Writing a regular blog is a curious affair. I try to write mine on a Sunday afternoon or evening. There is no particular reason for this, except that by this time I’m fairly relaxed and I can think better when I’m in this mood. Having a regular slot also works as a boundary. I know that I have a space set aside just for writing my blog. It allows me all week to think about things, mull over my week, consider the highs and lows. And to be alert for something that catches my attention.So at some level I am in a state of free-floating attention, waiting to be interested. The word for this in clinical practice is reverie-with its connection to dreaming and wandering. I tell my students that I don’t teach in straight lines. I warn them that we are going for a walk together and that I’ll comment on what catches my eye. So, those students who want a guide-book narrative that moves them from point A through B, on to C and so on find me difficult. Those students who are able to take a risk and trust me, usually find they see things that were previously hidden. My clinical practice is conducted in much the same way. Unlike CBT which has a very defined pathway, my work allows me to focus on the moment by moment processes occurring in the session. All of which is a preamble to this blog which, from the poster, is around Nina Simone once more.
I was lucky to be around in the 1960’s when Simone was being played. So songs like Feeling Good; Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood; Ain’t got no (I Got Life) and others were part of my way of thinking about myself and my world. I loved her melancholy passion. I loved the integrity I heard in her singing. Then she got lost to me as other songs came and went. Then I started my singing lessons-of which I have already written. I wanted some music that wasn’t the hymns that I also grew up with. (I think my favourite hymns have the same value as Simone and others. I hear Truth in them.) Nina Simone was my choice of singer. So, I now hear myself singing “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “Feeling Good”and other classics. Feeling Good is my current song. So many elements grab me. I love the tune. I love the words. I love the way Nina Simone puts them together and leaves me thinking that hers is the only possible voice that can marry these elements so well.The chorus is banal when simply written down.
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me. Feeling good.
But when the music is added the whole thing comes to life. Banal words seem to fly and soar. Much in the same way that the birds do in another line. Along with dragonflies out in the sun and fish in the sea-all of whom know how she feels.Singing the chorus is an act of faith, for me. I have to risk hitting notes I prefer to avoid. Opening my throat, my mouth, my stomach, my soul. To mumble these words is to lie. My tutor tells me to have faith-in myself and my ability. To open my mouth and let the words come out. She sings the chorus-and I hate her! She sings like Simone with a depth and passion and confidence that I envy. (But she tells me that she could sing before she could talk. I am slightly less in awe of her ability.)
I continue to be amazed at the similarities between singing and therapy. I know when I am not being honest with a song. I glide over notes that look tricky. My tutor gently brings me back to these notes and invites me to try them again. I do and she is generous with her praise. But still points out what I should be singing and encourages me to try it again. I do and I seem to get closer to the original. We sing it once more and I get more certain and risk more letting go. The result sounds alive and triumphant. The connection to therapy is pretty clear. As a counsellor I try to hear all the notes from my patient. I try to hear the slid over ones-and wonder what is difficult here. I invite my patient to revisit these notes. Slowly they are told with more trust and confidence. We think about how they fit into the whole song of their life. Together we make sense of the seemingly random notes that somebody else has written. Eventually we come to a version of the song that is “true”. It is a slow process. But very satisfying. And here is the Lady herself.