The Playlist


Do they bug you? Baaahahahahaaaaa!!!

I get one almost every morning, a song that starts playing in my head, repeating lightly in the transom between conscious thoughts and brushing teeth. How fascinating! Apparently for some people it’s annoying, even distressing, but I like it, especially when it inspires me to dance a little. Music makes me happy.

Duran Duran was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, woohoooooo! If you have not already, I highly recommend listening to John Taylor’s memoir, In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran, which he reads himself. It’s poignant and honest, funny and endearing, and for us 80s kids, a window into our music heroes’ lives. “Ordinary World” plays as I type now, and when “Rio”, “Union of the Snake”, or “The Reflex” come on I’m 14 again, walking the halls of AHS. There is just something about music from adolescence that we internalize, that vibrates as deeply as anything else from our most formative years.

More often over time, I’m adding ‘oldies’ to my Spotify Liked Songs list, including classics by Bryan Adams, Kenny Loggins, Journey, Gin Blossoms, and Eric Clapton. When Maverick came out I added “Danger Zone” and the Top Gun Anthem. When I was very young, my parents played John Denver, Johnny Cash, and Sonny and Cher. OMG the nostalgia, it’s so powerful. Each of these songs evokes something unique… something warm, comforting, utterly limbic and visceral; ineffable and yet completely tangible.

And remember Band Aid? I still love their single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” In sixth grade we learned “We Are the World” in sign language and performed it for our parents. Many of you likely recall these songs. What you may not know is that pop singers in Taiwan also did a similar project, “明天會更好”, “Tomorrow will be even better.” This one makes me especially emotional because Ma and Ba had always played the individual artists’ songs in our house. Tsai Chin‘s voice is especially distinctive and recognizable, and thus nostalgic for our whole family. All of these collaborative songs, but the Chinese one in particular, evoked a sense of being part of something bigger–something global–decades before the internet led us to take that feeling for granted. They still do this for me, in a deeper way.

Thanks to my kids, I also discover new (to me) music every week. Daughter has introduced me to K-pop, so my playlist now includes BTS and Blackpink. She and I are big fans of Oscar Isaac; did you know he sings, too? I added at least 5 songs from the To All the Boys soundtrack, and I liked the movie, too. I discovered One Voice Children’s Choir’s version of “Memories”, then Son/Daughter showed me the original by Maroon 5; they’re both great!

*sigh* I so love my playlist. It’s eclectic, personal, and joyful. I play it shuffled, so I never know what’s coming next, and it always makes me happy. Other drivers may often see me bopping along Lake Shore Drive…

When I write, I like instrumentals. My go-tos are the soundtrack for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, selections from The Hobbit soundtrack, and my favorites from December by George Winston. Sometimes I just play a single song on repeat, which feels meditative and inspiring. Recent tracks include “Variations on the Kanon”, “Hallelujah” by The Canadian Tenors, and “Lean On Me” by The Tenors.

Music. Such a phenomenal thing. Thanks to iheart11 over at Passion…Unbridled, once again, for inspiring another of my 30 posts for November. I hope you have clicked on some of the artists/songs above and found uplift today. Life is too short to not hear something good every day, whenever possible.

Moving Through Distress

NaBloPoMo 2020 – Today’s Lesson

Sometimes the storm you’ve seen coming all along still sneaks up on you. 

COVID essentially obliterated 2020.  My colleagues and I saw the signs in the spring.  We knew all summer that things would get worse again when folks started gathering indoors.  But I did not anticipate a surge until after Thanksgiving.  Wow.  I stand a little agape, but I shouldn’t.

Four years ago I knew it could go either way… in my rational brain.  But my limbic brain would not believe it.  So I was despondent.  I’ve done so much work since then, channeling rage and outrage into nascent activism.  I have hewn closer to my core values, strived hard to be my best self, walking the talk, as if that would make any outcome tonight easier to take.  All year we have known it would be a toss-up again.  And here I am, suffering something akin to PTSD.

My usual workouts and mind-body practices would not cut it.  This day I needed rhythm, music, and another kind of movement.  Some folks at work joined me on a video dance-along to the Kongos—thank you Kathy Varol!  I listened to my Spotify playlist instead of books or podcasts, and walked in time.  Daughter and I played piano for the first time in months—Pachelbel’s Canon and Clementi’s famous Sonatina.  Nice to know that muscle memory can persist 30+ years.

All of my coping skills are called forth now and for the foreseeable future.  At least I’m better today at hearing how my soul asks to be soothed.  That’s a win.

Playing My Part


Hello again, friends! Feels good to be back…  3 weeks since my last post of the Blogging A to Z Challenge, holy cow!  At the end I thought, ‘Hey, I can do this!  One post a week, no sweat!’  …And then crickets…  How Fascinating!

Though I have not posted in three weeks, I have written like mad, mostly journaling. Today I suddenly realized how much I have missed corresponding with my friends on paper.  How long it’s been since I wrote by hand to someone other than myself!  As I sat this afternoon and wrote, on stationery, with colored gel pens and stickers, to some of my best friends, a tremendous sense of connection and gratitude filled me.  Much of this post was born of those spontaneous letters to my fellow conscious, cosmic journeyers.

Given the awesome support network with which I am blessed, I feel an impulse to do something more with my writing—to amplify and project all this love and connection back out onto the world for some positive purpose.  But how can my words possibly make a difference?

The A to Z Challenge showed me that I have the capacity to write often and much—and to produce better-than-crap results! It also taught me that I can take more risks with my writing, in both format and content.  Now I want to take my writing a little more seriously, lend more credence to my own abilities.  In the framework of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, I know my Why: to cultivate positive and constructive relationships in every realm of life.  This blog is another What to my Why.  But since the Challenge ended, I struggle with the How.

I think night and day about so many things:

  • My own individual relationships—spousal, parental, sibling, other familial; colleague, patient, student, friend, stranger.
  • Relationships I observe between others, and their impact on those of us around them.
  • Healthcare and medicine in general, and specifically at my own institution—miracles, bureaucracies, opportunities and pitfalls.
  • Leadership and organizational culture—examples of effective and ineffective models, and what makes them so.
  • Social justice and discourse—with an urge for movement toward acceptance, inclusion, mutual understanding, and cooperation.
  • Education, parenting and role modeling—integrity, walking my talk, inside and out.
  • Physician self-care and care of one another—individual and system issues, and their interface.

What am I called to affect? I live a conscious life in all these realms, or at least I try.  I have opinions and positions on various issues, some which I hold with deep conviction.  And I struggle with whether and how to express them—for what purpose?

Finally, I have an idea. Though I have opinions and positions that I hold strongly, I plan NOT to use this blog to promote those views.  There are plenty of people doing that already, a multitude of voices trying to win one another over, or, more precisely, trying to drive one another into silence with ever louder, brasher, and more vociferous language.  My voice can be one of moderation—of collaboration, connection—maybe a bridge for a few who seek one…  Or maybe just one stilt among many others, helping to hold up one such bridge.  I will strive not to criticize or proselytize, not to berate, blame, shame, incite, or inflame; and also not to concede or abstain.  I can, at the same time, hold my positions with conviction and passion, and also listen for the convictions and passions of others.  I can practice curiosity and openness.  I can question, explore, Hold the Space, and stand strong and tall, without feeling threatened.  I seek others who strive to do the same.

Voices of moderation are muted these days. The great orchestra of discourse has lost balance and harmony.  The most strident strings, horns, and drums play for their own promotion, rather than as a contribution to a symphonic collective.  The resulting dissonance makes us want to cover our ears and run away.  In order for a symphony to engage and inspire, each player must not only know her own part and play it well, but also listen carefully for other players and their movement.  Maybe we can all do this a little better: maintain our own distinct voices, while integrating with those around us.  The best orchestra functions as one entity, breathing and moving in a quintessentially integrated fashion.

My instrument is language. The past seven weeks have shown me my part in the online verbal orchestra.  This blog is where I will practice, record, and offer my contribution, not to overpower any others’ words, but to meet, align, and resonate.  The harmony of consonant contrast plays on, somewhere.  Maybe I can help find and amplify it, so more of us may enjoy the music of life among one another.