Better and Beyond

I should be feeling pretty good. This weekend I ran my first 5k of the season, and in spite of really sporadic training, I managed to finish in around 32 minutes. For me, this is a pretty good time. It was something under a miracle. I blame Candy Ass, as she has been training at much faster paces all winter on the Dreadmill, and I got right in behind her at the start. “Hey Candy Ass, I’m right behind your ass, as usual!” I yelled. Then I realized there was no way I could keep up a 9 minute pace or faster the whole run.

In spite of my asthma kicking in on the last mile, I broke the finish with my Darth Vader-like rumble coming from my chest. One of my 7th grade cello students smoked me at the end, but I didn’t fight that one as we have great conversations about triathlons as he is a champion swimmer just starting to dabble in the bike/run fun. I look forward to commiserating at his lessons about spin sessions, the pain of a bad run, and our muscular aches and pains.

It was a wonderful day. The Brewmaster and some other friends walked the whole course, while Ironcelloman, Candy Ass got some wicked fast times (somewhere around 21 and 26 minutes respectively). I talked friends into running with us that haven’t run in years, or were sick all week. Ironcelloman’s wife did the stroller pushing thing (a lot harder to run that way!) and had a great time. We all had brats and beer back at my house later, and it was one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a long time.The Brewmaster and I finished the day with ice packs to ankle and knee, like two happy Old Farts on the couch.

But I couldn’t help thinking: what if I really trained? What if I hadn’t let my gym membership slip? What if I stopped making excuses? And then I realized that these thoughts are kind of a theme for 2014: I need to face up to some slacking.

Last week I performed with a local symphony I don’t usually play with. I was “first chair” cello and led the section. I also had a few solos. Normally in the past I would have enjoyed this, but I got unusually nervous. I felt jittery, couldn’t count measures and just felt way under par. I wished I had beta blockers, which musicians sometimes take in small doses to control the shakiness that nerves and adrenaline referred to as performance anxiety.

It all turned out fine, primarily because I thought of the advice I give my students: breathe and focus on the musical idea and shapes, not on what other people might think. But I also remembered my main advice: you won’t feel nervous if you feel prepared. The concert went great, but I still felt as if I could do a LOT better. That I used to strive for more.Blog-low-balling-illustration-321x301

In my twenties I lived in France and subbed for a local full-time symphony. I remember clearly cellists in their 40’s putting their instruments in their lockers after rehearsals and thinking, “I will never be that person. I will take my cello home and keep practicing.” When I moved back to Iowa, I remember looking around one of the symphonies I play with now and thinking, “This is okay, but I could do better. I won’t be one of those people celebrating 10 years here.” Yet I’ve passed that anniversary. I’ve stopped preparing as well as I should for rehearsals because I can “get by.” Just like I did in my race this weekend.

When did I quit? I can’t pinpoint it. I know motherhood, grad school, divorce all took a toll. But there is never an excuse. I like what I do; I’ve just lost my musical Mojo. More importantly, I feel a little like I’ve fallen out of love with myself. I need to find that confidence again that comes from striving to move beyond my current plateau.

I am in awe of Ballet Boy at a point in his life where he has so many goals for his dancing career and musical compositions. He works so hard to get closer to those, like a bird flying towards the sun, never caring if he starts to feel the heat. He inspires me to do more, to love more and to keep flying.

Hopefully this blog will be a testament to that journey to the sun. In the meantime, I’ve got to go. I need to practice, and I’ve gotta run.

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