a new paradigm. We may never see full acceptance in our lifetime. Estimates a few years ago were that acceptance of poly relationships may be 20-30 years behind the acceptance of same sex relationships, and there is still a lot of resistance to same sex relationships.

Here in Iowa, the state Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage. Because of that fact, in the last election three Supreme Court justices were voted off the bench. A sad day for the civil rights of my gay and lesbian friends and a sad day for Iowa politics. I remember distinctly a candle of sorrow shared by a judge in our Society after the election. He explained that part of the oath a judge takes is to do their duty without fear. He became emotional when he talked about the judges removed from the bench because they fulfilled their oath and did their duty without fear, and they lost their jobs because of it.

Now there is a campaign to overturn that decision legalizing same sex marriage in Iowa. I have written letters to my local representatives asking them to uphold the decision. This truly is a civil rights issue. How can we, in good faith, say that some people have rights and some people do not? How can my family configuration ever be truly accepted?

I now pose a question that I presented to a grad class I took in Instructional Psychology: when is love wrong?

Someone pointed out when there was an adult involved with a minor...so I clarified, between consenting adults, when is love wrong?

This group of intelligent, vibrant grad students could not answer my question.

I believe (that between consenting adults) love is NEVER wrong.

I expect this post might generate some heated discussion. I welcome comments and questions as always, but at least now you know where I'm at...all the cards are on the table.