Max Finds His Passion

Max was a large teddy bear. He always felt a bit self-conscious about his great size. Many of the other teddy bears who lived in the giant backyard dollhouse called “Much Ado About Nothing” were far smaller than Max. But, Max soon learned that due to his size there were things he could do that the smaller teddy bears could not.

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Max could sit at the computer desk and use the computer! The smaller teddy bears certainly couldn’t do that. They couldn’t reach the keyboard. Max’s large arms put him at just the right distance from the computer keys. While Max enjoyed being able to use the computer, he still often felt that something was missing from his life.

One afternoon, Max consulted with two of the smaller teddy bears about how he was feeling about his computer time, and what might be missing from his life. The two smaller teddy bears Max sat on the couch with that day were music bears. Mozart Bear and Strauss Bear both listened politely to Max as he talked about his time at the computer desk, and how he wished to do something more.

“Have you ever considered music?” Mozart Bear asked Max.

“I listen to music on the computer.” Max told him.

“No, no,” Strauss Bear scolded gently. “He means making music!”

“Yes! Have you ever considered making music?” Asked Mozart Bear.

Max felt confused. What were they talking about? “You think I should make music on the computer?” Max asked, doubtfully.

“Not on the computer, on the piano!” Mozart Bear said, grandly.

“Come with us.” Strauss Bear instructed to Max, so he followed the two smaller bears.

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Mozart Bear and Strauss Bear climbed up onto the back of the piano, settling themselves in comfortably next to the busts of the great composers, Mozart and Beethoven. Max sat at the piano keyboard, feeling very unsure of himself.

“Now, play.” Mozart Bear commanded. Max stared up at him.

“I don’t know how to play the piano.”

“Are you sure?” Asked Strauss Bear.

“Humans have to take lessons to learn to play piano.” Max told them.

“And, are you a human being?” Mozart asked Max.

“Well, no. I’m a teddy bear.” Max said with a sigh.

“Exactly!” Strauss Bear said. “Just play the keys as if you are typing a letter at the computer. I think you’ll find the results surprisingly pleasant.”

Max stared at Strauss Bear. Could it be that simple? Could teddy bears really play piano without needing lessons?

Max followed the instructions given to him by the two smaller music bears. To his surprise and delight, Max began making music! Max enjoyed playing the piano. He played and played, while Mozart Bear and Strauss Bear looked on, appreciatively listening to the music he made.

After that day Max did not resume his post at the computer keyboard. He stayed at the piano, playing his heart out. Max figured it was alright to not go back to the computer. Max had found what he enjoyed best.

Mozart Bear told Max one day later that perhaps another giant teddy bear would come along eventually who would best love spending time on the computer. So, Max didn’t worry about that any more. He just carried on enjoying making music at the piano. Max had found his passion at last!

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My Musical Month of Bipolar Depression

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Staying one step ahead of the symptoms that come with the depression side of Bipolar Disorder isn’t an easy task to achieve. It can be exhausting. It can be draining. And it can seriously rearrange what I want to do with my days.

I’ve been battling a Bipolar depression episode most of this month. I have lots of tools at my disposal to help me in this battle. I don’t always have the best time at accessing the wherewithal to *use* all those those tools I have at my disposal, but this month I think the tool that I’ve been most successful at battling depression symptoms with has been music.

I’ve always enjoyed listening to music. And I’ve always loved to sing. When I was fourteen years old I began formal study of singing.  I studied singing for two decades. I never wanted to be a professional. I always attended voice lessons because I enjoyed them.

I didn’t know at fourteen that I would develop Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder in my twenties. Since the onset of those two conditions I have found that those voice lessons that I took for those twenty years were extraordinarily helpful in managing my moods. I find it just about impossible to feel emotionally lousy when I am engrossed in singing beautiful music.

All those years I was studying singing I also really wanted to learn piano, but my family could never afford to buy a piano. My parents felt that if you were going to learn piano then it was important to have regular access to a piano to practice on. I agreed with them, so I didn’t get piano lessons. Even so, I’ve always loved the idea of learning piano.

This month while I have been feeling pretty low on a regular basis I’ve been puling myself back out of those lows from the depression side of Bipolar Disorder with signing. In particular I’ve been signing along to the Broadway cast recordings to musicals. My singing training was mostly classical, for opera and classical concerts. I also sang a lot of musical theatre in my voice lessons.

This month I’ve been choosing the Broadway cast recordings that have subject matter that’s pretty heavy. I have a history of acting in theatre, both straight plays and musical theatre, so when I sing along with those Broadway cast recordings I let myself really get immersed in the stories those musicals are telling and go full-on in acting the roles I’m singing. Even though I’m standing in my kitchen with cats watching me.

I have found this month that singing the scores to shows that have pretty dark subject matters help me manage my moods better than the lighthearted musicals. As I’m singing I really pay attention to what’s happening to the characters in shows like Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, and Spring Awakening. Then I compare what’s happening with me to what’s going on in the lives of those musical theatre characters. Even when I start the day not feeling well *at all* I still have to admit, every time, that I am not facing the issues those characters are facing.

I’m not fighting for my life in the French Revolution, or in the war in Vietnam. I’m not facing the horrors that take place in Spring Awakening. I’m living my life. And compared to all those options? I’v got it pretty darn easy.  Singing along with those shows gives me a fantastic dose of perspective. Add that dose of perspective the amazing melodies I end up singing to help myself feel better and well, by the time I’m through to the end of any of those musicals I feel a whole lot better.

Last year I purchased a nice electric piano for myself. All those years I didn’t get to study piano but I still wanted to. And still do. So, my new electric piano has been sitting here patiently waiting for me to start learning to play. So, while I’m still fighting the good fight against these depression symptoms I’m finally taking some time to start learning to play piano.

It’s been a long long time that I’ve wanted to learn piano, but I’m still here in this life. So, it’s  not too late. I don’t expect to become a virtuoso pianist, but I have a feeling that making music on the piano just might become another tool I will be able to add to my arsenal to help myself through these occasional seasons of Bipolar depression.

I feel so grateful to life for providing me with singing lessons when I was young, with the ability to get my own piano last year, and for the existence of music in the world. They say that music soothes the savage beast, and I’m feeling really pleased today that Bipolar depression symptoms are the savage beast in my lief that I am able to soothe with making music.

 

 

 

© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.