You Are Not Alone
The other day I saw an article in the Washington Post discussing a poll administered by the Kaiser Family Foundation, conducted March 25 to 30, 2020. The poll found that 45 percent of adults say the pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19 percent say it has had a “major impact.” According to The Post, the poll makes one thing clear: If you’re scared, anxious, depressed, struggling to sleep through the night, or just on edge, you are not alone.
And yet, here we are in our homes, feeling alone. What do we do with these feelings? Our tendency is to hunker down, power through, hide them away. We try to pretend nothing is wrong. But it is, and we are all mini volcano science experiments, waiting for that vinegar to be poured on the baking soda, at some point we will each erupt and overflow.
What gives me hope, though, is that articles like the one mentioned above are rarely all gloom and doom. They typically end with suggestions for coping, which include exercise, sleep, good nutrition and, always, connection. Connection with a purpose. Connection with intention.
Dr. Rod Paton is a composer, workshop leader, horn player, singer and writer who specializes in improvisation and community music. When he talks about flow in group improvisation he says that “suddenly this thing kicks in and everybody knows what to play. There is an overwhelming sense of purpose. Participants are then being truly creative because they are in direct or internal contact with the group intention.” (Music as Creative Practice, pg. 27)
At Melodic Connections we experience this monthly at Common Time, a gathering for music lovers. Everyone in the room is a musician, no matter their skill level, and we all make music together. Inevitably throughout the 90 minutes there are moments of flow. It might be when we all begin harmonizing in the moment to “Three Little Birds” or whistling together in “Ripple.” When it happens I start nodding and everyone looks around, making eye contact and smiling at each other. We all seem to say “it’s happening” with our eyes and our voices and we all know what we mean, with no words.
Music is going to be one of the things that brings us out of our anxiety, our depression. And it will be in the context of listening to others, or (better yet and hopefully) playing with others. Singing with others. Drumming with others. It will be the purposeful motion that brings us out of ourselves and into flow, into attunement, in tune, with others again.