“If A is a success in life, the A = x + y + z. Work is x, y is play and z is keeping your mouth shut.” - Albert Einstein
The Andover Educators conference at Iowa State was fantastic. I had 3 Alexander Technique lessons and a session with a physical therapist who is also a Feldenkrais practitioner. All 3 of these gentlemen zoomed right in on the unnecessary holding pattern and I now have lots of things to actually do to get rid of this. Part of it involves just saying “No” to the muscles that are trying to help. In my case, “No, dammit. Your help is not required here. Thanks for thinking of me. “ Thinking of the upper ribs pointing up at an angle towards the shoulder joint helps release the squished feeling in my upper arm. Having my first finger lead my whole arm into extension and noticing the texture of what I’m feeling helps get my finger/hand/arm integrated back into my whole. The physical therapist actually mentioned 3 exercises for strengthening that he said I would be doing, if I were his patient. I’m definitely going to check with my hand therapist. He also told me that there is a special interest group for Performing Arts within the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association). It’s a separate group from PAMA, although many of the practitioners are members of both.
I also performed in a masterclass for Amy Likar, Director of Training for Andover Educators, in my triumphant return to the stage! I thought long and hard about throwing my name in the lottery of people who wanted to play. What it came down to was that I’d like to see a master teacher work with an accomplished musician who is recovering from injury. So often, injured musicians don’t want to deal with this is public. In this case, I was absolutely confident that there wouldn’t be a more supportive audience for me anywhere on the planet. Quite honestly, I was ridiculously scared. I spent 15 minutes the day before just sitting on the stage with an empty house, wondering if I can do this or not. I could and I did. I asked my lovely friend Molly to accompany me on piano. Nice to have a friend right there... I told her she could start talking to me in a cartoon voice if it looked like I was freaking out. I’ve spent lots of time laughing at her trading cartoon voice messages with her own girls. We played the second movement of the Taktakishvili Sonata. This wasn’t the debut performance for my new flute that I envisioned back in August, but it was a success. I still have a key extension on the flute for the first finger, as well as the water tube stuck on there to increase the diameter of the tube. Again, a master teacher was able to guide me into ditching this stupid holding pattern and picking the flute up like I used to before being injured. Nice to notice that I can generate a huge sound on this flute without having to work as hard as I used to on the old flute, especially when I’m not doing unnecessary muscular work.
It was nice to appreciated by people at this conference. Moms generally don’t get warm fuzzies... or at least this mom doesn’t. That being said, there are always people who aren’t happy no matter what you do. The student workers at ISU were fabulous and definitely earned their money. Other fun conference things: my laptop died the night before my presentation (thankful for flash drive backup), my flight home was cancelled so I had to spend an extra night in Des Moines, and my reservation at the B&B was messed up so I was left scrambling for a place to stay the last night of the conference.
I struggled with the humidity there. Going from the super cold air conditioning to the hot, humid Iowa weather was painful. I could feel my hand expanding as I got out of the rental car to fill up the gas tank before returning it to the airport. Then getting back in, the air conditioning made my hand feel like it was shrink wrapped. The pressure changes on the airplane were not comfortable either. Plus I tried to do my exercises, but I didn’t do them as often as I should. Same for the icing - I made my own ice packs and had one set at the B&B and one set in the freezer at the music building.
Returning back to reality was hard. It seems that I’m on 100% - no more extra help for my hand. Fair enough, but it’s a shock to go from just taking care of yourself for a week to being responsible for two little people and a house. Plus I was exhausted and have a ton of paperwork stuff to sort out for the conference. Paying bills, writing checks, etc....
Got a phone call this week to interview for the adjunct flute position at a local university, so we’ll see what happens with that!
Key things I learned during this stage of my journey:
1) It felt fantastic to perform for an audience again. There was a time in this whole process where I felt that I may never be able to do that again. There’s immense satisfaction in knowing that I’ve done the work necessary to get to this stage.
2) It makes me feel better to be around other fantastic musicians who are such caring people. They understand the vulnerability that goes along with returning to playing after a devastating injury. Not to say that ordinary people don’t get it, but these folks GET it. These people are at the conference because they care about how bodies are put together and how they work. They also understand the terrible feeling of frustration and emptiness that goes along with not being able to make music. A soothing balm for my soul.
3) I feel so sorry for some colleagues who have other physical issues that can’t be fixed surgically. My injury is not fun, but it was something that can be fixed. So I was very fortunate, because there is no easy fix for some musicians. Sounds ridiculous to say that surgery is an easy fix because there has been nothing easy about this whole process for me.