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.

#AtoZChallenge: The Grace of Great Grooves

The original title of this post was “Groove More, Gripe Less.”  I’m reminded of my daughter telling me, “Mama, I like how your mood gets better when you listen to music.” [I mentioned this in a previous post.]  I remember her words often, because she uttered them with such innocence, but they ring unequivocally true.  Music can complement, elevate, validate, amplify, evoke, or pacify my feelings; sometimes it does all of these things at once.

It started with Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, and Olivia Newton-John.  Their songs may have been the first I heard of English—my parents left Taiwan and landed in Mississippi in 1971.   Come to think of it, country music lyrics are much easier to understand than other genres of songs in English…  Anyway, from there my tastes migrated to include Sonny& Cher, John Denver, Michael Jackson, Def Leppard, Yanni, Sting, George Winston, Brad Paisley, Dixie Chicks, Barenaked Ladies, and now Bruno Mars and Rachel Platten.

We humans are so fortunate to have evolved the great frontal lobe, where reason and intellect reside.  But even better, this protuberance behind the forehead retains intricate connections to the more primal, hindbrain parts, where emotion and memory live.  So through music and art, we can integrate our experiences in as many unique ways as there are individuals.  Thankfully also, music conveys the universal experiences that comprise our shared humanity.  Music can move us at depths we normally take for granted, or don’t even know exist.  There are happy songs, sad songs, angry songs, romantic songs, irreverent songs, and holy songs.  There is space in the human journey for all of them and more.

I have anticipated this post all week, because I wanted to include a selection of my favorite pieces.  I looked forward to sifting through them, knowing they would bring back sacred memories.  Scrolling through Facebook during my A to Z writing breaks, I came across a post by friend and writer Wendy Toliver.  She had what I interpret as a divine music moment and, luckily for us, she shared it:

“…Today, I am grateful for music. It touches our former selves as well as our current selves, and it helps us remember what is truly important, so that our futures can be all they should be. I am so grateful for the musicians who so eloquently weave notes and words together, who pluck our heartstrings, and make us want to better ourselves. I am so honored to have musicians in my family and friends so close they might as well be family. Thank you. I thank God for you.”  How cosmic, that we both felt the keenness of music in coincidence.  That’s the magic of it, after all.


Feeling all this Glory of Music, I decided writing about Griping would just be a downer.  So let us get busy building our lyrical libraries—the bigger, broader, and more genres the better!  I present the list below in no particular order.  I thought of categorizing them—songs to move your body, songs to cook to, songs to write with—but I bet they speak to you very differently from how they speak to me, so I invite you to hear them in your own context.  And please share your own favorites, too—what music moves you?


Get Your Groove On!


Days Like This, Van Morrison

Stand By You, Rachel Platten

Beer For My Horses, Toby Keith and Willie Nelson

Mom and the Radio, Bill Harley

Because We Can, Bon  Jovi

The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, Gang Chen and Zhanhao He

Footloose, Kenny Loggins

Goodbye Montana, George Winston

New World Symphony, Antonin Dvorak

I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash

Runaway Baby, Bruno Mars

Who I Was Born To Be, Susan Boyle

Ode To Joy, Ludwid von Beethoeven

Rocky Mountain High, John Denver

Roar, Katy Perry

Ticks, Brad Paisley

No Place Like You, Maddie & Tae

Hallelujah Chorus, George Frideric Handel

Ming Tien Hue Gen Hao (Tomorrow will be even better)—The Chinese version of Band Aid and USA for Africa… and what the heck, let’s include those original recordings:

Do They Know It’s Christmas

We Are The World


PS I have shared the best recordings I could find of the songs—they’re all on YouTube.  Please excuse any link glitches!