Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Power of Listening - Part One

In my early twenties it seemed clear to me that my life was going to revolve around Music and Sound – and Listening is clearly central to this enterprise.  As a composer, a 9-5 kind of job had limited appeal and for the next ten or so years  I embarked upon a mix-and-match of different, generally compatible, part time jobs that would help sustain my own creative practice (and pay the bills).

After finishing my PhD I finally achieved what I thought was my goal – a full time job at a University, as a lecturer in Music and Sound.  I found a lot of satisfaction in this work, and although I found it difficult to compose as much as I would like, the collegial and creative environment felt like a safe place to land.  Several years later the decision to start a family and relocate to my home city meant walking away from this ‘safe place’ and embarking on a new, less clearly mapped out and altogether riskier journey.  I chose to be the primary carer for our two children while my partner re-trained as a teacher and established a new career path.  I juggled parenting with part time sessional work and my own creative practice – a mix that functioned up to a point.  

As children grew and life responsibilities increased, I felt increasing anxiety around the tenuous and insecure nature of sessional teaching work and the reality that composition is not a reliable way to pay the bills.  It became clear to me that for the sake of my own mental health and our mortgage, I needed to reconfigure my working life and find a new way of doing things.  I listened to my instincts and came up with a plan. Through necessity and inclination I undertook further studies and qualified as Creative Arts Therapist, focussing on the area of clinical Pastoral Care.  

So at this mid point of my life, I find myself in quite a different place and certainly not one I would have imagined five years ago.  My working and creative life is a new mix-and-match of working with people and working by myself but the one element that connects these diverse strands is the power of Listening.  When I work with patients and their families who are experiencing quite extreme challenges in a hospital environment, I listen.  When I am working with residents in an Aged Care facility, I listen to their life stories as we make art together.  When I teach, I listen to the music and the words and the things unspoken.  When I write music, I listen to the sounds and shapes and textures in my imagination and bring them into the audible world so that others can listen to them as well.  And as a parent, I am discovering that Listening is perhaps the most important thing I can do.  So now, along with my list of skills - composer, teacher, writer, parent, art therapist, pastoral care practitioner – I would add LISTENER as the skill that underpins pretty much everything I do.