Awesomeness…I Choose to be Awesome

As we have all learned, I love two things, I mean really love these two things:  listening to people talk and education.  I had a teacher in high school that was a huge influence on me.  I remember her saying several times that learning does not stop just because we attain a certain degree or reach a certain point in life.  We stop living when we stop learning and that we should strive to learn at least one new thing every day.  This has been a goal of mine for many years.  Some days, I learn something really cool and other days…eh.  The point is that I am striving for life and learning.

I want to share with you what I learned today.  In order to do so, I need to reference back to the first thing I mentioned loving:  listening to people talk.  I love hearing stories from others, listening to podcasts, and watching Ted Talks.  There are times when I even take notes as I am partaking in this activity – today was one of those days.

Today, I watched a Ted Talk presented in September 2010 by Neil Pasricha.  You may have heard of him from his website, 1000 Awesome Things, or his book “The Book of Awesome.”   His talk is titled “The 3 A’s of Awesome.” Watch it here if you so desire.  He said some things that really resonated with me and I hope they will with you, as well.

The first A is Attitude.  We  have two choices in life, particularly when life hands us those dreadful lemons.  We can either stay eternally within the gloom or we can make our way through our grief and see the world with a new-sort of eyesight.  A good attitude is having the ability to choose that second choice again and again and again, as many times as necessary.

I mentioned before, months ago, that I work with the elderly.  I do music therapy-type activities at a nursing home, focusing mainly on the long-term residents.  I do quite a lot of work with residents that have some form of dementia, or other major-health concerns.  Today, was one of my big music group days.  I do large music groups twice a week (at a minimum).  These are my largest groups and I have to do very little room-to-room recruiting now because of its popularity.  Yesterday, I filled in for one of my coworkers with her morning group.  As I went to get one of the ladies that attends this group (she is over 90), she saw me and with a smile asked if it was “piano and drum day.”  I told her that I was not bringing my keyboard down but that we would be doing some other music-related activity.  Today, as I went to bring her down, she had the biggest smile on her face and started requesting all sorts of songs.  She told me that she was just so excited because it was music day.  Did I mention that this lady is fairly blind and has a hard time hearing?  Despite her challenges, she has a rockstar ability to keep rhythm.  I teasingly call her my “human metronome.”  This is an example of having a good attitude.  She is quite elderly, has some major physical impairments, and yet still gets so excited for something that I think is such a simple thing.  Life is good, my friends, if we choose to make it so.

The second A is Awareness.  I love how Neil Pasricha explains this concept.  He talks about a 3-year-old and how they see things for the first time and just wonder at every little thing.  To be aware is to embrace our inner 3-year-old.  There is always a first time for everything and we need to remember that.   We also need to remember that every thing that I see today, I had a first time for seeing it once upon a time.  How many of us remember the first time driving a car?  The first time hitting a baseball?  The first time going on a date?  The first time seeing our favorite band live?  The first time seeing, smelling, tasting, or in any way sensing something new?  Isn’t life amazing that there are so many things for us to experience?  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to try something new today and then report back to me.

The third A is Authenticity.  I love this A nearly more than the others.  This is the one about being true to yourself.  This A gives you permission to go places you have only dreamed about going, meeting interesting people, having interesting conversations, and just following your heart.  Authenticity is so unique to each individual.  What is true for me is probably not going to be true to you.  We may have similarities but I am me and you are you and THAT IS OKAY!!!  You be the best you possible and I will be the best me possible and the world will keep turning and life will be amazing.

He closes his talk with something worth thinking about – life span.  If we are lucky, we get to live a long, long time.  However, that is not always the case.  I am hoping to make it past 80, but even then, time goes by so fast.  We are only blessed with such a short time to live, make memories, and be awesome, that we need to truly embrace and enjoy each moment.  I have talked in past posts about being in the moment and how vital that can be to our lives.  Neil Pasricha said, “You will never be as young as you are now.”  Think about that for a moment.  This very minute will NEVER come again.  How am I spending the time that I have been given?

awesomeLife is an awesome adventure.  Live it first-hand – do not live it through someone else.

Peace and Love (and Much Awesomeness),

The Mad Pianist

Gratitude: Talent

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The Mad Pianist playing Horowitz’s piano. Photo: TLG, 2011

Not many people know exactly what I do for work.  To be honest, there are times when I am not exactly sure what I do when I am at work.  My schedule and functions change fairly regularly – mostly monthly.  I work with the elderly in a long-term care setting but I am not a nurse.  I work within the recreation department but I like to view myself as a “non-licenses music therapist.”  As a result of all of my music training, I have the opportunity to share music with this population.  It is a hard but so very rewarding group of tasks on a daily basis.

Today, as they were getting ready for dinner, a lady wheeled herself up to me.  She said, “When are you going to play the piano for me again?  Can you do it right now?  Do you have something you can play for me?”  At the moment, I was getting ready to attend a staff meeting but we made plans for me to play for her this weekend.  I am going to play some Bach, Beethoven, and a piece composed just a couple of decades back.  Her excitement is kind of funny, at least I think it is.  Nearly everyone at this facility knows that I play the piano (and some know I play other instruments as well) but she is really one of the only ones that seeks me out to play for her.  She is an artist and so I keep trying to tell her that I will play for her if she will paint me a picture.  I think she has figured out that I will play for her anyway.

As a part of my weekly schedule, I have a music group.  Those involved in this group are usually all long-term patients.  They have varying illnesses, cognitive levels, and use of their limbs.  About a month ago, I was leading my music group and they decided that it would be fun to work on some Christmas songs and then record them.  They want to be able to give CDs to their family members for the holidays.  Now, I thought (and still think) that this was a terrific idea.  Little did I know at the time how much work this was going to be for me.  As a group, we picked five songs to work on:  3 traditional carols and 2 of the more “modern” Christmas tunes.  One of these I had never heard and we are learning the words tomorrow.  I have had the opportunity to arrange each of these pieces for the group.  They will be singing and playing various percussive instruments.  I will be on the keyboard and I have arranged for some of my musician friends to assist us.  The closer we get to the recording date, the more excited everyone seems to get about this project.

So, for today, I am grateful that I have this opportunity.  I get to see the smiles on each of the faces of this population.  I get to see the impact that music truly has on each individual and their varying circumstances.  If anyone doubts the power of music to heal and to bridge gaps, come visit with me.  I have seen Alzheimer’s patients become more coherent and balanced.  I have seen behaviors decrease.  I have seen people come together because of the music.  I am a believer.

I am grateful for being given this talent that I can share with the world.  My mom is always telling me “don’t hide your light under a bushel.”  I could be content, mostly, with living in the shadows but that is now what I have been meant to do with my life.  I have a gift and the accompanying training to bless others and to bring a smile and commonality to the lives of those around me.  I will not squander my gift.  I will showcase it and allow it to grow even further.

What talent are you sharing with the world?  I want to hear from you!

Peace and love,

The Mad Pianist Continue reading