Reflections with Dr Di

Dr Di Stow is a Counsellor based in North Hobart and a generous supporter of the TSO. Cath Adams spoke with Di at the TSO. Cath asked Di to reflect on the year we have had, what has been learned along the way by the community as a whole, and the role music has played in helping navigate the challenging terrain that 2020 presented.

It is so lovely to see you again in person Di. The last time we caught up was when you appeared on TSO Daily Dose back in April this year. Tell us about what you have been up to since then.

(editor note - see link to watch this episode:

I have had the privilege of working with wonderful clients this year, including many new clients, more new clients in fact than I have ever had before in the same time frame. I think this is largely due to the stress caused by COVID. Many people who would not usually seek help with the challenges they are experiencing with say, anxiety, grief and loss, and relationships, have reached out this year for assistance. I have worked with clients to help resolve issues, problem solve, develop strategies for managing better, and helpful tips and techniques to move forward. For those who have lost loved ones during COVID, moving through grief has been tricky for some and maybe even unresolved, as people have not had the opportunity to say goodbye in the usual way because of things like restrictions on gatherings at funerals.

This year has indeed been a mixed bag. For many an incredibly challenging year, but also one of incredible growth and learning.

What do you think are the biggest challenges you have seen for clients this year?

Uncertainty; navigating that uncertainty. Also, confusion. Clients are worried about what is going to happen next. Many clients have found the loss of plans or activities very difficult: Lack of opportunity to travel for example has been difficult for those who plan and look forward to having time away. There have been big disappointments, and the associated need to readjust and be flexible. It has been a joy seeing people shift and focus on what they can do; lovely to see.

People have also really missed simple things like going to the cinema or to a live concert. It has been wonderful that in lieu of the planned live concert performances that the TSO has been able to deliver digital performances through TSO Daily Dose and Friday Night Live since March this year. It has been a wonderful source of comfort and connection to so many during such an isolating and uncertain time.

What do you think are the positive things that have come from this year?

Meaningful communication: Communicating in new ways like the Zoom platform, and group chats. In many cases these have been the only way for people to communicate.

A wonderful positive was the sense of connection when doing personal exercise during our stage 3 lockdown period. Many clients have told me stories about how lovely it was connecting with people they passed on the street, or at the dog park. This demonstrated a wonderful community spirit and a sense of solidarity that we are all in this together.

People have been writing in journals documenting their experience about what has been going on, and detailing the ways they have coped. Given the advantage of more time, people have been reading more and delving into opportunities for personal development. Some of my clients have learned a new musical instrument which has been great to witness. In fact, I have started to play the piano which is very exciting. It is something I have always wanted to do and this year I have taken to it.

The value of home time and being in the moment has been interesting to see. More family focussed activities and the chance to enjoy cooking, listening to music, and board games. This time has also allowed people to practice resilience; belief in yourself that you will get through the difficult times.

And many Tasmanians have embarked on some wonderful travel experiences around our beautiful State.

Given the challenges of COVID, what do you think is the best way we can approach 2021?

I hear a lot of comments about people wanting 2020 to be over but we need to be careful about expecting to wake up on 1 January and for things to be magically better. As a healthy alternative, I think it is good to approach the new year optimistically, being happy with less and being more open to change. It is a great chance to recommit to being our best, the best we can be with our family, our work, and to remain hopeful. Let’s not focus on getting back to ‘normal’, rather be open to what next year might look like: Create magic and invent possibilities.

What role has music played in supporting people this year?

I have heard many stories of clients getting a wonderful chance to reconnect with music at home and rediscovering artists and composers they really love but had lost touch with. I can see there has been a new appreciation of the sheer joy and pleasure that music can bring and the wonderful ability it has to take you away from the present. In the digital space, the creativity of online content has been incredible across many genres — opera, classical music, ballet, dance. There is no doubt that the Arts has helped people immensely with coping through COVID and has contributed to reduced levels of stress and anxiety during difficult times. TSO Daily Dose has been instrumental in connecting communities and providing joy and hope across the year. On a personal level, I have just loved getting to know the TSO musicians better through both interviews and performances. It has provided a whole new way to see the orchestra. It has been completely fabulous.

As our newest Chair Patron, to TSO Tutti Viola Anna Larsen-Roach, we would love to hear about why you chose to support Anna and what this means to you.

I am so delighted to support Anna in this way and get to know her better. I love hearing Anna play; most recently I heard her play Tchaikovsky for TSO’s Friday Night Live. She plays so beautifully. It really means such a lot to me to support Anna in her quest for excellence as Tutti Viola, and the value and joy Anna adds to the TSO; wonderful music from her instrument adding to the whole orchestra sound. Supporting Anna enriches my own TSO experience, offering a more focused engagement and an opportunity to appreciate what it takes for a Viola player to be so successful in a highly regarded orchestra on the world stage.

Giving is great. Giving to the TSO is particularly great, and supporting Anna is such a bonus.

Dr Di Stow