One of my favorite books as a kid, The Man in the Ceiling, told the story about Jimmy, a child with ambitions of being a comic book artist working hard to develop niches in his family, in his art, and in himself. Of the many scenes I still vividly remember, there is one I frequently return to: Jimmy staring at a blank page of white paper, ruminating on what could be/should be drawn, and feeling overwhelmed with the vast potential of the paper’s blankness. It could become his greatest work or his most embarrassing; a moment of inspiration or an artistic bloc; a message to be shared with others or one to be kept private and hidden. Its potential to become anything evokes both interest and fear.
In this day and age, we are not regularly confronted or forced to deal with that sort of blankness. Be it word processing software, blog menus, or submission pages for reviewed publications, we are awash with visual “busy-ness”. Menus, sidebars, widgets, formatting buttons, spell check…on and on these visuals fill the line of sight, almost as if the software programmers were knowingly trying to distract us from our fear. My experience starting this blog has certainly not been any different. Many hours have been spent selecting a theme among hundreds, playing with the various customization options, fiddling with endless layout permutations, and deciding on an overall aesthetic that is appealing to the reader.
Yet it’s all noise at the end of the day, nothing more than distractors from the true purpose of this blog: community. The themes and layouts have no meaning if they do not foster an environment that promotes and nurters interaction among all contributors, authors and commenters alike. Even with these inaugural posts beginning to fill the feed, this blog is an empty page without you to help create an “us”.
And that is our goal: a sustainable community of music therapists working in end-of-life care dedicated to exploring the nuances of theory, practice, and advocacy; who are unafraid to ask and answer challenging questions; and who are fiercely committed to providing the best person-centered care in a music-centered process. Without that community, no amount of bells and whistles will hide that this blog is indeed a blank page without your contributions.
I state these goals (and in the “About” page at the top you can read the editors’ shared vision for this forum) knowing that all blank pages will evolve in their own way regardless of these intents. Watching that development, however, is the joy of nurturing a blank page, and the passion with which music therapists in EOL care regularly practice has me excited for our potential.
So thank you for stopping by and we hope you stay awhile. Over the coming weeks, here’s what to be on the look out for:
- Editor introductions, including our backgrounds, perspectives, and what we intend our contributions to be (content, message, etc.)
- Weekly contributions from at least one editor
- An introduction to our first themed series. These series will function independently of the regular (and more random) contributions from the editors and guest bloggers, focusing instead on a specific theme or issue to be explored from multiple perspectives
To provide my own brief introduction, I am currently a doctoral candidate in creative arts therapy at Drexel University and have been working in hospice settings for close to four years. While the administrative push has often been for the majority of my time to be spent in long-term care facilities so as to increased organizational exposure, my true research and clinical interests lie in the complex processes of prebereavement, acceptance, and letting go that occur in homes.
When working in inpatient psychiatry prior to my hospice work, I was greatly frustrated by the isolation of patients from the uncontrolled environments and naturalistic settings that could better enable direct interaction between them and the environmental stressors impacting their wellness. It was a process of working from the outside-in. Hospice, however, offers deeply meaningful opportunities to work in the homes of patients – the physical dominion where they were sometimes born, often lived, and would most likely die; the emotional space shaped by many years of hugs, fights, tears, laughter, and memories; the intersubjective matrix formed by the complicated, beautiful interactions of loved ones – and to impact transformation from the inside-out.
This is where I find the beauty of hospice work to reside: facilitating meaningful connections between caregivers and care recipients at the end of life using the natural intersubjective components of aesthetics that emerge in shared music experiences. I approach my work from Gestalt and existentialist perspectives. Gestalt therapy challenges us to explore how the Self interacts with his/her environment to create meaning, and existentialism challenges us to explore how we understand that meaning and the value we extract from it. The undercurrent of humanism empowers patients and their loved ones as the experts on themselves through their grieving, dying, and death experiences. I feel lucky to be a music therapist and to work with a creative medium that, as a relational, interactive, and contextual experience, is uniquely situated to facilitate these explorations in emotionally challenging yet supportive experiences.
It’s my intention to explore these ideas over the coming weeks and months, and to share with you that which is greatly influencing me, and challenging me, in the moment. Please feel free to leave any of us feedback about a post or the blog in general, be it good, bad, or other. Also, feel free to contact us if you have a guest post that you would like to submit; in fact, we actively encourage it! Without you, this is all just a blank page. With you, it should be one heck of a ride. Welcome aboard.