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Dottie Case

Finishing Well

September 7, 2013 at 3:12 PM

I've wrestled a little bit with how (or even whether) to attempt to describe what feels to me like the shifting of an age. In that wrestling, I've had to come to grips with the whole idea of blogging, in general. Blogging and me, specifically.

First off, as I look at my blogging history, I see great huge holes in it. These have often come as a result of having a real flesh-and-blood person comment on it to me, in person, which makes me feel very exposed. I then go silent for a year or 3. This happened again to me in the spring, when a player who plays with my orchestra once every year or two mentioned that she has 'seen' me here. (Hi, Christina C.) So, I had to ask myself, why does this matter to me? Or, why write something that makes me self-conscious when referenced?

The answer, I guess, maybe lies in how I process change, what this journey looks like, and the fact that I do believe that there are others walking the same path. I have been inspired by some of you, and when I come here, I 'stay' in this place... so, maybe it's a chance to share encouragement, or even just a shared experience, with a wry smile and lifted eyebrow...digital, of course. I am telling myself that if everything I'm writing is true (it is) and if I'm not writing out of a desire for attention (that's the part that makes me sort of freak) and I find the writing and reading both to be inspiring, then maybe I'll continue dipping in the toe... ;)

This is all a very long introduction to the real thoughts at hand. I recently re-read my last blog entry before a year-long absence. It was from Aug. 21 of last year, and I read it in a sort of reverent thoughtfulness. In that blog, I described my 'current' level of exhaustion. From where I am now, re-reading that entry, while knowing what the 10 months that were to follow it contained, made me feel strong and grateful and proud.

The year past was, in many ways, one of the most difficult in my life, though I write those words with a caveat: I was in a good place, both mentally and emotionally. It was not an UNHAPPY year in any sense of the word, but it was just terribly difficult and overwhelming. The 2012/13 school year was the year that-- I was drafted at the last second to teach a 4 cr. University class, which required about 30 hours a week of prep work while I was in the thesis research and writing semesters of my own graduate degree; my youngest child went away to music school in a different state, then had a health crash that ended up with her leaving school and finished with a trip to Mayo Clinic, topped with a 5 day hospitalization on the day we returned from Mayo (which was THEN followed by her spending 5 days flat on her back at home recovering from a spinal headache), which was also the weekend of my youth orchestra's Festival Concert (I dashed to the hospital before and after rehearsal and performance. Luckily, it was right around the corner). In addition, I was quite ill myself for 4 full months while managing all of the above and lastly, the winter went on FOR EVER. We had 2" of snow on Mother's Day. The year represented a serious decrease in my income. The 19-year old cat died. All of this was in addition to maintaining my own private studio, and my orchestras (that I direct and that I play in) and the other, more 'normal' sorts of stresses that come with life, family, church, etc. It definitely felt a bit like piling on, and the stress was pretty intense.

THIS is why I look back at my blog entry of last August with a sort of wonder.... how did I make it? And not only did I make it, but I did well. Really well. I did a great job with my Univ. classes... I ended up doing a couple of never-done-before concert collaborations with my youth orchestras that are already bearing serious fruit. The Mayo trip gave us answers, the thesis is sailing through its review process with extremely positive feedback, and I'm finally healthy and feel rested and strong again. (Plus I made and finished 3 queen sized quilts this year, but that's just frosting :)).

I feel like a ship that, having survived treacherous waters and piled-on dangers, sails into harbor (ok, possibly even limps into harbor) battered, a bit the worse for the wear (Yes, I did put on a few pounds!), but not bowed, not defeated, nay not even weak in spirit. Victorious, though it may not immediately be evident to the casual viewer.

And it is with this sense of victory that I realize a larger thing is at play here--- this last year, this time, really was (and possibly continues to be) a wrapping up of a whole age. I am in the harbor and am tying up the loose ends now... repairing sails, and stowing gear, and taking inventory of what needs attention. But, that time is done. And I'm standing, very clearly---I can see it--- on the shores of something new. And I am prepared for it.

Reading Emily's blog when she talked about realizing that, without her knowledge, she had become a 'real' violinist, made something leap for joy in me, and not just in happiness for her. I recognize that place...my details are not the same, (I will NOT be pulling out Paganini this fall) but in many other ways, it's where I am.

So this fall is about tying up the loose ends and taking inventory of what needs repairing. The theme of the year is Finishing Well. I have very detailed and specific musical goals for myself, I have health and wellness goals and I have personal goals. And I absolutely KNOW that I can do what I've set before myself.

It's a celebration of the end of an age. I'm not going to move too quickly into what the new age will contain...I've seen glimpses through the trees, and it's very good. But for now, I'll content myself with finishing this part well. With gratitude and joy and a sense of trying to remember to open my arms wide every day, and allow myself to BE here, rather than straining for the next thing, I want to finish well.


From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 8, 2013 at 8:55 PM
I relate to your mild paranoia about real people in your life reading your blog. I'd get comments from people in the Anchorage symphony, and then I'd worry that someone would be offended, or that I would make myself out to be some sort of incompetent. Or, my parents would call, worried that I sounded depressed. Or somebody in town that I knew just didn't "get it" would say something stupid about it, and I would feel discouraged.

I almost removed the "thank you" I wrote to Kevin (the cellist) because I thought it might offend him that I mentioned him without permission, but right as I was about to do so, I saw that he liked it on facebook. I never know when someone's going to like something or not.

I got around that partly by simply writing as though no one is reading. I've also found that the encouragement I've received from my reading audience has far outweighed the criticism over the years, so it's been worth sharing with people. I hope you find the same to be true, too, Dottie!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 8, 2013 at 9:00 PM
P.S. I'm so glad you survived what sounds like a very difficult year, and I hope this year is a rewarding one!

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