Author: Ramos, Jean

Good Medicine

Have you ever hit a wall? You are moving along at a good pace, picking up speed as you go, enjoying the ride and BOOM! You hit the proverbial wall. This happened to me recently. I had been going non-stop to festivals, camp-outs, and jamming parties all over Northern California since the first of the year. This is one of the joys of being retired and having a wonderful husband who is willing to go the extra miles to keep me happy.

Usually, upon returning home from these musical adventures, I take a couple days to clean the camper, do the laundry and get caught up on my sleep and in a few days Iím good to go. Not so this time. I found myself in a depression and feeling physically weak and fatigued. The chronic joint pain from arthritis was magnified. Most of all, I didnít feel up to going anywhere or seeing anyone; I had hit the dreaded wall.

Over the years I have heard so much about the healthy effects of music; how the simple vibration of an instrument against a musicianís body can release endorphins, which serve to relieve stress, reduce blood pressure and lessen anxiety and depression. One article I read said that making music enhances the immunological response enabling us to fight viruses. I canít argue with these findings.

Iím sure you all know the answer to my problem is ďmoderation.Ē Not only was I not keeping normal sleep patterns, I was not getting any real exercise, and was eating at one pot luck after another. Now we all know that our bluegrass family has some of the best cooks around and they know how to feast! The problem was in the choices I was making and in the quantities I was consuming. The six months of ďover indulgenceĒ had caught up with me. It wasnít the music that had let me down it was my poor choices.

I can sympathize with those who play music for a living. If they must spend a great deal of time on the road, play late night gigs, have a steady diet of restaurant food, and havenít the time or energy for regular exercise, it eventually takes itís toll. I just read a story about Charles Humphrey III, the bass player for The Steep Canyon Rangers. He spends a lot of time traveling on a tour bus from one performance to another. To stay healthy, keep from going stir crazy, and to keep from ďgetting mad at people,Ē he has taken up running. He recently ran a 12-hour endurance race and is training for his first 100-mile race in September, running at least 20 miles per day. While he is not the norm, I admire his discipline.

Most of us can name several full time musicians who are suffering from the rigors of life on the road. We know it will shorten the number of years that they will be able to perform and it eventually becomes apparent that their concerts come with a great deal of effort and the joy of sharing their gift is a missing element. If they are the bandleader and end up needing to take time off for health concerns, it affects every other person in the band and adds to the stress. I would say that being a ďstarĒ is not always what itís cracked up to be.

I donít play in a band but I do keep busy with my picking and singing. I derive a lot of joy from jamming and an occasional performance and I donít ever want to lose that. So it is with a renewed spirit, I approach my musical adventures and with a determination to exercise discipline and moderation and to walk the way the wind blows.

I recently went to a jam at the Veterans facility in Livermore and it was a real blessing to me. Wes Spain and his family had arrived early and brought pizza and beverages for the Vets and the pickers. They warmly greeted the regular attendees and served them with a smile. There is nothing that can give you an attitude adjustment quicker than bringing a smile to someone elseís face. Our audience was a group of men who had selflessly served our country and aside from visits by family and friends they donít have a lot to look forward to. It was very humbling to have nothing to offer but a smile and a song and our unending gratitude. Three chords and a capo can do wonders. The music was good medicine for all of us.

Until next time, remember, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down but itís not always the best choice. God bless.
Posted:  7/27/2014

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