Waxing physically and philosically...

After literally years of deliberation, and as a result of some delicate and some less delicate prodding, this blog is my effort to organize - to bring together - my thoughts about my work as a conductor and as a personal trainer, to rant and rave as necessary, to celebrate the little things and the larger moments of brilliance, and to share some conductive magic and life lessons gained through 'waxing physically and philosophically'.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Conducting when it's Confronting

I try not to roll my eyes when talking to some well meaning person about 'what I do for a living' and 'whom I do it with', when with their hand on their heart and their eyes welling up with tears, they tell me what an angel I am, express marvel at my patience, or assert that they themselves could never do it though they know it must be incredibly rewarding.  It angers, frustrates, and outright amazes me that when people see the people whom I work with, they see my humanity and not my client's, as if my client's humanity is shrouded by their disability.  But I try not to roll my eyes.  I try to respond in a way that is not pedantic or condescending because for whatever reason it is human nature for people to be frightened by those who are different, to prefer not to deal with the reality of their own mortality, to be generally uncomfortable in their own skins, and to feel confronted by the very physical world of disability.  I understand that for the most part people mean well but feel confronted.  And yes, disability can be very confrontational - even for people with disabilities, caring for people with disabilities, or working with people with disabilities.

Today I sat in my car sobbing after my initial consultation with KH because his story and his circumstances were confronting; because I already cared and wanted to help him but didn't know if I could, or where I would start.  I'm telling you this because though I love what I do, sometimes it is hard and sometimes it is confronting because life and disability and disability services can be unfair, awful, and heart breaking.  I've never really been good at the whole 'professional objectivity keep people at arms length thing' - and I accept that sometimes that means having very human, emotional gut responses to people that I meet, or things that happen in the lives of people I work with and genuinely care about.

On days like this I miss working with my very good friend and conductive mentor AB because we talked about this stuff; she validated my feelings of confrontation and was not afraid to show me hers - such a precious rarity in a senior professional and so important to my professional development.  On days like these I think about how AB mentored me - no actually, how she conducted me - from these moments of professional despair back into our classroom refocussed and ready to confront what had confronted me.

I often try to imagine what AB would tell me in moments like those after I met KH today.  AB would say "we have to try" no matter how impossible something seemed. If something we tried didn't work she would say "we have to keep trying until we find a way".  Today when I told KH that I didn't know how far we would get but that I wanted to try, he typed out that he was expecting me to tell him that there was nothing that I could do, like everybody else told him and that he was happy to try.

If I told AB I wasn't sure if I could help someone, she would say "of course you don't know, you have't tried.  But you are a conductor", she would say with pride, "we try, this is what we do".  She is so right - though there may be similarities from one person to another, each person, each body, each disability is different.  We improvise, we think on the fly, we make it up as we go along, and over time and with experience start to refine this 'trying'.

If I told AB I didn't know where to start, she would ask me about what KH could do, and would remind me to start there.  Though I'm still not sure exactly how or where I will start with KH, I am amazed that in his 50 plus years of living with his brain injury he has found ways to manage as much as he has, and trust that he will show me where to start.  AB would say "conductors don't have every answer, but that's ok if we keep looking -- this is what we have to teach the participants".  Thinking about KH again, I remind myself that sometimes this is also what they teach us.

Today after I met KH, I sat in the car and sobbed -- it was confrontational and I was upset and I wanted to help but was scared.  I think that we need to talk to each other about these feelings -- I believe that they are a very real part of being a conductor.  I hope to be able to write something motivational and exciting about what conductive education has helped KH achieve sometime soon.  But today I'm writing to tell you that though meeting KH was confrontational, upsetting, and caused me to doubt what I had to offer through conductive education, after my imaginary debrief with AB this afternoon I am ready, willing, and excited about the opportunity to try.

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