The trap I fell into tonight was giving myself over completely to the rhythm without giving attention to how my body was responding.
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.
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.
We all tell them. Some of them have more truth to them than others. Sometimes the most horrible stories are the ones we tell ourselves.
But there is no doubt that stories are an integral part of human civilization.
I learned long ago, for whatever reason, people tell me their stories. I’ve written before about stories, and if you like, you can also read Everyone Has a Story and The Stories We Tell and the Stories We Don’t.
Yesterday, I met a man who shared part of his story with me. It was a polite, casual conversation, but the significance of it was not lost on me. Stories are life. Stories are recollections of where we have been, and guidance for where we are going.
So, I met this man at the grocery store. He is an older gentleman, and he skillfully, and mindfully places my groceries into my reusable Chico bags. Then he surprises me when the transaction is complete. He takes the cart that he’s placed my bags in, and heads for the door.
He’s going to take my groceries to the car for me!
I should mention that I am currently in Florida, and this man works for a chain of grocery stores called Publix.
If you have not had the pleasure of shopping at Publix, I highly recommend it.
I said to the man, “I haven’t had someone take my groceries to the car since I lived in the Midwest!”
He replied that it was one thing that sets them (Publix) apart from other stores.
At that, I chuckled as I said, “Well, that and the best Key Lime Pie I’ve ever had!”
The conversation then progressed to how lemon meringue was his favorite and Publix’s version is not quite as good as a chain restaurant he frequents.
He then told me about his time as a cook in the Royal Navy, and how very fresh ingredients make all the different in cooking, as well as in pie,
This man shared part of himself with me, and spoke of how proud he was to have spent 16 years (so far) working for this company because of what they give back to people.
I got so much more than just groceries delivered to my car. I got a reminder of the goodness of humanity. I received, just a glimpse into the heart of a man who loves lemon meringue, and being of service to others with grace, respect, and kindness.
I think I would have enjoyed a much longer conversation with this man. I have a feeling he has an abundance of interesting stories. Yet I am truly grateful for the experience, and for the small reminder that goodness abounds in this world, simple pleasures, like a favorite pie, can brighten any day, and that when we are brave enough to share just a little bit of ourselves, authentically, we are often rewarded beyond measure.
And, I should have picked up one of those key lime pies while I was there…
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 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!
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.
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!