Sunday, January 20, 2013

There is a place I go...

Some days I question my choice to become a music therapist. Like anyone else, I have my days of doubt. Will it be a fulfilling, enjoyable, and lucrative career? Will this path make me content? Will I be able to help people as much and as well as I have always dreamt of? The fears, questions, and doubts are bound to cross my mind. Especially as I near my graduation year (I am hoping to graduate the summer of 2014...) However, if I needed reassurance that I was on the right path, I suppose traveling would be the best way of being reminded of why I chose music therapy. I first noticed it upon my visit to Amsterdam this past summer. I was wandering alone most of the time, until I came across a broken guitar with the name 'Jordi' written on it. As I explored the beautiful city carrying my newly attained catastrophe of a guitar, several people asked me about the poor creature. All of which were immediately friendly, as they are when they see you carrying a puppy. This was simply a destroyed instrument, though! One young man was particularly intrigued by the disgruntled guitar and asked if I would like help in fixing it up. Unfortunately, the end of this story results in the guitar never being repaired. The upside, however, is that this English fellow and his traveling bandmates took me in immediately as one of their own. We walked the streets creating a following of other musicians ranging from Sweden to Philadelphia and beyond. We played music for change and enjoyed the warm summer nights.

As my next semester of college approaches, I am once again faced with the contemplation of my future and all the doubts that I previously had. This time my love for music therapy is reaffirmed during my journey south. I am now in a hostel in Atlanta, Georgia. My traveling companion and myself are somewhat of the odd men out and feeling rather like outcasts. Fortunately, last night something shifted slightly. As I drummed on the table a little ditty, a guy from across the table jokingly commented on my musical "talent". This remark began a conversation that was rather brief but it was camaraderie nonetheless and it was very welcome. The young German traveler was very friendly and while he did mention he would be heading back home the very next day, a new friend was certainly welcome and we both agreed we were hoping to cross paths once more before he left the country. There is no language or culture that surpasses the communicability of rhythm and beat. It simply pieces nations together and unites all.

Music is the "one love" Bob Marley spoke of, it is the "all together now" the Beatles dreamt of, and the "cum on feel the noize" Slade demanded. When we are seeking something to fall in love with, music is the beating drum of passion.

Wandering around today, my travel companion and I came across a venue with a concert and we decided to check it out, no matter the genre, the crowd, or the talent. Turned out to be an amazing show with a great crowd and we had a really fun time. It was not the late night spontaneity that attracted us but the draw of the vibrations. The vibes we all speak of but never quite know how to encounter.

What about therapy, though? Where does that portion of "music therapy" come into play? The real question is, how can you lack therapy through music? The moment a vibration occurs in such a manner in order to produce a sound from one's skin, one's bone, one's being to an instrument constructed from wood, nature at its purest, there is a new life. A new universe within the nanosecond it took to create. There is life in that vibration, it moves through the air and enters you and changes you. Whether it is your mood, your attitude, your opinion, or simply your walking pace, it envelopes you and even when you turn it off, there is something stuck within you. This is why songs get stuck in our heads, because music dives under our skin and sucks at us like a leech, ridding of impurities and thoughts we can't escape. This is what therapy is, this is how we heal and thrive and cope.

Music: A Beautiful Thing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Insane in the Membrane

There has been much speculation over my mental health. Suspicions, "diagnosis", random guesses... all of which I wish I could put an end to. However, I cannot. That is because I know for certain there is something loose up there in the ol' noggin but I am not sure what it is. I've gone to the doctors, I've taken the meds, I've heard the droning on and on about things I completely miss out on because I am too distracted by the ceiling or what is happening outside the window. I don't hear a word of it.

So what is "wrong"? My main concern are my episodes. Stressful situations make me go a little wacko. Nothing in particular really leads to these reactions... During said episodes, I get my superwoman powers and nothing can calm me down. Just time! Of course, this can span from 2-4 hours. A long time when there is someone trying to keep you from killing or seriously harming yourself. It's exhausting for everyone involved.

The truth is, it's very hard for me to recount the details too accurately, as there is something of a disassociation that occurs. It is as if I am siting back, watching the going ons without the ability to stop myself. I want to, I would love to, but everything just flashes before my eyes and before I know it, I am sweaty, exhausted, and ill. Not to mention, usually my body is trying to puke up some sort of handful of pills by the end. It's a jolly good time for all. Some may be quick to label this as bipolar and I respect that opinion but I do hope that's not the case. EVERYONE has bipolar these days. I want something a bit cooler. Something rare with a weird name no one can pronounce.

When we as a society look at certain people, certain disorders, and even ourselves, we are so ready to label. "He has OCD, I have Asperger's, and this is the exact definition of what that is." I wish it were so simple. Although, if it were, I would have every disorder in the book. I have OCD because I stop the microwave at 2 seconds, I have to put my right shoe on first, and I can't have an odd number of anything. I am a sociopath because I am have difficulty forming relationships with people and feeling love for individuals. I have Asperger's because I lack social abilities and find it very hard to fit into normal social situations. I have social anxiety because I sweat, turn red, have trouble breathing, and selective mutism around certain people. Do you know what disorder I really, really have, though?

I have Me Disorder. I am me, I am a human being and that implies that there will be issues with health, mentally and physically. If you survive until you're old enough to drink legally without being jailed, dying, or committing equally awful acts, chances are you're doing okay. Even I think I'm okay most of the time. I don't have a job, I don't have a relationship, I don't have an income, I have been in college for almost 6 years, I have episodes, I attempt suicide more often than I see the dentist, and I emotionally hurt people while I am trying to hurt myself... I am a mess but I aim to improve and that seems like a heckuva job to me. When my family likes me, they tell me I'm different and eccentric and unique. When they're upset at me, they tell me I need to be locked up. We're all trying to get better. We just work on different things in different ways at different paces. One person may say I am broken, another will say I am hardy and another may say I'm a slightly dented girl with a big heart. Hint: I'm the one who said the last thing.

Everyone wishes they could say they have it all together but no one does. We just look at one another and think, "Hey- that's guy knows what he's doing..." Truth is? Unlikely. I've known that guy and he is in his bed every night crying because he's lost. Completely and utterly dumfounded.

Have you noticed I always start my blong (I accidentally wrote blong instead of blog. I was going to change it but I quite like it...) with tough love. Harsh, forward honesty and then end with a heartfelt, inspirational message. This is why they pay me the big bucks.

The thing is, I just believe if we embraced our oddities, rather than being outcasts or high on drugs all the time, maybe there would be less crazies going around hurting people. I may be wrong, these people may be born to destroy and kill but what if one or two of them are just sick of feeling unhealthy and weird and judged? What if they have years of anger and hurt built up and it blows up and throws them into an...  episode. One where they can't think or see or do what they want. Where they are 10 times stronger than before. Where they can release every bit of anger without worrying about the consequences until afterwards. Maybe healing must take place before this can be prevented. No amount of security or laws can stop what just a few words of acceptance can. What if, what if... these are just theories, questions, experiments but if they do the trick, millions of people can be relieved and breathe again. Exist in a world where they won't be held back or persecuted for being themselves. They won't be locked up and treated like King Kong, just a spectacle. I think some lives could be changed, saved.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

'Till Death do we Die

The only time I really wept after learning of my paternal grandmother's death about a year and a half ago was when I was asked to throw dirt upon her coffin. This was a Jewish tradition I was not aware of in which the family has the honour of the first coverings of the dead body. I didn't cry because of the reality of her death, I cried because I felt it was awful to be throwing dirt upon her. That part upset me. I stood above the grave and heard the thud of the dirt on top of her box. Before I could do my own shovel-load, I burst into tears and walked away. To be fair, she didn't seem too upset either.

I am often asked how I can speak so lightly and humoursly of death. The answer? I am simply not afraid of it. It is not as if I shouldn't joke about it because I could be next or I will jinx myself... The thing is, I could be next and I don't have to jinx myself! Secret: we are all going to die. Let's make that less impersonal; I am going to die one day. Sooner or later, it will happen, whether I am insensitive about it or not. I try not to joke about others' beloved one's passing but if it is about my own hypothetical death or someone that would affect me, as long as it won't upset them, I see no reason for it to bother me. Death is a simple thing. Living one second, in the ground the next. It can't be that bad... you have no idea it's happening. You're done, expired, fin. Sure, you leave behind some very sad people but they're sad because they miss you, not because it is so unfortunate that you are in the state of deadness. No one ever said, "Aw, poor Liv, she has to endure being dead." No, they said, "She will be missed." There's nothing wrong with feeling this, of course. It is a natural reaction. However, one must recognize WHY we react as we do. You miss that person AND you stop for a moment and think, "Ah, jeez, I could be next. I am scared of the unknown." Some people say they are enjoying life and would be sad not to be part of it... You wouldn't be sad if you were dead, silly! You'd be feeling dead with a side of deadness and dead thoughts in your dead head. I realize some readers may feel upset or offended by this but I see no other explanation. Please do correct me if I am mistaken.

Now I've explained my lack of fear when it comes to death, but why the humour? Why not the humour, I say! We laugh at some racist, sexist, dead baby, rape, and other offensive jokes... why not the least offensive of them all? The dark, morbid sort. There's just something that tickles my fancy about the concept of death. We are all living these ridiculous lives for no real end result other than leading to more ridiculous lives striving for success in order to do absolutely nothing in the bigger picture and then one day whether by choice or nature, something says, "Nope. You lose."

We complain our entire lives, nothing is ever good enough and when we actually have something to complain about, every individual is convinced they have the hardest life and no one understands them. Boohoo. We get better and we still complain. We have a minor setback or an obstacle or a rough patch and suddenly nothing is good or right in the world. Humans take everything for granted and then STILL complain when we are near death. What greedy little things we are.  As if any of us have anything better to do than deal with puny, irrelevant dramas. Nature doesn't pick a particular person and say, "Let's ruin his life." Things just fall into our lives. Good or bad. Lucky or unlucky. Whatever you wish to label it.

I don't mean to sound so sour about this. I do apologize. I guess my real issue is that I get picked on for being fascinated with death while all these life suckers who can't just exist, feel they have any right to whine. "My problem is worse. I win.", "No, my problem is worse. I win.". Well, you know what? My life is pretty great these days. I win.***

We all have scars, bad ones, but there is no excuse and there never will be an excuse that outdoes what is possible. I don't care who your mom was and what your uncle did to you and where that lady touched you. Take responsibility for today. No one else can suck up your joy if you maintain it. Happiness is in your brain, it's a totally different area of your brain from where the trauma is stored. I definitely will not say, "If you want to be happy, just be!" Because that's stupid. Any cognizant human being is going to have a touch of misery at all times... that doesn't mean you have to walk around letting it consume your entire life. Your relationships, your emotions, your adventure and fun, that's all your responsibility. If you need professional help, go for it. If you want to talk to a cute stranger, do it. If you need a day of doing but sleeping in the sun, wear sunscreen! Pointing fingers at your past and your family is not going to help you get anywhere but it will awaken your depression.

If anyone knows depression, it would be me. I know it very well. What I have learned from it is that no matter how much you feed into it, no matter how much you blame it, it still won't change. What you can change is how you do things, how you view things. If you're a pessimist, be a pessimist, be freakin' proud of pessimistic you are. Yeah, that terrible thing will happen but that's okay! Be a little nihilistic, it's not so bad. If you can fix it, do that. We are all afraid of trying new things, meeting new people, going strange places but what's the worst that can happen... you die?

As always, feel free to comment if you feel otherwise or agree!

***Footnote: Wait until my mania ends. If I write another entry during my depressive state, it will be SO much darker. That's always fun.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Serious Moment

Hate to be the 2013 Debbie Downer but I need to rant a bit. Allow me this.

I had a great New Years and I hope you did too! It was cold and the wild times promised by Occupy in Zuccotti park were a let down but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Came home without any subway train traffic; limited amount of drunks and noise... it was all smooth sailing. I go on Facebook to catch up on New Years good wishes and the first thing I see?

Now, let's just for a moment ignore the pig in a cop uniform, the ninja, the alien, and the Anonymous folks, and just humour me... notice the Satan character. The Satan character with a Star of David engraved in her forehead and covering her chest. Yep. Just an average Jew; horns and tail and all. Why does this upset me? Because saying Jews have horns is not just a stereotype, it's not just "words", it is propaganda to make people fear and hate Jews. Was I aware anti-semitism and racism were still prevalent? Of course. Did I expect to see it coming from friends of friends in such an open and appreciated manner? Certainly not. I've been badgered enough. It's MY turn to speak and you're going to listen. Or not.

Someone asked me recently if I felt threatened every day as a minority, or in general. My first thought was to say, "No, of course not." Is that true, though? Again, for ANY minority? I think its presence in the everyday has led to us putting up walls. There is a reason ghettos exist. It doesn't mean these people want to be segregated but what is to occur if these enemies (some less predictable than others) choose to live in the same area? Knowing that you can't walk in the street without trusting that no one has an issue with where you were born or to whom or what skin colour or who you love or your gender or your language, that's a threat to your trust and peace and right to feel safe in your own home. I realize this can happen anywhere, anytime, for any reason but if you are particularly aware that a certain group is infamous for their distaste for your people, can you be blamed for wanting to not just avoid them but maintain homeostasis amongst your own, equally-hated kind?

Obviously, because I come from Jewish roots, this hits close to home, even though I do not tolerate intolerance towards anyone. However, oftentimes people will point out that I don't follow Jewish customs or believe in God, so what is my stake in all this? A history. A people I feel a connection to that no other human will ever understand. It may be a joke or a Yiddish word or a tradition... there's always something there that connects Jewish people like no other culture can even hope to "catch onto". An ex of mine once came to my grandmother's house and ordered a ham and cheese hero. I wanted to punch him for destroying her kosher home. We separate meat and dairy utensils, we can't resist a cute mezuza, we find any excuse to bring up Jewishness if we spot another Jew... We have habits! Not to say it's better or worse than anyone else's, just that we have them and we feel comfortable surrounded by people who have them too.

This subject brings me to a new movement (well, fairly old but lately has gained momentum...) That is, anti-zionism. I get my fair share of flack for my zionist views from all angles. Oddly enough, it seems mostly the left-angled folks are on me about this. Which surprises me considering they are progressive. If they can't move forward from the old school views of hating Jews, then I don't think they're going to make much progress. Yes, yes, I know what they say, "Being against Zionists isn't the same as hating Jews!" Funny, because last I checked, if you are supporting "peacefully ridding of Israel and it's inhabitants", you are kind of supporting the same people who want to end all Jews and Americans. These are kind of the same people who would be doing the "peaceful removal", after all. Not to mention, the number of times I've seen these "ambivalent-semites" use the word 'kike' and my personal favourite, 'self-chosenites' is astounding.

ANYWAY, what I was really trying to get at here was a very simple point: Being a Zionist, first of all, doesn't make you part of some mass conspiracy wherein the greatest Jewy powers of the world hold meetings and plot how they will beat you with their sacks of gold, (albeit, there is Goldman Sachs) plant chips in your brain, and take over the world. Second of all, it doesn't mean you agree with everything Israel does. Like any other country, they have their faults. Tons. So is the answer to take it over and either kill or displace all the citizens? Fine, let the Palestines have it. Just wait and see what they do with it. More gay slaying! More nose removal! More stoning! More terrorist training! Huzzah!

Yep. I own that obnoxious but awesome t-shirt.

I am no Islamophobe but facts are facts, these are their laws. Hammurabi shall reign once more! Actually, you know what, I am an Islamophobe. That doesn't mean I hate them, that means I have a fear of them. I think that is a perfectly fair statement. Not all Islamic people, of course. The large portion that want to kill me and my people? Yes, I certainly fear them. Heck, it's not even about the religion, it's about the people who follow the religion in that manner. Am I allowed to say that? Is that PC enough? For those of you who hated that anti-Jihad poster a few months back...

jihad |jiˈhäd|nouna holy war undertaken by Muslims against unbelievers.• informal a single-minded or obsessive campaign

Jihad (English pronunciation: /ɪˈhɑːd/Arabic: جهاد‎ ǧihād [dʒiˈhæːd]), an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God (al-jihad fi sabil Allah)".  Jihad is an important religious duty for Muslims. A minority among the Sunni scholars sometimes refer to this duty as the sixth pillar of Islam, though it occupies no such official status. In Twelver Shi'a Islam, however, Jihad is one of the 10 Practices of the Religion.

Holy war? Isn't that an oxymoron? It is one thing to follow a religion that suggests these things. All religions are pretty horrible.  It's another to say, "Yeah! That part of my holy book sounds like fun! I'm gonna do that one! The peace stuff? Ehh... naw, I'm too busy killing people." This is the kind of ideology the Israelis and the Jews as a whole are dealing with. Was it wise on the behalf of the Jews to go right into the bullseye of every type of people who hate them? No, but whoever said Jews were smart? Oh. Well, they done goofed. To be fair, would they be better off in Europe? No. Africa? Ehh.. doubt it. Alaska? Uh. No. They'd be kvetching all the time. "It's too cold, Morty! Get the heater." ... gets the heater... "Morty, why's it so dry for? You want I should die? If I wanted this, I would have lived in the middle of a desert! I'm schvitzing!"

Go to Israel for the climate, Hell for the Jews. ZING!  That's a horrible joke.

I guess I was raised with a special kind of appreciation for the Jewish culture. Not that the bible and the Torah are the be-all-end-all but that they represent something bigger. A people who really just want to live in peace with everyone. They don't want to rid of anyone, they just want to be accepted for once. Allowed to live. I guess that's the real clincher for me, that's why I really feel such a connection to these people... Who hasn't wanted to be "one of the gang"? Yet is constantly rejected for that one difference? What show or movie doesn't have that one wimpy Jew, or the foreign exchange Indian, or the token black guy? Isn't that sickening? This is why I can't watch these things, I just feel as if every form of exclusion is welcomed. "Aw, isn't that nice... they included "our people"!"

Anyway, I'm way over my 1,000 word usual max... just remember, kids, we don't feel a  special importance because of our heritage, we feel a special importance towards our heritage. The same reason black people say Jesus, Santa, and God are black. The same reason Christians say everything and everyone is Christian. We all need to feel a sense of necessity, of worth... a personal comfort that our people will endure because we are something unique. Chosen for what? Chosen to survive? To be oppressed? To be normal human beings thriving on this planet? Who knows... Just let my people go!