As a solution focused therapist, I am always looking for new information to shake things up; some long ago dream, or well kept secret which lies buried under everyday concerns, like paying the bills, carting the kids to school-the hum-drum of everyday life. It's not that those routines are unimportant, but without
the spice of creativity and challenge, that's what it boils down to-hum-drum, boring, maybe even depressing.
One of my personal favorites as a solution focused therapist is exploration of one's self through the arts--be it music, painting, drama, clay throwing--whatever... There is something in the act of commitment to non-work, that can loosen up the spirit and bring out the child--a certain unself-conscious spontaneity and carefree-ness.
With those of us so caught up in the workaday world, success based on results and performance rules our approach to doing almost anything. In fact, it is for those of us who are so driven, that the arts are most compelling.
Just as in sports, engaging the mind, body and spirit in an intensely focused art activity can release endorphins, those feel-good hormones that play a significant role in overall health and happiness.
My own experience with this process began many years ago, in my 20’s. Fresh out of graduate school, I was suddenly faced with the realization that I didn’t have to study every night, or work 24/7 as it often felt in the sometimes chaotic world of internships and thesis writing. Instead of embracing this new freedom with joy, however, I felt bored, antsy and even a bit lonely. Alone in my new apartment, I had no clue what to do with myself after work, whenever a friend couldn’t meet me for dinner or a movie or just hanging out.
Many years earlier, my well kept secret, and long ago dream (of my parents), was that I had studied the violin, under duress from my elders, particularly my father, for whom the experience in his own childhood had been an utter failure. I was to become what he hadn’t; an impassioned artist who brings joy to others through his/her brilliant renditions of the classics.
For me it was work—drudgery even, a routine chore like making the beds or vacuuming. It had to be done for 45 minutes every day, marked by the timer, and once over I was so much happier—not from the experience—but because it was over. I even hated just taking it to school—looking so awkward and nerdy. And playing in orchestra was pure embarrassment. Good enough to be concert master, I still sounded terrible.
The list of humiliations is long, aggravated by the annual recital, a performance of sheer nerves and self consciousness, rather than an emotional interpretation of the music.
The point in telling all of this is to say that there evolved an entirely new experience of violin playing once I was an adult, and chose it to be mt own. Out of my boredom and loneliness, I revived my dormant ability and took lessons. From there I attended a music camp, and then I met a group of like minded young women who needed one more player to fill out their string quartet. I was hooked. I learned a new clef and took up the viola, a deeper, richer sounding middle voice, that was better suited to my own voice—that of a mediator, a conciliator, a backup and support person.
For the past 25 years we have been together, raising families and building careers, some of us getting divorced, others getting ill, and all of us recovering. There is a certain kind of intimacy that develops while playing chamber music that is clearly non-verbal, and exquisitely vulnerable. It is a form of communication that spans generations and gender. It can be passionate and also dispassionate. Most of all it is fun, and a refuge for me from the workaday world of duties and responsibilities, the very experiences from which it was borne in me as a child, many years earlier.