Time for a little bit of honesty. As musicians, we are trained to work far outside the traditional 9-5, to put our art above all else and to push for the perfect ideal. Like many, in the face of difficult emotions, I find solace in my work and in a way pausing for breath seems more difficult than Sisyphus pushing his boulder - if I stop pushing, the boulder is going to roll down and flatten me like a bug! But recently, productivity has been at an all time low. The mask I'm so used to hiding behind no longer fits. My blog is a place to talk about the big issues facing young professionals and students in classical music but I'm not always so forthcoming in acknowledging my big issue. I'm still grieving.
I'm battling a constant dark wrap that wants nothing more than to snuggle me up and make me stay in bed forever. It's the constant feeling that loved ones will leave you so is it really worth the effort of opening up to someone again? Ultimately, it's the constant fight to prove to your grief that life still goes on, the ones who left still love you and it's no reflection of who you are as a person.
Saturday 3rd April, marked one year since my Mum died and marks the last of the firsts: her first birthday, my first birthday without her, first Christmas, New Year and Easter. The hope is these will all pass a little bit easier each time they come around. Until the appearance of the big firsts that are too painful to think about like, first child, first (and hopefully only) wedding or getting your dream job.
I'm a workaholic - the fact Mum was too naturally makes me less willing to stop being one. But in the run up to her anniversary I was juggling so many deadlines that it was hard to even think about the upcoming milestone. Audition and assessment deadlines were due on the 1st and I was working every hour God sent to do the tasks to the best of my ability. That was, until the grief knocked me sideways. The problem with workaholism, is it's a great distraction. Mum used to say I had this problem with tunnel vision. If I have a target, it's head down, all consuming until it's sent off and I can let myself breathe again. Grief on the other hand doesn't care. It doesn't care about your tunnel vision coping mechanism, it doesn't care that you're scared if you think about her, him, them that you're not going to be able to stop crying, let alone have the energy to practise Haydn today. It simply doesn't care. So one Thursday somewhere between Mother's Day and her anniversary, grief came knocking. The dark wrap swaddled me up, the tears fell uncontrollably and I felt like a small child lost in the supermarket just crying desperately for my Mum.
So how on earth do you find the time to grieve? Especially as musicians when we have to take every opportunity we can in order to get even the crumbs off the freelance table.
This month has given me a tough lesson that you need to listen to your body, no matter how arty farty it sounds. Grief is severe loneliness, honestly I can't begin to describe how lonely grieving in a lockdown can be. But throwing myself into work, which I love and will keep doing, can only happen if I don't maintain the tunnel vision. Your body is constantly sending you messages that you need to be hearing. Your brain is burnt out, is hitting 5+ hours really as productive as the bragging rights would suggest? Your elbow's hurting, can we look after that first instead of hitting our cello target for the day? Mmm an evening of mental practice sounds yummy let's do that instead!
I'm not writing this article to upset, worry or make anyone feel low. I wanted to be honest. Grief is lonely and isolating. I wish I had someone to tell me about all the dark bits as well as the good. I also - like many other who are grieving - need to talk about it. For the most part when you see me, I am genuinely content, I'm riding a good grief wave and the pain is bearable. But on the days where it's bad but I have to keep moving forward to pursue the career I love, I would give anything for someone to have the gift of telepathy, to sense how I'm feeling and do nothing but sit and have a coffee with me by the river.
So here is your Mind Stone, I hope it helps.