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I didn’t know but Fran Herman (music therapy pioneer) has helped me figure it out.

ImageMy face said it all…..I was shocked.

2 hours before this picture was taken I took a quiet stroll on the early morning Calgary downtown streets to a small cafe (Caffe Artigiano – highly recommended) several blocks from the conference site. I left my computer behind and only went with ‘finding a great cup of coffee and a few moments of quiet’ in mind.

Returning from Spain less than a week before where my taste buds were still used to the succulent daily espresso (americano or cafe con leche) I wanted to return to some the wonderful feelings that lingered from my trip. While walking the Camino de Santiago I met many people and was asked many questions like, “what brought you to the Camino? Questions I seemed unable to answer. I didn’t know. I just knew that I had been there before, felt great when I returned home, and so when asked to go again and finish it (I only did the first half 4 years ago) I couldn’t say no.

The day I arrived back in Calgary I had exactly one day of transition before I entered my role as the Board Chair for our National Association. The transition day was perfect and included time with people I loved the most and visiting the mountains not too far from my home.

The board meetings went forward as planned and were going well. So well in fact that I felt I could take a moment away to find the perfect cup of coffee and reflect upon my trip – something I had not yet been able to find the time to do.

I ended my reflection wondering….what is next? You see I thought I was going to figure that life question out while I was on the Camino but it didn’t happen. I know what you are thinking – but you must have thought something over 6 – 8 hours of walking each day….and well I can tell you this – if I did think about anything I didn’t remember it for long. My brain felt empty and completely full all at the same time but I was still left with the question….so now what?

Fran and Jen
Fran and Jen

I knew I had to call Fran. Fran is my music therapy mentor and I was missing her as she was unable to attend this conference. She is Canada’s pioneer in music therapy – the contemporaries of such names as Clive Robbins and Oliver Sacks. She is the one who always knows exactly what to say to me even when I don’t know the right question to ask.

That morning I called and wanted to thank her for sending a guitar that she had creatively decorated for us to raffle at the end of conference. The first thing she mentioned were that the little shells on the guitar and that they were called Kitten Shells…and just as I was ready for some wonderful story that would enlighten me on ‘why are they called Kitten Shells?’ I found myself disappointed when she said ‘well I don’t know.’  Her answer caught me off guard. This phrase had become all too frequent in my own vocabulary as it was the perfect response to my other question – “what’s next?”

I said goodbye to Fran, left the coffee shop, and walked back in time for the closing keynote of the Conference where I stepped down as President of the Association – as I walked back to my seat I heard the announcer say……and the winner is……Jennifer Buchanan.

What?!??!  How is that possible – I didn’t know I was even eligible to win. I thought many things in a space of 3 seconds:

  • I need to give this back to the group to raffle again because I am the host in the host city.
  • I can’t give this up – I love Fran and this gift means so much – I can’t believe it.
  • It feels like my mentor has passed a symbolic torch to me (as she has done for so many) 
  • I get to see the kitten shells close up and even touch them

I didn’t know what to do……..and then I did.  

IMG_3130I have kept the guitar crafted by my mentor’s hands.  A daily reminder as I walk into my office about all the ‘I don’t knows’ available to us and what great opportunities and surprises they can lead to.  At 88, my mentor Fran was still saying it…and seemed okay doing so.

I have decided that where I go next is easy – I am going to move forward…..and that doesn’t necessarily mean I also need to have it all figured out.