October 14, 2008 at 7:58 PMIt was a terrifying moment.
I was literally one step away from putting my violin down and never picking it up again. One call to the symphony board to resign my chair, one call to my teacher to cancel lessons, and endless calls to back out of every gig I had scheduled from now through early next year. I was sick of sounding dry, unimaginative, and tense especially when I didn’t know why.
I knew I had been struggling for some time with motivation especially in practicing but this feeling went so far beyond that. I actually felt repulsed by the thought of even playing. So I stood there trying to figure out why on earth I would willingly torture myself for 20 some years and then have the audacity to convince myself that I liked it!
Being an impulsive person who often jumps headfirst into the shallow end of the “proverbial pool”, I have had more than my fair share of regrets. I believe that Heifetz once commented to a concertgoer who told him she would give her life to play like him to which he responded “Madam, I did!” I realized, thinking about that comment, that I was literally resenting my violin for the life I had led for the past decade.
Looking back, I had always been consumed with everything violin and I loved it. The rehearsals, music camps, new rosin and gadgets, lessons, performances, gigs and being on stage, even practicing – there was nothing I didn’t like about my violin. But, up until my college days, I was involved in a number of other activities as well – many that had nothing to do with music. Looking back my music making was effortless – I loved to play, was always improving in some way, and remember very little stress associated with those times.
But as any serious musician will attest to, it’s far too easy for other parts of life to be sucked into the black hole of our passion never to be seen again. Friendships, various hobbies, R&R time, and even families can and do suffer. For me, I don’t write anymore, swim, bike, hike, ride horses, read books or even curl up for a nap with my dog and cat on the carpet in a big, fat ray of sunshine. I’ve lost track of how many family events I missed because I was gigging somewhere. All but my closest friends have even stopped asking me to hang out with them because they know I’ll be “practicing”. But the crowning moment was when my eight year old nephew, who lives only sixty miles away, asked “Aunt Debbie” recently if he would see me again before 2009. He had been joking, but it hit me hard at how skewed my priorities had become.
It was with relief that I came to the conclusion that when I lost my (life) balance, I lost my passion. Ironically enough this was only reinforced in my mind the very next day as I was coaching a viola player recruited from the percussion section in a local youth symphony. As I tried various ways to show the student how to balance “left and right” hand technique and not get obsessed with one or the other, I couldn’t keep a rueful smile off my face for I’d found my answer.
Balance is critical - passion is a must, and obsession is a death sentence.
So here’s to slashing my practice time in half this weekend, hiking with my 10 lb fur-ball and reading a book afterwards while soaking my sore feet. I’ll be the loudest one cheering for my nephew in his first swim meet, and I’m going to learn to say no to gigs I don’t even need. My standard excuse is changing from “I can’t, I’m practicing” to “Sure, my violin needs a break…and so do I.”
But unlike you, i've got a 4 day weekend, and I plan on getting in 6-10 hours a day:) Gotta love UEA
It`s like the well known advice:
Who would you call if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?
So why aren`t you calling them? What`s your excuse?
But I think that the more time I spend with a particular activity in my life, the more important it becomes to also spend time away from it doing other things.
I don’t think too much of anything, including music, is healthy.
Buri - I’ve never done the “box” thing before but it seems like a good way for me to find out what’s important, and since I’m over-hauling my life right now this would be a great time to try it.
Paul – I could be slow on the uptake today, but what are you going to get 6 – 10 hours of? :-)
Being there to cheer on your nephew at his swim meet is a fantastic start!
All work and no play leads us to an isolated existence and an early grave.
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