Life Direction

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"

The Warrior's Journey/Hero's Quest Part 2

What exactly qualifies as a warrior's quest or hero's journey? For Frodo Baggins, it was a danger-fraught journey to destroy a ring. Luke Skywalker had to become a Jedi and bring peace to the galaxy. For Hiro Nakamura (et al) it was "save the cheerleader, save the world."

I have taken great pleasure in reading books that tell tales of journeys such as these. In one series, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the characters, even the minor ones, struggle with coming into their own strength and power. At times they are reluctant to claim the roles they have been led into. They continue to grow and adapt, and ultimately succeed.

In The Saga of Recluse and The Spellsong Cycle by L. E. Modesitt Jr., the protagonists are reluctant heroes. They find themselves thrust into challenging situations and make the best of it. They are often praised by others while thinking very humbly about themselves.

So here's my story:

Right now I am in Portland, Oregon. I came here directly from my honeymoon to plan the next chapter of my life. Fellow neurologic music therapist Angie Kopshy and I are creating a clinic specializing in NMT. So many people I talk to are excited that I have this amazing opportunity. Trust me, I'm VERY excited for this opportunity...but this is where my story gets more complicated.

In a recent conversation with my beautiful new wife, she mentioned that most people explore the world a bit in their twenties...spread their wings. I'm 38 and I've lived in Iowa that whole time...born and raised. By 24, I was married to someone who was adamantly place bound. Three amazing children and a divorce later, I still felt place bound. Iowa was all I had ever known...my children were there.

The day I met my wife on the playground as our children were playing, my life changed forever. She is a woman of the world, a traveller. She's lived in many different states, many different countries. She is notplace bound.

After several months of being unemployed, and being severely depressed as job after job seemed to pass me by, my then fiancée quietly said to me, "I think you should do a nationaljob search."

Immediately the questions started flooding in...what about the kids? What about us? Am I really ready to live on my own, that far away from everything I've ever known?

Yes, I said "live on my own." L is a university professor...there is a very established method for profs looking to change location...the process takes at leasta year.

So I started applying for positions in Connecticut, Boston, North Carolina, Minneapolis...places I never thought I would be. Then the fateful day in mid March came. It was late at night and I just found out I had been passed up for a position in Minnesota. I was catching up on Facebook when I saw Angie posted about a NMT clinic in Portland with the simple phrase "Let's get this clinic started."

Angie and I met when we got our NMT training. I thought she was a little bit crazy and she had a quirky sense of humor...my kind of person! We kept in touch through Facebook so when I saw her post, I had to know more.

Long story short, Angie told me of her plans to build this NMT clinic...I offered to help...she accepted.

So here I am in mid June, in Portland. Our first website is up, business cards are ordered and planning is in full swing.

The true journey will be revealed in Part 3.

The Warrior's Journey/Hero's Quest

In just a few minutes I will be boarding a flight that will land me in Portland, Oregon. This is the beginning of a larger journey for me which will result in me moving across the country, alone, (did I mention I just got married a week and a half ago?) and starting a project that could change the course of my professional and personal life. As the boarding call is sounding, I must put off more detail until later, but stay tuned...this warrior musician is just beginning an epic journey.

What is home?

I began writing this post a couple of months ago. But here it is now, as complete as I know how to make it: I woke up earlier than planned this morning. Maybe I'm feeling the excitement of going "home."

Today is Memorial Day. We left home last Thursday to attend my wife's 15 year reunion at Oberlin College. It's been great getting to know some of her college friends and I've enjoyed the sense of nostalgia this weekend has evoked in me about my own college experience (since I have never attended my own college reunions). With all of that, I feel ready to go "home."

So again I reflect on the concept of "home." Of course there is that familiar cliche "home is where the heart is." Who could forget, "be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." (insert three heel clicks here) Daniel LaRusso awkwardly quipped in The Karate Kid II"home is where you hang your hat" (ironic because Daniel doesn't wear a hat at all in the three KK movies he stars in).

This question of "what is home?" really hit me as I left "home" for the holidays this past year. I was driving to the airport and listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra. On their The Christmas Attic album, they talk about going home. One lyric that exemplifies the concept from a song entitled Find Our Way Home: "I think I would be alright, if on this Christmas night, I could just find my way home."

Paul Simon's lyric "gee it's great to be back home...home is where I want to be..." evokes those nostalgic feelings of this ideal concept of "home" but it does not clarify "what is home?"

It seems to me that "home" is a fluid concept for some people.

Until recently, it was less fluid to me. You see, I have lived in Iowa my whole life. For me, Iowa is home. Some people claim their roots by where they are born. I was born in Iowa City. Interesting side story there...around the time I was going to be born, my mom's doctor went missing. Mom found out later that her doctor had been kidnapped at gunpoint by his ex-wife! She handcuffed him, threw him in a car and drove to Missouri. Now Mom's doctor...later my doctor, saw an opportunity to escape. They were in a parking lot, and he decided to jump out of the car and make a run for help. At this point, his ex-wife shot him in the leg! Did I mention that the man who was our family doctor for years is black? So here is a black man, handcuffed and bleeding from a gunshot wound, running through a parking lot in Missouri, in 1974...

I was lucky enough to be a patient of his for many years and even luckier that he was the county coroner who explained things to me with great compassion when my Mom left this life.

So instead of being born in Grinnell, 15 miles from the house I grew up in, I was born 50 miles away in Iowa City.

Is Iowa City "home" because I was born there? The house I spent the first 18 years of my life in Brooklyn...is that "home?"

My wife, Michelle, often claims her New Yorker roots. Born in Manhattan, and living in the city for the first two years of her life, then in suburbs at different times in the years that followed, she embodies the spirit of New York City. At least she embodies the perception that many Midwesterners might have of New Yorkers. That being said, my wife spent many years living in Ann Arbor, Michigan when she was growing up. She still has family in that area, and admits she often thinks of Ann Arbor as home.

I've lived in three different parts of this state during my 38 years. How long does one have to live somewhere for it to be considered "home?" I have limited experience with questions like these.

I decided to ask someone I've known for most of my life. We were on the front page of the local newspaper together in kindergarten with our Valentine's Day crowns on. We had adventures that kids growing up in small towns had and we wrestled with deep questions in elementary and junior high...the meaning of life and things that sort. Our junior year of high school, she was an exchange student in Denmark and that experience changed the course of her life. I asked her when she thinks of home, does she think of the small town we grew up in, or where she's lived in Denmark for many years:

Home is where the heart is! Short and sweet...I'm 37 and have lived in 16 different places in three different countries. I'm pretty much settled now- I hope! But this house is probably not the last place I will live.

Now that I have a family, my home will always be with them. When I was single about 10 years ago, I was living in Denmark but had an opportunity to live in Reykjavik, Iceland for several months in connection with my work. That Christmas my company offered to pay my plane ticket to go "home", and they didn't care if it was back to Denmark or to the USA. So I went "home" to Iowa for Christmas, back "home" to Reykjavik for New Year's and a few months later back "home" to Denmark!

My home is where my kids and husband are now...where I can relax, do and say as I please and "let my hair down." It's where I feel secure, at peace and comfortable.

I've found that it doesn't matter where I live, as long as I can come to my "hideout" and be who I want to be. After having moved so many times I've found that it's easier to keep personal possessions to a minimum, clean up in all the old junk regularly, but keep the relationships with friends and family at the top of the list of my priorities. They will always be there for me, and that's what counts.

It's always a weird feeling going back to Brooklyn. Some things change but mostly everything is still the same. I couldn't wait to get out of there, and I still wouldn't want to live there, but it's certainly not the worst place to have grown up! Brooklyn is still home, but mainly because of the family I still have there. If they weren't there, I probably wouldn't visit.

So, yes, home is where the heart (people you love) is!

By this point some of you may be wondering why I am so focused on this question. I had never really given it much thought until the holidays last year. Yes, I was spending the holidays with my then fiancée and her family, but I felt sadness since I was not with my children. Could I ever truly feel at home without all of the most important people in my life?

I am about to find out.

Soon I will be embarking on one of the greatest adventures of my life. I will be moving from my home state of 38 years, Iowa, to Portland, Oregon. I am going there to open a neurologic music therapy clinic with a friend. But here's the catch...I'm moving there alone.

Being a father of three children, a newlywed husband and a new stepfather, I have to wonder if Portland will ever feel like home. The people I love, my family, will be 1900 miles away. Can I find a home there?

We talk often in our Unitarian Universalist Society about how each of us found our spiritual home. When I move to Portland, I will have the option of attending any one of eight UU churches or fellowships within 25 miles of where I live. No matter where I end up, I think I will always consider the first UU church I attended as my spiritual home. The place that I found as my first marriage was ending. The place I found support and community as a newly divorced single parent; the place where my children first experienced open minded spirituality and witnessed love not bound by traditional gender roles. The place that embraced and nurtured my gifts. The place that I came to with Michelle and all of our children, the first day we met, for a drum circle.

I've even considered this question in regards to the GPS in my car. There is a feature that lets me enter a home address. Then, by pushing one button, the GPS will guide you home. Do I leave my current address in there, as a reminder of the place where my loved ones are? Or do I enter my new address...considering I'm not all that good with directions, especially in cities with many large hills, curvy roads and 2.2 million people, I may have to consider that decision carefully.

But I think in the end, the concept of home means different things to different people. What does it mean to you? How important is the actual space you live in compared to the people you surround yourself with? Those people can be blood relation, intentional family or friends. What makes a place "home" for you?

Is home where the heart is, or where you hang your hat? Is it where you let your hair down; your sanctuary where you do and say what you like?

Maybe it's something that you keep within you. Something intangible. Maybe it's the realization that even if you can't quite put your finger on it, even if you can never put into words exactly what "home" means to you, somehow you know when you're there.

Beouf bourguignon and the drive to excel

A couple of nights ago I was watching "Julie and Julia" with my beloved. For the record, I was the one ecstatic to find it at Redbox and was the one that suggested we watch it...I'd seen it before; she hadn't. Realizing some of the details in the life of Julia Child were dramatized, the movie still inspired some deep reflection for me. Julia figured out what she loved to do in life, and then went after it. She didn't set out (I don't believe) to change the world, but she did. She kept after her passion and eventually became iconic and legendary. Did she wake up one day and say to herself "I'm going to set out to change the world?" Maybe she did, maybe she didn't. However things worked out, she did what she was drawn to do, and she stuck with it.

The geeky side of me must pull out a Star Trek quote here: Zephrem Cochran said, "Don't try to be a great man. Just be a man, and let history make its own judgements."

This may be part of my quandary...I'm trying to be a great man.

I realized a few years ago, that I was destined for greatness.

It sounds narcissistic, I know, but this realization washed over me. I was meant to be a great teacher/leader/transformer/guide...I have important things to do!

Then I think, "Really? What makes you so special?? Who do you think you are?" I used to have a button pinned to my denim jacket "I'm a legend in my own mind." So there is a constant battle between the voices in my head..."you're special, and even though everyone is special, you're REALLY special!" (sounds a little bit like 'Animal Farm', doesn't it?) and "you must remain humble no matter what happens, because people who are truly great show great humility and underplay their accomplishments."

Of course another voice slips in there, "Who are you kidding? Look at what all these other single parents/music therapist/martial artists do...do you really think you can ever measure up?"

So then I started thinking about where my passion is...what is my version of Juila Child and her revolutionary cookbook?

Let's see...I'm a single parent trying to be the best dad I can, teach my children all the positive things martial arts can offer and get them involved in music in a structured way, I'm close to testing for master rank in tae kwon do, I'm a Reiki master preparing to co-teach a group of co-workers, I'm a classical guitarist who lacks confidence in technical skills, I enjoy learning ukulele, ocarina, didgeridoo, penny whistle, riq, konnakol, solkattu...I'd love to learn doumbek and play traditional belly dancing rhythms for my beloveds to dance to, I have ideas to contribute to the fields of music therapy, neurologic music therapy, education...when I finish my masters (which I have been putting off for a long time) I might apply for a doc program at the local university and tailor it to my interests, or the PhD program in music therapy at Temple, or get a masters in neurologic music therapy at Colorado State or...

I recently connected with someone on Facebook with an interest in drumming. After accepting my friend request, she sent a message and pointed out other interests we share. We exchanged a few messages, and then I decided to check out some of her work. Turns out she has a website and some albums and some videos on YouTube. Look her up...her name is Pamela Lynn.

The thing that impressed me most was a statement on her website. She says that she has committed herself to getting up at 3AM every day and working on her drumming skills for three hours. THAT is commitment! She re-evaluates this commitment on a yearly basis and re-dedicates herself to it year after year.

One of the videos I found on YouTube was an interview Pamela gave over the web. She was talking about her music and the subject of her voice came up. She said something to the effect, "I may not have the strongest voice, but I have something to contribute."

A lightbulb moment for me. Pamela Lynn has something to contribute. EVERYONE has something to contribute, including me.

But the question remains: Where is my passion? How do I decide??

I am a big believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. A guided meditation by Gael Chiarella says "you are being guided. Remember you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing."

Powerful words.

So is it simply attention deficit? Or am I supposed to be cultivating all of these interests in different instruments and types of music? Is this part of what it means to be a warrior musician? Develop many skills in many areas to be as versatile as possible. Prepare myself to battle as many physical challenges and emotional traumas as I can?

I don't know what my beouf bourguignon is going to be, but it doesn't matter. I don't have to decide what my great contribution will be. I don't even get to decide the level of greatness or whether I will ever be considered great at anything at all. Like Zephrem says...let history be the judge.

For now, I think my passion is found in helping and teaching people. The methods I choose to do this are not as important as remembering the passion itself. So the drive and commitment I learned from Pamela Lynn, the trust in the process I learned from Gael Chiarella and non-concern for results I learned from Zephrem Cochran leave me with my passion, in the many forms it may take. Do what you do, do it the best way you know how, and do it with every bit of your heart and soul. The details will work themselves out.

Have you lost sight of your passion? Are you going through the motions to get by? What is one thing you can do today to reaffirm your passion? Let me know where you're at and where you're going!