We all know life itself can be challenging enough. Living with a disability is complex and at times overwhelming. There are days when our spirits lag as we experience not only with the psychological realities of life with a disability, we may encounter actual physical pain and the further loss of abilities as we grow older.
We desire a happy, pain-free, and H.O.P.E. filled live with rich meaning and contribution. Despite our difficulties, we need to choose to be happy and have a plan to make it so, and in the process, we need to enlist our community to help us get there.
I want to share with you three different stories of how music and the arts can be useful in lifting our spirits, recovering our memories and connecting us to our community.
Our first story begins with a young man who lives with frequent physical pain due to osteogenesis imperfecta. A simple hug could break one of his bones, yet Sparsh’s spirit is full. He has a clearly defined life purpose, and he discovered it through music.
Music stimulates multiple brain centers improving visual and verbal skills, keeps an aging brain healthy, makes us happier, improves heartbeat and pulse rate and blood pressure, improves sleep, boosts the immune system and helps with pain management. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep06130
Sparsh uses music to help his life a full life and inspire others. Music changes how his brain pain. Self-expression gives life meaning filling the heart and soul. Making a difference in makes life worthwhile even when a new day may mean a new bone fracture.
Now, I’d like to introduce you to Henry. Memories had faded for Henry as he spends most of his days slumped over in his wheelchair blankly staring at the floor at his nursing home. That is until a motivated caregiver re-introduced him to the soundtrack of his life using a small iPod and headphones. Henry’s eyes brightened, his hands began to drum out the rhythms of the music, and he began to live again.
On a more personal note, Mikelle has discovered how the intimacy of small theater production is both entertaining and inspirational. Since her sister-in-law, Alice Vaughn Taft Learned, an actress, moved back to Denver, Mikelle has become a regular theater goer. At first, she attended just to support Allison. Who knew Mikelle would find Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew so captivating she would sit for over two hours living every minute of the performance. Movies and TV never held her attention like that.
Later, Mikelle attended Allison’s dramatic performances in Intimate Apparel and Crimes of the Heart. Fortunately, Allison is taking the Denver theater scene by storm and is now appearing in the Denver Center for Performing Arts production of Travelers in the Lost Dimension, at a new, fun and hip retail establishment. The audience became a character in this stage production, and Mikelle fell into the part perfectly. The benefits to Mikelle are new stories to tell, renewed enthusiasm for life and for a time, her disability disappears.
As Mikelle’s mom, I have found dance helps me balance my caregiving responsibilities with my self-care needs. I find dance more invigorating than a day at a spa, although let it be known, I will never turn down a massage.
At the end of a long day, I will drag myself to a dance class or go out with friends at a time when I used to go to bed and come back energized, feeling confident and smiling. I sleep well and am ready for the new day.
A few thoughts for you to consider:
- Turn on the music instead of the news! Dance like no one is watching and sing like no one is listening.
- We are heading into summer! Look for free music events. Find a street festival or a concert in the park. Many of them are low cost or free events.
- Load apps like Pandora or Spotify onto your smartphone and build your personal playlist ready to play whenever you want. Try to listen to music at least 30 minutes a day and watch your spirits soar.
Whatever form of art calls you, answer. For to be inspired is to be “in-spirit.”