I just got home from teaching Tai Chi at The VA. Before class, I do my rounds and personally invite the residents. As I was checking in on one of my regulars (Mr. X), his roommate started to give me his two-cents about Mr. X. I politely interjected and explained how it is not important for me to know about all of this (e.g. what the nurses think about Mr. X). In fact, his description of Mr. X was completely different from what I knew of him in class – the relationship I DO deeply care about. The roommate and I continued to have a very nourishing conversation about what artists bring to the table vs. therapists and clinicians. He totally got it. It seemed to blow his mind – he said it was as if artists were from another planet – that our approach to healing was literally out of this world. He fully appreciates the work that we do, understands the expertise we bring, and sees the need for it.
There are two of us who teach this class as part of a NCCA program and we have had the freedom to design the class in a way that draws on our dance background. The core of the class is the 18 Shibashi movements. Some of the residents have been practicing Tai Chi for years and take the class religiously. Others join in here and there or use the class as part of their rehab.
The residents are so used to being identified/addressed in a certain way. As artists, we get to engage with the residents without any knowledge of their diagnosis, history, or behavior. We are the only staff people (aside from the incredible volunteers) who knock on their door without trying to fix them. We connect simply as human beings and breathe, listen to soothing music, and move together. I didn’t realize until today, that this fact is invisible.
I feel energized from class today and grateful for the time I have right now to sit and write about it. My goal for myself as the year plunges forward is to take care of myself. The summer was tremendously full and I have not been able to take time for reflection and connecting the dots in my work. I know September always swoops in with gusto so I want to be ready. I want to be in a satisfying rhythm of exertion and recuperation. I want to connect the dots and stop rushing everywhere. Self-care just makes sense – Cheers to happiness, health, and doing my best work!