Category Archives: Self-realization

Stretching


Last Spring I made up my mind to take a chance on trumpet performance, a neglected part of my past.  I began practicing in earnest, not just when I had something to perform for.  I searched out opportunities, made connections, and started to play much more.  Today, I have rehearsals four times a week and teach lessons on two nights.  I had the opportunity to play with three big bands over the summer, and now concert season is beginning again.  On paper that all looks like plenty, but there was another aspect of my musical past that I was ignoring: conducting.

As a school band director, I conducted daily and almost unconsciously, like breathing.  What I conducted was paced more by the limitations of my community band or school group than my conducting skills.  Yet when an email fell into my inbox inviting me to guest conduct a piece in the next University Alumni Concert Band concert, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to put myself out there, in front of a group again.  After all, I was a member of the group in order to play more, right?  Not to conduct.  It would just be an added distraction, and it had been years and years since I last held a baton in my hand.

It would have been easy and quick to decline and let them move on to the next person on their list.  I have plenty to do, between my playing and my family and my other commitments, and this would just be one thing more to take my time.  I haven’t conducted in a long time, I’d rather keep focusing on my playing, I’m just too busy.  Then, I started to suspect that there was a deeper reason I was leaning away from the invitation: I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore.

With that realization I reached my tipping point.  Last week I stepped onto the podium for the first time in almost fourteen years, rediscovering that wall of sound to mold, my other “instrument” that I had given up on ever “playing” again.  My baton shook a little as I made my first prep beat, but I regained confidence as the music blossomed.  I found myself making mental notes on what to rehearse next week, what to try, what to change, what to bring out.  I forgot my nerves, and let myself submerge in the music, doing what I used to do so fluently.

In seven weeks I’ll be standing on a podium in a major university auditorium, guest conducting the piece we have perfected.  Then the only question will be: how do I get more baton time?

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Filed under Accomplishments, Growth, Self Improvement, Self-realization

Back… And Forth


Well, this is awkward.

“What happened to your blog?”
“Why don’t you post anymore?”
“What’s wrong?”

I must admit that when I first created “One Bird At A Time” and made the decision to post every day I worried about running out of material to write about. Luckily, things just kept happening and I found plenty I wanted to turn over in my mind, making sense of as I filled the page.  Things are still happening, perhaps even more than before, but the effort of examination may have become too much.  Meeting my daily goal became a little obsessive, and I pre-planned posts for days I knew I’d be busy.  Sometimes I wrote when I needed to be doing other things.

I also found that writing so publicly is a balancing act. I chose to write about things as they affected me, yet I tried to avoid bruising others. Walking on familial eggshells put a bit of a damper on some of the things I could write comfortably about. The kicker about trying to be so diplomatic was that the entries that helped me most were the ones that were somewhat controversial. It’s hard to both please yourself and not embarrass those around you when you enter the blogging world.

I liked seeing my thoughts blossom and finding out what life meant to me. I appreciated friends commenting and sharing insights, whether it was a hearty “Yes! That’s how I feel too!” or pointing out another side to my story. Re-reading old posts reinforced lessons learned so I wouldn’t repeat mistakes and let me look back and see exactly when I turned a particular corner.

When I broke my daily streak at the same time that my life got busier with end of school year activities and plans, I did what was easiest. I quit writing. No one to worry or offend or embarrass, and writing takes time that I couldn’t find, at least the way I do it. I like to let it stew on the page for a while, eventually stirring the the ideas I start with into just the right dish with just the right flavor.

Will I get back to regularly posting? I hope so, with a little more kindness and understanding toward myself.  It’s less effort to let life flow past, largely untasted, unexamined.  After all, that’s what I seem to have been doing most of my adult life.  Lately, however, I find phrases and ideas popping into my head as I try to fall asleep; posts writing themselves in my subconscious.  I miss writing.

I took the path of least resistance, and that has made all the difference.

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Filed under Changes, Dedication, postaday2011, Self-realization, Success/Failure, Writing

Mea Culpa


Today would have been my mother’s ninety-first birthday.  You would think I would be reminiscing about old times, remembering how well she took care of me whenever I was sick, calling the doctor for a house call and hovering over his shoulder in my fevered memory.  The food she spent all day making for us, or how she was a do-er; how she could get “drunk” and giddy on just a Coca-Cola, or how she lost her first husband at the very end of World War II yet was strong enough to build a different life with my father and us.

Instead, I am spending the day wishing I could apologize.  As my daughter approaches her last day of high school this week, I find myself understanding more and more about my relationship with my mom during our contentious years, discovering what she was trying to do.  Time and experience wipe the bull-headedness of youth out of the picture, and I can see her more clearly.

I used to get so frustrated, so irritated that last year before I went away to college.  She seemed to be holding even tighter to me, and I only wanted to take flight.  As my girl does the same thing, I struggle to not want to hold her to my chest for as long as I possibly can.  My mother would tell me things I already knew, give me advice I thought I didn’t need, and treat me like a child.  I fought like a toddler wanting to be put down, trying to get away, only looking forward.

Mama, I understand.  And thank you.

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Filed under empty nest, Family Relationships, Gratitude, Growth, Looking Back, Parenting, Self-realization

Day Off


I took a day off from writing yesterday and I was watching the heavens and waiting for the lightning to strike all day.  For the past five or six months I have been requiring myself to write and post daily, but yesterday I didn’t make it.  I know myself.  If I break a streak, I have been known to give up on it, so I was being very careful to post.  Some days it was a stretch to find something to write about, but that was part of the effort required: to examine what was going on around me and discover something to focus on.

So now that the streak is broken, what to do?  Well, I was having a hard time coming up with a post today, too.  I had already broken my promise to myself.  What would one day more matter?  No one would care anyway – no one but me, that is.  With that realization, I stilled myself enough to notice that the thing at the heart of today was that I had not written and posted yesterday.  What better thing for me to analyze, then?

Why didn’t I post? I could have found some time and energy to do so, even though I played trumpet at three Easter services and had a long, leisurely, luxurious brunch out with family after.  I could have found something to write about from my pile of half-formulated posts in my pending file.  I thought about doing so a number of times, as I went through my day, with various degrees of concern.  Earlier in the day, I felt anxious about not having already written something to have ready.  After all, I knew last week that the day would be busy.  Later on, though, when there actually was time to sit down and think, I felt very peaceful about it.  I was happy, and content, and fulfilled.  Anything I would have written would have been forced.  I gave myself permission to skip a day, even though it meant breaking a streak.

So here I am, back on the horse again.  No less happy, but still enjoying writing, and sharing, and most of all, the act of examining my world.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Changes, Day to Day, Finding Inspiration, postaday2011, Self-realization, Success/Failure, Writing

Kid In A Candy Store


I walked into the music store for an eight dollar item and walked out with a bill that was twenty times that.  How does that happen?

I can rationalize everything that I got.  Books to use for my lessons.  Equipment I have been looking at and thinking about for quite a while.  Stuff that I hope will improve my playing.  It wasn’t exactly budgeted for today, yet that didn’t stop me.  My “why wait?” attitude may have saved me further research and the time it would take for the items to be shipped to me, but I always feel a little shell-shocked after similar forays.

This phenomenon happens all too often, and not always at music stores (though lately that’s a good bet).  Manufacturers are pros at getting your attention for things you didn’t intend to buy.  The same thing happens at the grocery store, the department stores, the book store.  I browse and find all number of things that interest me and attract me.  Sometimes I do that when I shop online, clicking through all the products available, but it’s easy to be sensible and take things off the final order if it’s more than I wanted to spend that day.  I end up with register shock far more often when I can see and touch the actual items.  It always seems that since it is in my hand, it should stay there.

If we ever move completely away from brick-and-mortar shopping, I may just spend less.  In the meantime, I have a few new toys to play with.

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Filed under Day to Day, Growth, Self-realization

Bon Voyage


…..

My brain is going, and I hope it has a very nice trip.  I told myself I didn’t have rehearsal last night, and I totally believed myself.  There was just one problem with that…….  I was wrong.

It wasn’t my swiss-cheese memory this time.  I remembered it was Wednesday, and I knew I usually had rehearsal, but there is one Wednesday a month that the group doesn’t meet and I had it in my head that this was the one.  Ummm, nope.  That would be next week, of course, so I miss two weeks of playing in one of my very favorite groups.  Punishment enough, I suppose, though my trumpet section buddies probably won’t let me forget it for a while.

Along with a busy and varied schedule comes the opportunity to miss things in proportionate frequency.  Most of the time I am on task.  When I am not, I need to learn to roll with the punches, certainly taking responsibility for missed events or deadlines, but not beating myself up for them.  Lessons learned and all that.

It didn’t help that my section-mates were waving from the dock as my brain pulled away.  At least I could provide some amusement from afar as they sent messages to me and even posted a picture of some of the music I was missing out on.

Gee, thanks, guys.  I miss you too.

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Filed under Day to Day, Self-realization, Success/Failure

Setbacks


It is April, and looks like February in my snowy yard.  My hope of a warm day is on hold, but I know it’s coming.  With enough patience and perseverance (and perhaps a snow shovel), I’ll get to what I want: warm days in which I can wear shorts and not have to have a jacket when I go out.

Things sometimes stalemate or plateau, no matter how much you want them or how hard you are working.  Often if I’m trying to lose weight, it just gets to a point where I’m still working as hard as I did, but seeing no results.  I stay at the same weight, no matter how much I am active or how well I eat.  Then, usually all of a sudden, the weight starts dropping off again, as though a logjam has broken.

It seems to be the same with my playing and search for gigs.  I am in a little area of static stability at the moment, but now is not the time to give up.  If I keep on doing what I am doing, even ramping it up a little, sooner or later whatever is holding me up will release, and I’ll be moving again.

It takes more effort to push through what seems to be a delay.  Perhaps that is so that if I have enough desire and resolve to not give up, I’ll be moving at a greater strength and velocity when it clears.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Changes, Growth, Self-realization, Success/Failure