Today and on the 25th of every month of 2012 I have invited 12 of the most influential people in my life to share a blog post with you!  Each has influenced me both professionally and personally. My hope is that the knowledge, kindness, creativity, and compassion they have shared with me will reflect through their post in a way that YOU will be encouraged, entertained, challenged and strengthened to continue to strive for excellence as a professional and as a person.

A patient I met this week literally couldn’t be any older (nearly 70 years my senior!), and, while facing a serious health condition and life-threatening surgery, spent our music therapy visit reminiscing on good times and saying things like, “Don’t you worry,” and “Life keeps us on our toes,” and, my favorite, “I am so surprised I got this old!  How’d it happen?!”  Through the laughing, smiling, song requests, singing, and reminiscing, the familiarity of music soothed some very agitated nerves and effectively diverted pain.

I am happy to report that music did its job for this patient!  But there is something else worth reporting:

This patient’s natural reflex of gratitude for “making it so far,” and the lifetime perspective that gratitude afforded turned what could have been a time of deep famine – being in pain, thirsty and hungry, and having every reason to complain – into one of the most rich and bountiful 40 minutes anyone could have wished to be a part of.

This recent patient visit experience helped solidify in my mind a goal I set for myself for this new fiscal year: that I will constructively respond to challenging moments or situations by answering the following questions:

  • Am I choosing the best response?
  • What can I think and do to make this a learning experience?
  • Who else can I get involved to help lessen the load?

You see, I have a tendency to let things stress me out – even when they don’t need to be stressful.  This goal is the outcome of considerable reflection, and these questions have developed gradually into this one “tool.”  These questions work for me because they help me keep proper perspective as I work to make the best choices in the times when I feel pushed to my limits.  And when I come out the other end, I can’t help but be thankful.

Maybe you can think of other questions that relate to you and your circumstances, or maybe you’ve had one of these patient/client/student moments-of-reflection and inspiration.  Feel free to share in the comments!

Ellen Mann, MT-BC, received her BM in Music Therapy from Marywood University in Scranton, PA.  Ellen currently acts as the music therapy coordinator and clinician at The Fine Arts Association in Willoughby, OH.  She can be seen running great distances with her husband along Lake Erie.