Accepting Defeat

How do you practice self-care during the days when you feel defeated?

This used to be in easier answer when I was younger and I could answer in a heartbeat: music. Duh. Music was my strongest outlet of emotional expression, social connection, and way to analyze the confusion of growing up. Now, however, music is my professional life. This becomes muddled when days are tough because I no longer have the desire to listen to preferred music or express myself in playing as I am simply tired. Tired of music and tired of thinking about every aspect of music.

Do you catch yourself utilizing your music therapist brain when you hear a new song, or someone discusses a song they like (or don’t like)? Not only do I do this, but I can no longer separate music from my music therapist’s brain. Is this beneficial to me? Or is this affecting my ability to separate my personal life from my professional life?

I currently work only part-time in music therapy, but I also work part-time in piano accompaniment for a local church, and am preparing myself for part-time master’s work in music therapy. Although none of these things employ my music therapist’s brain full-time, combined together it seems like it does.

I would actually argue that it makes it feel more than full-time. My reasoning is this: When I worked FT for a company that employed me as a music therapist, going home after a day’s work was simple – get in car, leave last patient’s house, turn on NPR/podcast (no music), and drive home to personal life. Having the stability of a full-time job made it simple to leave work at work and deal with whatever was happening the next day. There are always exceptions to the rule, but I had an overall very healthy outlook on self-care and understanding that work needed to be dealt with at work.

But what happens if your “full-time” work (aka many part-time jobs crammed together) begin to blur those work vs. personal life lines? I am realizing daily that without that stability and structure of a Monday – Friday, 8-5 job, my music therapist brain is becoming less and less able to clearly identify when work is over. I am often left feeling unfinished, worried, stressed, and overly aware of the amount of work remaining. This can be attributed to: 1. Not having an office; 2. Not having paid time to plan; and most importantly 3: Having no clear cut lines between one job to the next (or to the next, or the other next…).

In addition to these obstacles, I find that I am left more time to daydream. This seems like it would be healthy addition! However, time to allow my dreams to run wild and dissect what I want to do next with my professional life enables me to fall hard when bits of defeat block my way. This is because my mind-set is often, “this is good, but not good enough”. In our society, part-time work is typically associated with parents, or retirees, and when you are neither, it feels like your professional life is only half-completed. You could say that I shouldn’t worry about “society”, but alas, I am merely human.

Recently, I’ve been dreaming out the wazoo on what I want to do next. When things don’t work out the way I hoped, accepting defeat has been difficult. How do I manage self-care for my professional life when the self-care that has always helped is causing my personal woes? The last time I dealt with similar feelings (yes, this does appear to be cyclical), a friend of mine shared this quote with me:

“The problem is that you will handle the holy things professionally, and discover you have become calloused to them personally.” (Images of Pastoral Care: 135) President Lacy, Union Theological Seminary”

This quote doesn’t give me any answers. But I appreciate that I am, at least, not alone in these feelings.

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