Saturday, 27 July 2013

Music = medicine

So, after my grumbling and whining in the last entry, I feel obliged to say that things did get better. First of all I am feeling better physically (of course I knew the nasty period couldn't go on  forever, like the cycle before it, but it did feel like it for a while).  Also feeling better in spirit. All the sympathetic comments helped.  (Incidentally, I do like precise descriptions of disgusting things. I profoundly dislike euphemisms and evasions. I'd much rather revel in the beauty of the world, don't get me wrong, but when there's something truly awful to be described, I'd rather tell/hear it like it is. Somehow that helps put said awful thing in its place, I find. Anyway. Enough of that for now.)

I mentioned in last entry that I was getting ready to start a summer band program. My city has an amateur adult music education and performance program, and I've been a member since 2006. I started playing music as an adult with absolutely no experience (although I have danced since early years, off and on, and I've always enjoyed listening to music.) It has been life-changing to learn and perform music with a group as an adult. It's never too late to learn something new! I met a fellow who started learning trombone in his late 70s! (He and his wife became good friends of ours. People who live life so passionately help make me less afraid to grow old.)

After 6 years learning and playing euphonium, I started learning percussion as well, which is tons of fun because you get to play many different instruments, sometimes in the space of one piece of music. I've done that for 3 years now and hope to continue on. The past year I took a break from my horn and focused on the percussion. I was starting to feel overwhelmed with so many hobbies besides a full time job and other things like trying to keep our house sort of clean, cooking at least twice a week, keeping up with friends and extended family, and oh yeah, TTC.

TTC has sapped my enthusiasm in the past year for my hobbies, including music. When we first started, naively optimistic, it made no difference, but when it became clear things were not going well in the TTC department there definitely was an affect. Obviously I was spending time researching and wondering what was going on, but the real consequence is more subtle I think: it's like my life energy is always being diverted somewhere else, and I'm just left with less motivation and energy to do things that I usually love. Which means I end of feeling like I have less energy in general.  I've found in  the past few months that I really have to make myself do fun things. I do enjoy them when I do them, but I don't look forward to them and I practically need a regular schedule to motivate myself: "Email friend on Monday. Then go for walk. Then go to dance class." This  is especially bad for music because it's necessary to work on it regularly (i.e. practicing.) I typically  really enjoy practicing, but when I lack energy, it starts to feel like a chore.

So  it was a great surprise on  Thursday, going to my first summer band rehearsal, to realize how incredibly good and energized and full of life I felt. Even though I was a bit rusty after more than a year away from my horn I felt so happy to be there and so passionate about playing music. And in the days since I can't wait to pick it up and play some more. I'm hoping I can keep this up over the next few weeks and into the fall  as it feels like wonderful medicine.

It's so important to have life-affirming projects and plans to focus on  every day!

15 comments:

  1. How inspiring that you learned to play new instruments as an adult! I just love stories like that. In fact, you really inspired me to think about music myself. I took some piano lessons as a kid but never showed any talent (I was never good at the practicing part...). But L and I recently inherited a gorgeous old piano that plays beautifully (when L plays it, that is). I have some old sheet music and I've thought about trying my hand(s) at it again, but I thought, "Nah, can't teach an old dog new tricks. It'll just be one more thing for me to fail at." But then reading your post I thought, you know what, maybe I will try after all.

    Oh, and when you said, "it's like my life energy is always being diverted somewhere else, and I'm just left with less motivation and energy to do things that I usually love"--I just froze because you precisely articulated exactly how I've felt this year. I've been wanting to write a post about my inability to focus on my research (which I used to love) since my early loss in March, but I couldn't think of a way to say how I felt. I think I might have to just quote you!

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    1. Aw, thanks Annie! I'm glad I might have provided a bit of inspiration. Pianos are beautiful, aren't they? We acquired one a couple of years ago too, and I've taken lessons in a desultory fashion, but I'm afraid I haven't put the time into the piano to progress. If you do decide to take up music, the key as a beginner (well, for all levels actually) is to work at it constantly and regularly. Every day if possible, or at least every couple of days. For at least 20 minutes or so. It's a lot like training for a sport, or learning to dance. Your body has to get used to moving and responding in a certain way. If you can do that, I honestly believe anyone can learn music. Beginners will actually notice the most progress over time compared to others: it can feel like you are learning very fast. Of course the catch is, as the skill level increases, you have to work even harder to progress. ;-)

      Very very very few of us are going to grace concert halls to thunderous applause, but that's not the point! Neither does it matter how much "better" or "worse" somebody else is. Everybody opens and walks through their own doors, and a beginner's view can be as beautiful as anybody's.

      I am sorry to hear you have had difficult focusing on the research. Creativity waxes and wanes for sure, and IF is an energy suck. What are you researching? I hope you can re-kindle the passion, or even take up another activity as a distraction!

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  2. I'm really impressed that you learnt to play instruments as an adult - that requires a lot of discipline and confidence. I myself have been playing the piano since I was little, and I wish I could play in a band. Yes playing music can be very therapeutic!

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    1. Thanks Ariel! Like I mentioned to Annie, I've tried to learn piano - sort of - but I have too many other distractions. I also find I'm most motivated by playing music with a group. I enjoy playing on my own, but ultimately I want to take my work back to the band and share the experience and whatever progress I've achieved.

      I was quite surprised that I was able to learn as an adult. Well, not so much that I was able to learn, but that I enjoyed it so much. I had avoided learning music for some years because I thought it would be a struggle and I would be always frustrated. Instead I felt like a kid with a pass to the best amusement park in town. :-)

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  3. I'm musically disinclined when it comes to creation (I took a couple cello lessons and gave up because just holding the instrument was uncomfortable) but listening to music? It's my lifeblood. I have a song for every mood, every occasion. Because I can't create it, it seems even more heavenly: a magical gift from the gods I can't hope to understand, and instead just have to appreciate. I have the highest respect for musicians and wish I could become one, but the desire to learn is outweighed by the frustration every time I try :)

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    1. That's wonderful Anne! I totally identify when you describe being transported by music. I love to turn off all the lights sometimes, turn up the stereo and just surround myself with beautiful sound. I love to experience live music too. I think it is absolutely amazing to see a person play an instrument and sing and see how transformed they are.

      When you talk about feeling "uncomfortable" playing an instrument though...I have to ask: how many have your tried? I only mention it because before I started playing euphonium, which is (almost) the first instrument I attempted, I didn't even know it existed. I chose it because I had a chance to try different band instruments, and the euphonium felt so comfortable. You hold it in your lap in a "hug" and it feels like cuddling a one year old. :-D Feeling comfortable really helped me learn. So, if you really, really want to try to learn again, I would suggest throw assumption out the window of what you "should" play, try some different instruments and see if one claims you. :-)

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! xo

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    2. That's really interesting! I tried the cello, and was told to sort of hunch over it, which directly opposed my years of SIT UP STRAIGHT SHOULDERS BACK horseback riding training! I chose it because I love how cellos sound, but I don't think I could ever get used to the posture! Too bad, because it makes such beautiful noises.

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  4. So glad the music is bringing you feelings full of life. That is wonderful !!!

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    1. Thank you! I like how you put that! "bringing feelings full of life."

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  5. I think it's very important to have regular things going on while TTC, even if you have to schedule it in. Kudos for going back to your music!

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    1. Absolutely! Please come back and remind me of that next time I am in funk and not interested in anything, OK? :-D thanks!

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  6. That's quite impressive that you learnt music as an adult and was able to play really well.
    I have felt like TTC has consumed my life lately to the point that I cannot remember the last time I engaged in my hobbies. Top that with a huge relocation and it got even tougher.
    Sounds like you found your niche again...

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    1. Yes, I'm going to try very hard to keep up this momentum.

      TTC is so consuming! It is hardly surprising that it is, of course, since being a parent is a huge commitment and it *should* consume one's thoughts, in a way. But when the goal keeps getting pushed further away, it can become consuming in a very sad way. I wish I could make it better for myself and others! All I can do is share some small insight when I happen to have it and hope others do the same.

      Relocation and moving of any kind is a huge upheaval. Go easy on yourself as much as possible and take time to adjust. Take care :-)

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  7. that is great! as you know, i have been struggling with the balance of TTC, hoobies, etc lately - so I can relate! I am so glad that you are passionate about it and enjoying it again! it will give you more energy in other parts of your life!

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    1. thanks! absolutely - passion is infectious! I hope you are able to get your balance back.

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