Monday, July 24, 2006

Flourish for Wind Band

Fall, 1987.
My adolescent world had been smashed to bits -- not by a boy, but because the new band director, John Lynch, put me 2nd chair to my then-best friend, Jeannette. It wasn't supposed to be that way. We were in the freshman band, and I was supposed to be the concertmistress. My fragile ego could tolerate nothing less.

Adding insult to injury every day in rehearsal was the fact that one piece we were working on, Vaughn-Williams' Flourish for Wind Band, had two distinct first clarinet parts -- Solo Clarinet I and Ripieno Clarinet I. Ripieno? What the heck was Ripieno? I didn't want to know, and I sure as heck didn't want to be playing it if it was the opposite of Solo.

Flourish for Wind Band isn't a technically demanding piece (unless you ask my then-dear friend Amy, who played principal trumpet and threatened to shit her pants every time she had to go for the 1st-ledger-line A), but it is good, valid music. John Lynch was the master of that -- exposing us to music that challenged our ability level but wasn't the tripe that most high school bands out there play.

It's on the program for this weekend's concerts. I'm playing 2nd clarinet and I don't feel any significant attachment or anxiety about playing 1st (but I was feeling a little antsy about playing 1st on Pineapple Poll, and I got my wish literally seconds before the downbeat when our principal player realized he needed 2 on Solo to cover divided parts -- so I'm playing 1st and am very happy about it).

I've been feeling lately that my days as a clarinet player are getting numbered -- I am grossly unhappy in the band and feel that a change is imminent and I won't be playing anymore. On the surface, I know it is a good idea, but deep down, I'm not sure I'll ever let go 100% of having been a musician. Anyway, a few seconds into the introduction of Flourish for Wind Band this morning had me choking back tears and sobs as I remembered John Lynch and his inspiration, as well as the obsessive motivation I had in the fall of 1987 to be the very best.

Weeks after being seated behind Jeannette, before we ever played Flourish for Wind Band in concert, I won first chair in the high school all-county band, out-playing students in grades 9-12. Jeannette was selected to be an alternate, more than 20 spots behind me. I came out on top, but in doing so, I believe I began the process of alienating Jeannette. She was one of many friends I loved and lost in high school, probably because my intensity made people uncomfortable and my drive made me appear self-centered. I saw her during the summer of 1994, at an outdoor bar in Buffalo. She was visibly uncomfortable to have run into me, and I later heard that she reported negative impressions of me to the grapevine of our old circles.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Identity Crisis

I think an identity crisis is my real problem. But, who wants to hear someone like me, who's "got it all," complain about feeling like I don't have anything?

My problem stems from trying to balance the fact that I'm a desperately independent individual, possessing a very concrete and real need for alone time, with the reality that I'm someone's wife, someone's subordinate, and two people's mother...among other things too numerous and complicated to list.

I love my husband, adore my kids, and hate my job -- but all three are necessary in my world...and all three suck all of my energy and there's so little left

Writing is one thing I enjoy and vowed to do more of last year when I was on vacation and trying to come up wiht a plan for my life. I do write some, but I don't feel like it's enough. I want to write more, and I want to get better at writing and expressing myself. I feel like I have a lot to say and there are certain niches that might actually care to read about it.

I've taken up running again, because it's the only thing I do that feels good physically, mentally, and emotionally (after I stop -- while I'm doing it, I feel like I might die). But, it's the first thing to go when life gets crazy, and, let's face it: my life is always crazy.

I practiced the Copland clarinet concerto tonight. For many reasons, I've decided to perform it in recital this fall. That piece defined me for many years -- I was the rare high school clarinetist who attempted it and played it well - the piece helped me prove my mettle as a musician. My freshman year of college, I played the cadenza for my seating audition and shook the school up -- getting 2nd chair in the wind ensemble. I performed it for my senior recital, as well...but haven't played it since. It's been over 11 years. Tonight, I remembered a lot of things about playing that piece -- why I originally chose it just before my junior year of high school, living with it the way a musician has to live with a piece of music, the people I shared my progress with, how the melodies and rhythms fit into my life at that time. (On a side note -- I think part of why my connection to my past is so strong has to do with being a musician. Hearing music 10, 15 years later rouses a part of my brain that stored away all my emotional trappings of the time I first heard the music. The muscle memory of performing music does the same thing. It's amazing, a little scary, and slightly annoying.)

As happy as I am to no longer have to define myself as a clarinet player, gosh -- it was so easy to just define myself as a clarinet player!

Who am I? Can a rogue independent woman exist inside the body of a cog in everyone's machine? Where is the balance? How do I find the line between self-care and selfishness?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Today is the day before my colonoscopy. My job today is to allow my colon to get completely purged. This is accomplished by fasting (I've had nothing to eat since midnight), drinking only clear fluids, and, in about an hour, starting to drink this phospho-soda stuff that is going to finish the job in a big hurry. My instructions read "stay close to the toilet after taking this preparation." Should be interesting.

Ironically, yesterday, I experienced a purging of another sort -- while trying to archive several hundred old e-mail messages onto a "jump drive," I somehow made a grave error and lost every message I had in my Outlook Box -- every deleted item, sent item, special folder, and the entire inbox. I lost over 1000 messages. They might be somewhere on my computer...but only a serious techie would find them and my quasi-techie friends looked as hard as they could, to no avail.

At first, I couldn't breathe. I rely on my e-mail for so many things! I had neglected to save a lot of attachments to my hard drive because...why bother? I have the e-mail! (Luckily, I didn't do this too much -- I recently went through and cleaned house a bit, saving the attachments I wanted...I only lost some recent release forms, session outlines, and the like for some speaking and writing engagements I have coming up. I should be able to contact folks and recover them.)
A lot of the e-mail I had saved was sentiments from people, friends or fellow list members, saying nice things to me. On a tough day, a low self-concept day, I'd go through them and remind myself that people do like me and I've impacted on the world a little bit. The tangible reminder is gone, but somehow I still know it's all true.

I'm beginning to accept, even embrace the new, empty, clean slate in my Outlook mail program now. (What makes the situation easier is that somehow, the function that remembers who I am sending mail to remained intact -- I can still type the first letter of a person's name in the "to" line and get that person's address. This is huge, because all "contacts" are gone.) Perhaps it was time to purge.

I'm feeling anxious and scared about the next 20 hours or so, though. I don't want to take the Fleet Phospho-Sodas I was given at my pre-op appointment. I want to have some tortilla chips and bean dip. I want some popcorn, maybe some cheese. I'm hungry!

I don't know what the doctor is going to see when he does the colonoscopy. I have a hunch, but who knows? I've been trying to talk to Bryan about it, but he refuses. "Let's not worry about things until they're real -- let's not think about 'what ifs' right now." He's right.

In about 20 hours, my purge will be over, and I will eat something very satisfying. I'll also have a "clean slate" to start out with, which I will likely learn to accept and embrace. Perhaps, it was time to purge.