From our Music Therapy Intern…

The first snow always comes as a surprise. Although the forecast may be able to predict the snowfall to the exact hour, those first few flakes drifting in the wind never ceases to amaze any spectators. This week began with that same shock and awe of the natural world and its ever-changing seasons. I woke up on Monday morning and looked out the window to find inches of fresh snow covering the horizon. The road was lost in it.

As an intimidated winter driver, my initial inclination was towards fear and retreat. I live near a lake, which means that the roads do not get salted within a certain radius of this lake in order to avoid runoff killing the fish. This also means that the roads are typically worse near my house, and progressively get better as I near the highway. I defrosted the car, buckled up, and headed out. To my surprise, however, the highway was not any better than the backroads. To my greater surprise, though doubling my commute time, I was still able to safely maneuver the trek and make it to Harmony Garden in one piece!

I swerved and skidded at every turn. I pumped the brakes and cranked the heat. I followed the flow of traffic and let my ETA slip into the late morning. I felt helpless and hopeless. I despise being late or feeling underprepared, and I was both. How could I have missed this major weather shift? How did I not see this coming? I had to avoid dwelling on these thoughts as I made the treacherous drive in, as they only discouraged me and made me lose focus on what mattered most; safety.

Not only did this week begin with a surprise, but it also ended with an equally humbling and more debilitating surprise. I lost my voice. By Thursday night, a few notes in my singing range had turned edgy and raw. By Friday, each note squeaked out with uncertainty. By Sunday, only whispers stood a chance. I am uncertain as to how this will affect the upcoming week, but I know that I will have to get creative.

Macayla, a music therapist at Harmony Garden, taught me that whispering is actually more strenuous on the vocal cords than speaking. I had never heard this before, but I now find this information highly valuable and relevant. I have put myself on vocal rest, and taken up water and cough drops as my nutritional intake. I have never had to depend on my voice as much as I do now, as a music therapy intern. I rely on verbal and vocal communication within music in order to instruct, relate to, and express with my clients. I have never facilitated a music therapy session without a voice before, so I am sure to learn some new techniques next week!

If there is one thing I have learned this week, it is that I am not in control. I am always expected to do my very best, but I am also expected to be able to adapt and rise to any and all occasions. I am expected, as a professional-in-training, to be able to roll with the punches and continue to provide meaningful and high-quality treatment through music therapy. It is through these unforeseen circumstances that I am given opportunities to learn what “Plan B” or even “Plan Z” look like. When all goes “wrong,” how do I make it right? When the problem seems unavoidable, how do I create a new solution? When predictability is compromised, how do I reconstruct a new normal?

In a way, it has felt like all of my outside-of-work issues have been hiding in the shadows, just waiting for me to start my internship. Now they’ve all decided to dog pile on top of me as I’m already overwhelmed by simply learning how to be a music therapist. At first, I took this as a personal offense. The universe must be out to get me. This just isn’t my time. And then, I challenged that perspective.

Instead of feeling beaten down or targeted, I decided to accept these challenges like weather and personal health as opportunities to put more weight on the bar. I am growing stronger and more well rounded as I learn to balance personal and professional life. I am learning to focus my attention on the most pressing needs and priorities, and to let go of fear of imperfection. I am, ultimately, not in control. I am a snowflake in the wind. I hope to be the best and brightest snowflake that I can be, but I now know my place in the winter storm. I will float gracefully in the gust, rather than try to forge my own way. I will do what I can, and surrender the rest.

Hannah Avery is our very first Music Therapy Intern here at Harmony Garden Music Therapy Services. Stay tuned for her blog posts as she goes (and grows) through her music therapy internship.