Because it’s a Good Thing.
I fought the Back Dog, and for a long time, and I won.
Because it’s a Good Thing.
I fought the Back Dog, and for a long time, and I won.
Rehearsing with Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra later this morning. Last time I played with them was about 15 years ago.
I seem to be delving horribly closer and closer to (but still not even yet reached the core of) a past life I still can’t seem to deal with. I had forgotten what panic attacks felt like; it feels weird exercising everything within my puny power to battle through this, and not just retreat instead.
Sometimes I wish I knew how to quit stuff easily.
(I am DESPERATELY hoping people will not tell me “oh you’ll be fine”; that’s akin to telling me to “keep my chin up” when the Black Dog is sitting on my head.)
(Also, it would be a terrible thing to throw up over my cello, right? I’m thinking I should avoid doing that.)
Ahw.. man. All the soloists got a bunch of flowers last night, and got applauded by the orchestra AND the audience. It never occurred to me to imagine what that’s like, because I’m so used to giving the well deserved recognition to other soloists. It’s the least we can do!
But to be on the receiving end of that…damn. To finish playing, and have people applaud you, and then you walk off stage too early cos you’re thinking “I really should clear off now, it’s someone else’s turn…” only to have someone (cello partner Sally) stage whisper my name really loudly, turn around and see you’re supposed to take the thanks, AND get some flowers…
To a lot of soloists, it’s standard practice. Maybe it’s the norm. Maybe it’s expected. But I could never expect that, perhaps because I’ve spent so long thinking I shouldn’t deserve that. I shouldn’t deserve the recognition, because it seems I’m an asshole of a person, and a shite cellist. Shouldn’t deserve the recognition, or the praise, or the simple act of being given a bunch of flowers as a way of congratulations, or even “thanks for playing”. That’s what I’ve been led to believe for how many years.
I’ve learned a lot during my time in the industry, and most of it was learned in the wrong way, which left me sad and broken, confused, hurt, and mostly, humble. BUT, I’m thankful for the things I’ve learned now, just since joining WSO in October. I’m finally starting to trust people in this industry again, and that’s taking a MASSIVE upheaval in everything I already know. It’s hard to change to something new, when you know nothing about that something new.
It’s hard to trust people in a world where you have never, ever, EVER known trust.
I’ve just put my flowers in water (yes it’s taken me nearly 24 hours to do so – I still can’t believe that they’re mine, or believe the reason they were given to me), and they’re an epic reminder of what I’ve battled through.
To everyone else, they’re just flowers. To me, they’re a bloody massive achievement. And it’s nice to feel cautiously proud about that.
*Emotionally exhausted face*
PS Thanks for sharing this teeny tiny journey with me. So many people said “you’ll be fine”, but the fact is, no one knew that for certain. Even The Mr and I didn’t know that for certain. (One day I’ll talk about The Bow Shakes, and the continuing Asshole Voices In My Head.) Those of you who knew of the Shit Storm, I cannot thank you enough for the genuine encouragement and support. I want to thank you individually, but right now I kinda wanna sleep for a week… 🙂
PPS OMFG MY NAME IS ON A POSTER, YO.
I listen too much.
Or, I should amend, I listen to other people too much.
I’m forever losing my own voice, in that, it doesn’t get exhausted; it just doesn’t get used.
I’m in an industry (world) where everyone is shouting. So many opinions, so many thoughts. So much “do this”, loads of “don’t do that”. Back at the end of 2013, I stopped listening to them, and completely listened to myself. Lo and indeed behold, my beloved business brand was born, with a logo I adore, styling I understand, and a business that is me.
And then I started listening to everyone else again.
And promptly everything died a horrible death, and now I’m having to work pretty fucking hard to pull everything around again.
Stupidly, whilst doing so, I carried on listening to people. I didn’t listen to myself. (Will I ever fucking learn?) And I’m still trying to pick up the pieces, as a result.
It’s my own fault.
Last week saw a turning point. A realisation, if you will, when someone told me a bunch of stuff I should do to fix things. I didn’t respond any further, because I was absolutely fucking livid with them for so many reasons. Contradictory info, mixed messages, questioning things they could never possibly understand at this time, or for a few years down the line.
And then I got pissed off with myself, because I realised I didn’t actually have to listen to them. I didn’t have to listen to anyone. I had been doing so well, for so long, following my instincts, being myself, and doing what worked. And then I got lost, because I stopped fucking listening.
I’m pretty screwed at the moment. I’ve threatened several times over the last few months to quit the business, because I got really fucking lost. And of course, no one else’s suggestions were working. I can’t quit though, and that’s the irony. I can’t quit, because I fucking love this job so much. It’s like a drug. Every time I say “that’s it I’m done, I really don’t think I can keep this going”, I fell the shakes come on, I can’t sleep, and I feel like I’m about to lop off an arm. Which is ridiculous…but it makes perfect sense.
It feels the same as when I quit cello.
(And look what happened there; not only am I playing again, but I’m doing a double cello concerto in concert in 2 months. I’m back in a full symphony orchestra, and lately, not a week goes by where someone doesn’t ask if I’m available to play for an up-coming concert. I couldn’t quit. I’m a shitty quitter.)
I never quit cello.
Just like I couldn’t quit this.
However, it’s time I (inwardly) told everyone else to STFU, and start paying attention to myself, again.
I went to a wedding show recently, to see if there was any prospect for me. After being told that wedding shows wouldn’t be good for me, I sure had my doubts. But I went anyway (because the venue was fucking LUSH.) And from a conversation that started with “oh my days your baby is GORGEOUS!!!” I booked a couple.
They hadn’t even seen my work yet.
I just talked to them. Chatted with them. Talked about their wedding dreams and plans. What they were hoping for. She showed me her dress, he talked about his suit. She showed me photos of her baby, I babbled about traveling the world for weddings.
They hadn’t even seen my work.
When I stop listening to everyone else, and remember WHO I AM, things seem easy again. I forget just how easy things can be when that happens.
Soooooo I’m done listening for a while. Or at least, I’m now going with “Selective Listening”. Because I also seem to have had an influx of people looking for a business coach and life mentor. And they’ve either come to me directly, or been referred to me. So that’s awesome…and it means I go back to remembering how to do the RIGHT kind of listening. The listening where it’s about them, not about me.
There are people who will listen to me, and I love them to bits, and they know who they are. They are literally my immediate family, and I’d be lost without them. But I listen to them, and they don’t tell me what to do. They just…respond to what I say.
Not everyone is asking to be “fixed”. Many people just want to be heard.
I’m one of those people. And that’s really ok with me.
I’ve agonised over a way to get through this for many, many years. Should I call you and speak to you over the phone? Should I email you? Should we meet up over coffee?
The thing is, all those possibilities just fill me with dread. It’s not enough that I carry years of hurt and don’t know how to do with it, but that you’ve made yourself unapproachable for me kinda makes this doubly hard.
So, aaaaaaages ago, I thought maybe the only way for my own closure is to just type this stuff out in an email, and then just delete it. Don’t send it. But I’ve done that before with other people, other scenarios, and it’s just never worked. I dunno why. Maybe when I need it to be out there, I need it to be heard, before disappearing into the ether. It kinda makes sense; we all want to be heard, in some way. But ironically, I don’t even know if I want you to hear me.
But if you don’t hear me, that’s ok. I just feel that, after so many years, I should maybe have my little say.
I don’t know what I ever did to upset you, or make myself the target for your teasing and bullying, or why you thought I was sub-standard to everyone else you ever knew. I wish I DID know, because I’m honestly not sure why you let me stick around so long! I find that weird. One minute you would say we were best friends, and then the next you would be telling me I should quit cello and do something else instead.
That never, ever, ever stopped hurting.
Going through my music degree, which was pretty much everything I ever hated, I couldn’t understand why you would rip the shit out of my performance pieces, right in front of me. I couldn’t understand why you made a point of my degree not being a serious degree, just because I did it at a university and not a music college. It wasn’t great fun having you ask me why I didn’t have a full orchestra performing with my concertos, and instead just having some “unknown pianist who didn’t really give a shit about whatever the hell I played”.
Thing is, I know you had an awful time whilst you were at uni. I know your lecturers tormented you, and made you feel like shit. I know you were upset on a regular basis. I know of your performance anxieties, or “stage fright” if you will.
What I understand even less is how you treated me in orchestras. There were just SO. MANY. OCCASIONS. I just didn’t get it. Organising string octet performances and making sure no one ever mentioned them to me. Taking the piss every time I had a solo performance, knowing how nervous I was every time. You knew I had no confidence in myself, and you seemed to almost go out of your way to shred the tiny desperate glimmer of hope which remained in me. Why did you do that? Would I even understand now if you explained it to me? Would you understand?
When we went to Canada, I opened up to you about my depression. You asked me that classic line: why can’t you just cheer up? I humoured you, because I knew you didn’t understand at the time. Anyone who asks that question, doesn’t suffer from depression. And I don’t begrudge people asking that. Or at least, I didn’t back then, because we were only on the verge of turning 20, and had so much ahead of us to understand. I was at the worst of my depression on that trip with the orchestra. You knew I had just come out of the Mental Home after trying to take my life again. You knew how badly I wanted to play in orchestras. You saw my devotion to the youth orchestra; you couldn’t miss it. No one could. You knew I was on antidepressants…
Was that all against me? Was I not helping myself with that? Did you resent me for that? Should I have given up then, stepped away, not bothered you any more?
I didn’t bother you with my problems, I made sure not to do that. I didn’t lay my shit on you. I knew you weren’t interested. And that was cool too; I never ever was the sort of person who felt comfy laying shit on other people. You knew I was ill, and I suppose that was all you needed to know.
So, years later after we had both had our first child, and you confessed that you felt like you were suffering from depression, I tried to be there for you. Maybe you told me of it because you thought I would understand. I understood. I understood. Everything you said, I understood. You were very strong, running that orchestra, with me as one of your team members. (How did that even happen? Was I just gullible and easy to use? Maybe I’ll touch on that later.) And I worried for you. I genuinely worried for you. You took on so much with the orchestra, and was never quick to delegate tasks to the rest of us. I worried about how much you took on, and wanted to make sure you weren’t getting swamped. I wanted to make sure you had the support you need.
I had a chat with AB about you; I was so worried. I didn’t know how to talk to you, but I knew he talked to you all the time, and that he knew you (and I) well enough to understand. I told him I wanted you to have more help and support; that I was worried that you might get snowed under. I never ever told him the things you confessed to me.
In an email, I remember you spitting words at me. I remember you saying that I had told AB that you weren’t capable of running an orchestra. Apparently AB had passed on to you, that I didn’t think you had it in you, that you shouldn’t be in the position that you are in, and that pretty soon you were going to destroy yourself.
Why didn’t you talk to me, A? Do you think I would ever say things like that? Why would you ever think I would say things like that? How could you not see that I was worried about you? After the conversation about depression, how could you expect me to just sit back, not give a shit, not be worried that you weren’t getting more help and support? How could you think that I would suggest you were incapable of running the orchestra?
I wanted you to have more help. Despite the way you treated me, I was still concerned for you. In Canada, I told you I would never in a million years wish depression on anybody. That still applies. And I reiterated that when you confessed to me. I said the same thing again. And I said you could come to me any time.
I don’t understand.
Why did you think I demanded to be orchestra principal? Who told you that? Where did you get that piece of information? Why didn’t you ask me? Why didn’t you ask me what I thought, where I wanted to be, what role I wanted to play?
Being principal terrified me, and not once did I think I deserved it. I’d had principal cellist woes since I was maybe 11 years old. The day I became principal of an orchestra, looooooooooonnnng before I met you, taught me to be humble. I was always honoured to be in that position. And with such a weight on my shoulders, I took it as best as I could.
If you didn’t think I deserved to be there, then why did you put me there?
If everyone in the section hated me as much as you say they did, then why didn’t they tell me?
Why didn’t you tell me?
Why did you keep dragging me along, for so many years, leaving me to think I was doing sort-of kinda ok?
There are so many things I don’t understand. There are so many answers I think I might still need. But the saddest thingI deal with right now, only came to light late last week.
I picked up my violin (not even my cello!) just to play some old folk crap. And then I started playing along with a piece I think we had worked on, one time. And something you said popped into my mind. And then another, and another, and another. Maybe 2 minutes after that first thought (I can’t even remember what it was, there were so many more which pummelled me in those 2 minutes which seemed to go on forever), I put down the instrument, turned off the music, and cried. Hard. I think I physically crumbled.
I don’t understand what was happening.
And I don’t know how to deal with that.
What I do know, is that I need closure. Sadly, I know that I will never ever get that from you. I tried to be friends with you, and I have this horrible feeling that you never wanted a friend, you wanted a toy. Like an old football that you can kick around, and then kick aside when you’ve had enough.
I think I was very gullible, and very stupid. And I wish so much that I had woken up sooner.
I wish I had gotten angry sooner, maybe that would have helped me move on faster. Hell, maybe it would have helped me move on at all. I am not sure I ever got angry at you though. I was upset, so very upset. And sad. And sometimes I felt sorry for you. But mostly I think, just sad and confused. I spent so much time wondering what, exactly, had I done wrong. I still don’t know.
When you sent that last email to me, full of accusations, of things I had done wrong (which I didn’t even know I had done wrong), I didn’t argue back. I think I should have done, I think I should have defended myself, I think I should have given my point of view. But I think that was the first time realised, after maybe nearly 10 years, that you were never going to hear me.
When you sacked me as principal cellist whilst I was on maternity leave, and gave no thanks for the endless advertising admin I put in for you, I think that was (finally!) when I realised there was no point in talking to you. I deleted your emails, I withdrew all my musical and administrational input, I shut down from playing music, I put my cello on ebay. It felt like you were coming to the close of a long-standing war with me, and I was done fighting a battle I a) didn’t understand, b) didn’t want to fight and c) didn’t even see coming in the first place.
Sometimes, I look at my dusty cello in the corner, and wonder if you felt happy with yourself after I quit everything. Did you feel like my weight was finally off your shoulders; that you wouldn’t have to bother with my crap any more. I could only guess yes; I had no other conclusions I could come to. There’s still sooooooo much more that I want to say, but I don’t think there’s any point. Or maybe this is the first layer of personal crap I am to wade through. The rest will come to surface later. Maybe I’ll be stronger, more ready for it, if and when it comes.
I’m exhausted now, and yet I still deal with echoes bullying and torment so many years later. How do I let go? I’m hoping this post helps. I haven’t named you, and those few who read my blog – well, I’m pretty certain they don’t know you. In the unlikely event you read this, I would never dream of getting answers from you. I don’t think I want an apology, I don’t think I want explanations, and I know for a fact I do not want to start arguing again.
This is my closure. Or at least, this is the start of my closure. I know you bitched about me to many people; I avoided doing that of you. I understand now why people were so weird with me toward the end of it all; I get that now. This is my outlet. This isn’t me bitching. This is me asking all the things I should have asked myself (and perhaps you!) so long ago.
So this is my closure, and I wish you well.
This morning, I played my cello for an hour. I put it down maybe 15 minutes ago.
It’s been fucking amazing, but not for the reasons I thought it would be, actually it’s been because I said FUCK YOU classical music.
Every time I play, I play something “traditionally classical”. Which is ironic, because I’m anything but traditional, OR classical. So, I dug out an old YouTube fave and wondered if I could play along.
Turns out, I could. And quite easily too. I’ve listened to it so many times, but never thought to play along.
And then of course, I went through the rest of their playlist, seeing what else I recognised and could play along with. I enjoyed Smooth Criminal and We Found Love WAY MORE than I thought I ever would. And an hour later, I was still enjoying playing along.
Now, my playing was FAR from accurate. FAARRRRRR from accurate. But fuck it – I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed playing so much. I didn’t touch any classical stuff. And even while I was playing, I remembered how much I enjoyed playing all the NON classical stuff. All the NON traditional stuff. The bands I used to play in, the gigs where I was electric cello on stage, the stuff that didn’t require me to follow the dots to perfection. I was so busy playing this one, that I didn’t even notice the ensemble sitting behind them at first.
I’ve just watched it again, and all I could think was “geeze what a bunch of miserable assholes.”
And then I remembered how I was made to BE one of those miserable assholes, for 26 years. A professional miserable asshole. I recalled all the times when I quite literally just wanted to rock out with my cello, and people thought I was bonkers (oh HAH!) and weird. I fucking hated that, it was a horrible, horrible feeling. Being made to be so serious. So… “contained”. That’s not me. It was never my style.
I’ve been talking to a wonderful person who reckons I’ll be back on stage one day. He only knows some of the pain I’ve been through with music. So I’m not sure he realises how much that idea repulses me. However…
It sure as hell got me thinking about going back to something else. One day, maybe.
Since The Smalls were born 4 and 5 years ago, my body has pretty much been wrecked. SPD and sciatica fucked me over good and proper during the pregnancies, and during Isaac’s delivery, I’m pretty sure I wrecked some of the nerves when his head slammed into my pelvis. HILARIOUS. (Not.) Which is a shame, because pre-kiddos, I was ridiculously fit and athletic. I was stupidly fit physically, and no movement presented a challenge.
For the last 5 years, I’ve considered myself lucky if I can make it through the week without feeling screaming pain in my hips.
Needless to say, that’s a REAL bitch when it comes to my lifestyle. A wedding photographer, who genuinely wants to pick up her cello again. Not to play seriously, mind, no. I don’t want to go back there. But I do miss it. More so than I anticipated, and certainly didn’t think I’d want to play so much, so soon.
Sooooooo today I finally went to see ANOTHER osteo. It took me long enough, only because I was so sick of hearing “here, go do these exercises, you’ll be fine soon enough”. It gets really dull hearing that when you’re NOT fine soon enough. It also sucks hearing that, when you’ve had MRIs and X-Rays, and none of them seem to be very conclusive. In fact, I found the whole thing to be desperately tedious and dull, so I decided to go with the Grin And Bear It approach. Unfortunately, more often than not, “Grin” was actually “Grimace”. It’s a really sucky thing, and I’ve honestly tried not to go on about it in public or with friends and family. Spending days at a time on crutches, unable to feel my feet properly, and pretending everything was fine was getting reeeeeeally old.
Today’s appointment REALLY well. I’m nervous of osteos, as the ones I’d seen previously shortly after Isaac’s birth were too kooky for me, even by my standards. Turns out, this one is kooky, but brilliant with it. I can deal with that. I’d be lying if I said I’d come away feeling like I could have skipped home. The good feeling lasted about an hour, and now there’s tingling and twanging in my foot, leg, hip and back again. But that’s ok, I know the drill now. I don’t mind that! Start doing the exercises in a few days, go back next week, see how we get on with session two.
The hard part?
Being told I’m not ready to pick up my cello again.
I’m actually gutted. I know it won’t be forever, but I am genuinely gutted.
I’ve been secretly keeping my fingers nimble and sight-reading up to scratch by playing my violin (compensation) and piano every so often, tied in with flute for when I was really bored/desperate. But it’s not been enough. I have a mahoosive stack of cello sheet music sitting by my work desk. I hear Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony and I mentally remember every single note of the cello part. I casually look up the last orchestra I played with, and see they’re doing some of my favourite stuff, AND pieces I’ve always wanted to play.
And I’m denied.
I should have known it, really, that my core wouldn’t be strong enough for it. My body is shot to shit, and doesn’t have nearly as much of the strength it had before. And I hate that. I blame it on being lazy, not being bothered to do something like yoga or Pilates. The thing is, I don’t actually like yoga or Pilates I get bored. I’d rather be up and about riding my bike, scaling climbing frames in parks, doing cartwheels and handsprings. Maybe finding an adult sized scooter and chasing The Smalls. But I didn’t do that. Because of the pain. Because of the pain which is far worse than pushing an 11lb baby which is facing the wrong way, out your vagina, with SPD and no medication. I would do that again. In a heart beat. If someone said to me, today, right now, that in order to get rid of this current pain forever I would have to repeat Isaac’s birth, I WOULD DO IT IMMEDIATELY.
As it stands, that’s not an option. So I have to continue with yet more physiotherapy and osteotherapy. And hope I can deal with the cello cravings.
And pray I don’t collapse during any of this year’s weddings. Hmm.