So, I've enjoyed several weeks of flute playing free from the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome now, but something else has been holding me back. All this time, I've been blaming embouchure problems, poor muscle memory and anxiety. And I'd almost accepted the "fact" that there was a certain amount of time one could spend away from practicing a skill before it was gone forever, and I had passed it.
But I've made a recent discovery - what I believe to be the final piece of the performance puzzle (though I'm extremely embarrassed to admit that I didn't come upon it sooner). My flute needs repair. Leaks in the tone holes have been cramping my style.
You'd think that someone who sets himself up as an expert would know better than to let such a simple solution get by him for so long. I didn't. Mainly because I knew I was was out of shape and figured that was causing my problems. Also, I had gotten braces during the time I wasn't practicing much, and thought maybe the new position of my teeth required me to find a different embouchure.
In addition, I blame...
1) arrogance ("a good flutist would sound good on anything"),
2) cheapness ("flute repair is too expensive") and
3) ignorance ("it's not really all that important as long as it plays").
But it really is that important.
A while back, I noticed a ripped pad, so I figured I'd better take it in. First, though, I got my $200 Mirage fixed up so I'd have something to play while they worked on my main flute. When I got the Mirage back, I noticed the difference! Low notes, speak. Attacks are easier. Pitch problems are no longer "impossible" to fix. Tone rocks. Response is better (which improves dexterity). All this on my "cheap" flute!!
And I suspect that the performance anxiety I was experiencing lately will be greatly reduced with the confidence I can have that the flute will respond pretty much as I expect it to. I can hardly wait to get my Miyazawa back.
Again, I'm seriously embarrassed for not realizing this sooner. I'm also a bit surprised that none of my teachers or consultants noticed. Going forward, it'sone of the first things I'll be checking with all of my students and clients. Nothing beats having a good instrument in good condition. Otherwise, you're spinning your wheels and wasting time. Or even worse, developing bad habits to compensate.
I suppose this is true of any profession. The quality of one's tools matter.
I always had a feeling that my depression, insomnia and loss of finger coordination were related. I just didn't know how. So for years the plan was just to do everything I could think of to attack all three from all sides. I first tried prayer and religion. Then therapy, antidepressants, herbs, vitamins, diets, exercise, and yoga. All seemed to help a little, but not enough. I gave up alcohol, cut back on sugar, drank 10 glass of water a day and avoided aluminum products on my skin and my cookware. Message, acupuncture, acupressure, sleeping pills. Not all at the same time, of course. And there's more. I tried cold showers (as a type of "shock therapy"). I heard that doing head stands was supposedly good for curing depression, so I would do ten minutes a day. I even tried eating dirt (not off the ground, but the expensive kind they sell in health food stores and call "clay", but still tastes like dirt). And for the coordination part, I must have learned at least 25 different finger exercises. Great party tricks, but never did the trick.
All that to say I was pretty desperate.
There were a few things that I thought about but didn't try, though. An orthopedic surgeon offered to surgically correct the falling tendons in my fingers. That would have been a very costly mistake, I think. Then there were the botulism toxin injections when I thought I had a focal dystonia. And a psychic told me that my troubles were caused by a curse created by the hate from "hundreds of people I didn't even know". She offered to burn some white candles that would protect me for $50.
I always thought that if I regained my coordination, that the depression and insomnia would just go away, but that hasn't exactly been the case. It's better. And because I know it's not responsible for wrecking my music career, it doesn't freak me out as much. But I would still like to recover completely. I have revisited many of my earlier therapies. And I realize that depression is a serious and life threatening medical disorder, so of course, I'm getting medical attention. But a new therapy seems to be helping that along this time around.
It's something I first learned about several years ago on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She swore up and down that keeping a gratitude journal was one of the best things she ever did for herself. I sort of ignored the suggestion, though. It seemed too simple for a problem as large as mine.
But it is huge. I think it's because it tends to reverse our genetic tendency to focus on troubles and problems. I say it's genetic because I believe we're all decendants of the cave dwellers who survived because they paid more attention to the saber toothed tigers than the water lillies.
But in today's culture, that translates in to hating your fat legs and taking for granted that they can get you wherever you want to go whenever you want. But with the journal, I realized how much I had been taking for granted all these years. At first, I wanted to cry with shame. I felt like I had been thumbing my nose at God. I pray every day for forgiveness.
So, two pieces of advice to anyone struggling with this horrible disorder. 1) Tell your doctor and 2) make an effort every day to express appreciation. Because when you can acknowledge and truly appreciate your blessings, it takes a lot to get you down. But if you take everything for granted, then nothing in the world can pull you up.
This blog is about music, health, challenges, determination and personal and professional growth. I hope it is useful.
Copyright 2017 Michael Davis. All rights reserved.