October 2008

Focusing the Kaleidoscope

October 6, 2008 20:04

I opened an early birthday present today. My son and his family live several hours away, and he is up visiting, so brought the gift with him. My beloved daughter-in-law was most eager that I open it up, and so I did. While I might wish to savor my last few weeks of being 'in my 40's', it looks like reality is insisting on barging its way in with a loud voice, elbows flailing. I'll soon be 50..whoa.

The numbers haven't usually meant much before...I'm one of those who was heard to declare with a loud voice to any who would listen that I've loved my 40's, and wouldn't go back to my 30s for anything. And yet, this birthday, coming where it does, screams out for me to take a giant-step back and try to focus the kaleidoscope a bit.

My mom died a few months ago. My beloved youngest child is in her last year at home. I am in the middle of a graduate degree and preparing to change directions in the work world. These are all really big adjustments. And while I've been doing a good job of just putting my head down and walking forward, I can feel myself grinding to a halt here lately. Must be time for reflection.

What has the first half of my adulthood looked like, and what do I want the second to be? What a huge question. You could not have told me even 10 years ago what my life would look like at 50. Or maybe even 5 years ago. That makes it a bit daunting to look ahead.

I had a revelatory moment this weekend. Our local symphony was playing a concert, and I, being somewhat unhappy with the way things are being managed there had decided that it was probably a good time for me to take some time off. It's a volunteer group, so no pay, no contracts, etc. However, at the last minute, hearing of the desperate straits of the violin section, I decided to help out. This was an all-Gershwin concert, and the music was none too easy.

When I got there, I realized that 'desperate straits' was an understatement, and promply found myself sitting in the front stand of 2nd violins. I usually sit in the middle of the firsts. So much for my hope of 'merely' contributing ...now I had to 'lead'.

As background, I will note that the symphony is undergoing some changes, and many of us are pretty unhappy with the way things are being run. Some decisions seem almost calculated to make us feel taken for granted and unappreciated. So, I've been really fighting with whether I even wanted to play this year. As I showed up for my first rehearsal, I was handed a letter informing us that the board had taken another step that served to demoralize.

In this setting then, I was dragging myself 30 miles from home and across the border all weekend long for rehearsals and concert. I could have been home for the first time in weeks. I am desperately behind on a paper that is way overdue for my class. I have a studio of over 30, a church job and a youth orchestra. Now I even had to find time to really work the music, since I was first stand...THEN get what seemed like a slap in the face from management to boot. But, I had committed...so I went.

And, the concert was awesome. I had a blast. The music was fun, the soloist was great, and I loved playing most of it. (There are those sections however, in American in Paris.....:).

When I freeze this weekend for a moment to examine it, I see way more than the weekend itself, or even the emotions all wrapped around it. I find myself looking at it as one who, at almost 50, was a late-comer to the instrument. I never touched a violin until I was 36. As I freeze-frame the weekend, I ask myself: How did I get from the place where I was eager to learn to play any 'real' song at all to where I am irritated by the fact that my local orchestra really needs me there to provide leadership? What sorts of tiny steps have I taken along the way that have allowed me to become impatient and irritated and feeling taken-for-granted? Are you kidding me? I make my living as a full-time musician. How have I lost the wonder of that?

So, at 50 (almost) I need to stop and wrap my arms around what is. May I linger on it a moment and (like Emily's quote said) grab the wonder out of the ordinary.

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