Sunday, February 28, 2010

A New Phase

I'm in a coffee shop gearing up for the first rehearsal of NEXT weekened's concert in DuPage.(Tchaikovsky 5, Haydn 88, and a World Premiere Harp Concertino. Click HERE for tickets and info.) It's nice to have a little time to myself, and I had intended to use it to edit a couple of posts I had roughed out earlier, but you know what? It's been a chaotic couple of weeks, and nothing I wrote before feels like me anymore. Too angst-y, too conflicted. I'm on the upswing again, and everything feels easy and possible again. It's a new phase beginning, and I can't fight it...

Steve is a wonderful stay-at-home Dad. When he left his job as Education Director for the South Bend Symphony at the end of January I was skeptical that this change would wind up being for the better for us - but it definitely has. I think I had had hopes (though not expectations) that having him home would mean an end to the drudgery of running a house - no more cooking, no more laundry. That is not the way it's working out and probably shouldn't be - but we're sharing the load now in a way that has not previously been the case and while I still find that I'm spending time trying to practice and make reeds with an active baby underfoot I also find that I have an out. I can be with Zoe now without having to multitask obsessively, because I can also hand her off for an hour or two here and there and really buckle down when I need to. It's more a difference of how relaxed I feel than how many hours I've really reclaimed, but it's all I needed.

Zoe is sleeping through the night! At least, more nights than not. And I am too, and my energy levels are through the roof in comparison to a month ago.

Our big good dog, Jasper, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer, and we opted to amputate his right hind leg. Prognosis is still undetermined, but he's healing well from the surgery and getting around better every day. And even this I read as optimistic - it's nice to see his pain gone and the old doggieness return to our pet. He seems happier, even just a week after the operation.

It's March! And the days are getting longer and I can see mud emerging from the snow, and it's almost Spring and everything feels more possible. I don't remember being overtly bothered by the weather this winter - it felt more like an irrelevant nuisance to me on top of my basic level of stress and internal panic than like a stressor, if that makes any sense - but I'm aware of my mood shifting when the sun comes out (occasionally) here in Indiana and that's definitely an improvement, too.

And I'm more inspired by my career than I have been in years. Motivated to make changes, ready to get out there. It's partly that having Zoe has made me want to stay closer to home, and has lessened my tolerance for driving long distances for minimal economic gains, but also that having less time in my days has sharpened my focus on what I really want to be doing which is performing in solo recitals and chamber groups. My next project involves working on my materials and self-promotional skills so that I can replace some of my daily grind with work that excites me.

I'm frequently aware of the various cycles at work in my life - monthly and seasonally, of course, but also in terms of my career arcs and project arcs, and work vs. rest days in fitness - and it's very exciting that ALL of my personal cycles feel like new beginnings right now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Love Having Run

I'm running again.

I have not been a runner all my life - my dad was always a runner and athlete and I was always pretty sedentary. In 2000 or so I started jogging in my neighborhood in Chicago, and it did not come naturally to me. It took at least a year for me to be able to run three consecutive miles, and another few years before I started running 5Ks and 10Ks and triathlons and doing speed workouts and really self-identifying as a runner. Since then it's been an important and very consistent part of my life. I haven't missed more than a week or so ever, until I was about 6 months pregnant and reluctantly phased it out. Too uncomfortable, too absurd.

Running for me started as a break from the intense self-scrutiny of my professional life as a musician, and wound up being something that I could use all the same discipline and focus on without stakes. As a freelance oboist my mistakes are apparent to all, and if my skills slide too much it can certainly impact my bottom line - I can lose a job if my standards slide too much or even for one disastrous public bad-reed experience. Music happens in real time and expectations are high. Running a race is the same, except that no one but me cares what happens. What fun!

During that last 3 months I couldn't take my eyes off runners as they passed me on my endless slow walks. It was the thing I missed most as a pregnant lady - not the wine, and not the bottomless cups of coffee. The loss of the easy slide-out-the-door-and-hit-the-ground-running was what made me saddest. So after Zoe was born I was out as soon as I dared, and had reclaimed my easy three-milers within the first six weeks.

I was back up to 15 mile weeks throughout November, and was looking forward to running through the winter as I always had done, and honestly what hung me up was just time, I think, and energy. I wasn't sleeping, so couldn't get myself out the door early, and the days were short and dark and cold in December and January, and between Steve's job and my teaching and gigs and the baby I couldn't ever make time later in the afternoon, and it was killing me to miss my mileage day after day after day. So my solution was to forgive myself. I couldn't prioritize running over my other responsibilities and I had nothing else that I felt I could cut out. I let it go.

I am not quite yet able to call myself a runner again. I do not crave the running when I am not doing it. I do not exactly enjoy the running while I am doing it. I do not itch to leave the house in the chill of February. BUT when I have been out running I feel so much better that it keeps me coming back and back. I am taller, stronger, and leaner for the whole day after I get out. I have more energy the next day. I just need the smart part of my brain to keep reminding the comfy indoors part of how great it feels after I do it.

It is worth it to me to make the effort. Having voluntarily let it go has taught me more about my personal need for this sport than the involuntary break I took over the summer. Although running itself is still a struggle, I love having run enough to run.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Sun is Out

The sun is finally out again! Recently at 5:00 am, while I was sitting awake at the dining room table, in the dark, before the thermostat kicked in to warm the house, next to a sink full of dirty dishes, pumping milk because I hadn't seen my baby awake in fourteen hours (the one night she actually sleeps, wouldn't you know) I drew my daily tarot card, and I was surprised to see the Sun.

It's probably the most optimistic of the Major Arcana cards, and shows a happy baby on a white horse in the full glow of daylight, and implies ease and joy and transparency in one's endeavors. It does not on the surface seem to reflect my current situation, nor to go along with the run of dark Swords cards I've been drawing these past few dark and difficult weeks.

But, you know? The sun did come out. It was finally a bright and gorgeous winter day here in Indiana - felt like the first in months. We had an afternoon concert and it went well - really well. It made me want to get back out running, and I did. And I can still do it. I can still play the oboe and I can still run and I am still me and all it took was a change in the weather for me to see it. It's been a hard month in a hard year, but the sun is on me again and I can do this.

And it struck me that all this winter while I've been feeling like a big fake barely getting through my days and my gigs and still somehow receiving compliments and still giving the impression of being in control of my life - well, let's see if I can put this right. The reason that it looks - from the outside - like I have myself together is that from the outside I do have myself together. I am in fact walking out of the house wearing unsoiled clothes most days and don't run out of toilet paper and the baby is thriving and my students are improving weekly. I am in fact pulling off the concerts I need to play, and if I'm not as prepared in rehearsals as I want to be or if I have only one legitimate reed in my case at any one time it doesn't really matter to anyone but me. I'm leaning on the great musicians around me for inspiration, but that's not the same as needing to be carried - I'm still the one at the other end of the oboe making it work. I am not running 25 miles a week right now, but I'm getting out there a little bit, and it's going to get better as the days get longer and the weather improves.

The Sun is telling me, in fact, that what people see by the light of day IS to a large extent what counts, and that the point is not that I'm getting away with seeming okay but that by seeming that way I AM okay. It doesn't really matter how hard it feels before dawn if by day I am still performing, running, coping, and loving what I do. So I'm counting my blessings, and enjoying the Sun.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Upcoming Concert

This Saturday night - after my recital in Chicago (click HERE for info on that) - I will be with the Northwest Indiana Symphony performing Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. It's a piece that, because I played it in Youth Orchestra as a kid, I know so well I don't even have to count the rests. We would have worked on it for an entire year, and all of the ins and outs are deep in my memory. The problem I actually bump into is that it's so familiar to me I have to keep checking in with myself to make sure I'm phrasing and playing my solos like the grown-up I am rather than the high-school junior I was. It's all imprinted on my brain, bad intonation and all. So the challenge is to keep my professional mind engaged while I play passages I almost could play in my sleep.

Fortunately, the other two works on the program - Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 1 and the Kevin Puts Marimba Concerto - are far less familiar. A neat coincidence is that we're playing side-by-side with the Youth Orchestra on the Hanson, so I'm performing with my students who have been working on the piece since fall themselves. Feels like a nice circle, doesn't it? It's why I chose to play this concert - an hour and a half from home in February - instead of the perfectly nice Pops concert three blocks from my house that the SBSO is doing. Repertoire and teaching opportunities trump convenience in this case.

Click HERE for tickets and more info.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Slow Down!

People keep telling me to cherish my time with the baby - she'll only be small for a short time. And I know they're right - for the past six and a half months the time has been flying, but in an orderly, gradual, progressive kind of way.

But I've been working for three days. I mean, just about non-stop, from rehearsal to lesson to concert to board meeting to bed, and Zoe's been at home with Steve. And suddenly my baby is hardly even a baby any more. She has two teeth and some hair. She can crawl - fluently, fast, and purposefully. She can say Emm, Emm, when she sees me, and can make signs for Milk and More. She can sit straight up like a teddy bear, and can get herself into that position easily. I had seen these skills before, but she's better at them now. And NOW she can suddenly pull herself up to stand. And use our furniture as a basis for gymnastics instead of just a barrier to crawl around. And take things out of bookshelves, boxes, and bags and play with them. I'm a little bit in shock.

Slow down, Peanut - I was just beginning to get used to the idea of a mobile, smart baby, but I'm not ready for a walking baby. That's too much baby for me. That's really not a baby at all. That's a child. Aren't there other skills you could work on first? Like sleeping through the night? Or the O-M-M-Y part of my name?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Upcoming Concert

I can't wait to start rehearsals for this weekend's concert in South Bend. It's the chamber orchestra, which is always a pleasure anyway, because we get to play in the beautiful DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at Notre Dame, and it's an all French program, which means the music will be colorful and beautiful and interesting, AND we're playing Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin which features the oboe all the time and I love it.


For information and tickets click HERE.