Tonight, I was a part of a pretty terrific faculty recital at CSULB. Boy is our bench deep at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music! There was some really great music making going on, and I had a blast playing beautiful music with my friends/colleagues. Some magical moments, indeed.
The road to tonight’s performance was not all paved with gold, however. Yesterday, in an effort to be proactive, I paid a visit to my acupuncturist. It had been some time since my last visit, and although I still see my sports medicine doctors weekly, it simply doesn’t replace acupuncture. My acupuncture doctor went on and on about how much improvement she noticed in my neck and upper back since the last time she worked on me. Hooray for improvement! But, something new and odd was going on with my right elbow and forearm yesterday. It felt like I had been doing a bunch of heavy lifting — for those of you who know me, you know this is highly unlikely. Anyway, let’s just say it hurt and I knew I had to go back to my sports medicine doc, who I had just seen the day before. Ugh! With a big concert and about 2 zillion notes to play, I figured that was a smart call. Dr. Santilli fixed me right up. She worked her magic, and off I went to impart wisdom to CSULB students, and a dress rehearsal.
This morning, I woke up to shooting, burning pain in my right arm. After 16 months of on again off again pain from pinched nerves, there was no doubt that was exactly what I was feeling: nerve pain. Great. Doesn’t the universe know that I have a big concert tonight and sort of need the use of my right arm? I did what I always do: iced it, loads of constructive rest, and even some strong anti-inflammatory meds – just in case they might help. By the way, for the record, pinched nerve pain is painful and sort of a big drag. Where was I … oh yes, doing what I usually do. Well, what I usually DON’T do when I have this type of pain is play my flute. Generally speaking, that doesn’t help matters much. Today I didn’t have that luxury. I absolutely had to practice for this concert tonight. Turns out, one can get a LOT done when one sets a timer for 5 minute practice sessions. All of the sudden I was back in undergrad, studying with Clem, and setting the timer on our kitchen stove top so I would make more productive use of my practice time. Clem used to have me set a timer and when it went off, move on to whatever else I had to work on, so that I didn’t spend my entire practice time on my solo repertoire, but instead would get to everything. Yet another genius Clem practice tool. Here in 2013, it’s not necessary to practice in the kitchen because I’d have to listen for the stove top timer to buzz. No sir, I was able to enjoy my regular practice space with the timer set on my super cool, fancy new iPhone. Ah, technology!
The nerve pain in my arm was nagging at me all day. I paced myself. I iced. I rested. I walked Auggie. I did a lot of mental practice minus the flute. And, then I made my way over to CSULB – my long 1 mile commute – to join my friends and play some beautiful chamber music together. It wasn’t easy making it through the evening with the discomfort but something really cool happened during the Uebayashi “Au Dela Du Temps” … I forgot all about it. Oh, it was there, but I didn’t care. We were having such a great time making music that it just didn’t matter. If you’re familiar with this piece, you know precisely what I’m talking about. It is a truly remarkable piece of music, and my favorite work in the duo repertoire, hands down.
I remained inclusively aware of everything around me; my colleagues on stage, the audience, the sounds, the smells, and yes, the pain in my arm. I just observed it, acknowledged it and then returned to Uebayashi, Darrin, and Wendy. I brought myself back to balance again and again, was mindful about how I was breathing, how I was using my arms, and always aware of the relationship between my head and spine.
Body Mapping helps me every day in what I do with or without the flute. It continually helps me with this injury, because without it I am certain I wouldn’t know what to do to manage the pain when it sets in, or how to pace myself in a way that doesn’t create new injuries. I was an overuse and misuse kinda gal in my youth (ha!, my youth! yes, I just said that … ). When something began to hurt, I’d just take some ibuprofen and keep on goin’ – must mean I’m not practicing hard enough! Grrr! And so, I’d like to thank Body Mapping for making it possible for me to play tonight’s concert. I gotta say, if you had told me earlier today that I’d be sitting here at nearly 2 am, feeling grateful for this experience and all I learned from it, totally wide awake, ice pack on my right shoulder, cup of mint tea at the ready, waxing poetic about the amazing concert I was just fortunate to be a part of, I wouldn’t have believed it. But it’s true. And as for the 5 minute timer practice, I think I’ve re-discovered a great new/old tool. Once again, I thank you Clem Barone!