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.

Conversations About Pie


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…

Lessons in Letting Go

I have been given a rare opportunity: I have been working with my replacement at work for the last couple of weeks. This sort of thing of thing does happen of course, but I was pleasantly surprised when I learned this was to be the case for me. Yesterday I realized that I was being given precious gifts in this transition to a new job, new living situation and new state to explore. I was being given lessons in how to let go of things.

Historically I have had the mindset "Never forget what they did to you" (whoever they are). Eckhart Tolle says "All things are small things because all things are transient." Everything changes...this is the nature of the Universe. When we choose to hold on to things, we hold ourselves back.

Eckhart relates a story of two monks walking on a long journey. It had been raining and the road was very muddy. The walking by a young woman who was trying to cross the road, but the mud would have ruined her beautiful silk kimono. One of the monks immediately picked up the young woman and carried her to the other side. Five hours later, the other monk couldn't stand it anymore. He said to the first monk, "Why did you pick her up and carry her across the road? You know we monks aren't supposed to do things like that!"

The first monk said, "I put the girl down hours ago. Are you still carrying her?"

When I first found out that the school district I am working for was ending my contract, I was told they hired someone within the district. The full implications did not sink in for me right away. After all, if there was someone in the district with credentials to do my job, why hire me through a staffing agency?

As I got to know my replacement, it quickly became clear that not only was she not already employed by the district, but she had been living in another state.

A few days ago, when I was talking to my recruiter at the staffing agency and I asked her if midyear transitions like this were unusual. She told me that every once in a while a district will hire somebody from within for a staffed position. I confirmed that the agency had been told this new hire was from within district and then corrected what my recruiter had been told. I said, "I don't know how the contract with the district works, under what circumstances they can break the contract, or what, if anything you want to do with this information, but the person taking over my position was definitely not already in the district."

My recruiter sounded thoughtful, and thanked me for the information...and then I let it go.

It is not my responsibility to police the circumstances under which my move is occurring, so I let it go.

Another opportunity for this lesson came last week. I had a parent call me, informing me she had not received information from an ophthalmologist's office regarding an appointment I had made for her daughter. She asked if I told the office to mail the information to the town I live in, to an address I was unfamiliar with. I informed this parent that I had given the office the address that was listed in the school records, an address in another town.

"Oh, we don't get mail there" she told me plainly.

Frustration arose in me quickly. I called the ophthalmologist's office and asked them to send the same information to the new address I had been given. The office is three hours away, so this was not a simple case of running to the office to pick up the paperwork.

A few days later, I got a call from a teacher who was meeting with the parent. The parent was concerned because she has still not received the information, and she did not know any of the details of the appointment. I informed the teacher that I sent the parent a letter detailing the appointment...I sent it to the address that does NOT receive mail.

I had gotten myself pretty worked up by this time. I worked very are to make arrangements for the appointment and ensured clear and concise information was communicated, and things were falling apart!

What good does it do me to hold onto this frustration? I have done my best to make this situation easy for this parent, and I need to rest assured I have given my best effort, and let go of the outcome.

Don't let myself be held fast by a situation I cannot control...let it go.

Yesterday I noticed I was very anxious most of the day. There is still a lot of things that I need to show my replacement how to do, and make sure she is as prepared as possible when I leave.

Most of the day, I was edgy and irritable, because things weren't happening fast enough, and as of today, I have two days left to impart the whole of my knowledge about this district and this caseload.

Then, like a lightning bolt, it hit me!

I didn't have anyone to guide me when I started in this position. One might think some basic training in the software used by the district would be in order, policies, etc... I had none of it. I had to figure it out on my own. I have been laying a solid foundation for my replacement to jump in and work with the kids. Why, when I am moving across the country, would I hold on to these feelings like I will never show her everything I want her to know before I go?

She will be just fine. She will do a good job with the kids, and she will figure things out.

I need to let go.

I am often surprised with the ways I am blessed with the lessons I learn. With all the opportunities to learn this lesson recently, it seems to be a pretty important one for me.

I worry that I may have missed other lessons recently that are just important because I wasn't paying attention, but I need to let go of that too.