Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A time to grieve

... and a time to dance. 
(from the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, can be translated as grief, or mourning)

Except that there is something I am grieving recently, and pray that there will be that time to dance.

I am grieving being a professional musician.
I am crying about it every time I pass banner posts in the street's center islands announcing the next concert series of the orchestra I played in for 13 years. I mean, it *hurts*.

I have played horn for 25 years. It was my identification, my bread-and-butter, my special offering.

Last week the orchestra played an extraordinary program of all the Beethoven symphonies over the course of four nights. As soon as I found out about it, I kept saying to myself "what I would do to sink my teeth into *that* program". I LOVE Beethoven symphonies. They are fantastic and challenging for the horn section, and the harmonic structure is enchanting and bold. Each time I played one (and I have played all of them; most many times) I got adrenaline and strength pumped into my system, and felt so high on music.

I wanted very much to go to these concerts; or at least one of them. If I couldn't play, I wanted to hear.

I forgot to go.
Yes, I forgot to go to any of them.
For some unknown reason, I didn't write it down (or program the android, actually :)), and somehow missed seeing the obvious street advertisements. I cannot tell you the grief I felt to miss these concerts. I wonder, though, if it would have been just too painful to be there, seeing all my former colleagues, talking with them, again needing to say that I am not playing.

The grief of missing these concerts, though, also stemmed from not playing in them, not just hearing them.
I know you think I can just pick up my horn and play anytime I want. On a simple level, that is true. But that is not the level I am at.

My life is so busy and full, or exhausting and I'm resting/sleeping. I simply do not have room in my mind or my heart for music. I stopped listening to music when I first had PTSD, and I still find it hard to handle in the house. Or possibly it just hurts too much. Does that make sense?

I have a complicated relationship with Sarah the Musician, and I don't relate to her anymore.
But I so miss her.
I do not have the physical strength to hold up to an orchestra schedule, pressure for perfectionism, practice hours, child-care coordination, and many nightly concerts. I collapse at nights. I know I don't have to tell you that. There is a reason I don't work; I can't.

But I miss Sarah the Musician. I mourn her.
I had a dream the other night. I was in a pool with many other people. (I was anticipating going back to the gym that night).
In this dream, though, I was holding my mother in my arms. The water's buoyancy was helping me support her, although she is now lighter than almost her whole life in which I have known her. In real life, she is still bedridden. Her feet have not walked on ground in well over a year.

Back to the dream.
There we were, my mother and I in the pool, me cradling her (baby-in-arms style) just as she is today.
Some leader person was asking for a volunteer to speak. I spoke.
My explanation of 'who we are' was centered around our being mother and daughter, both of whom have been through septic shock, and we are now sculpted by that circumstance.

I woke up feeling so sad and strange. Most of all, I felt sad that I identify myself with that victim instead of the accomplished person that I am. My mother is victim to the same thing now. When asked who I am, in the dream I am not only speaking for myself, but for my mother as well. The feeling and image of holding her in the water like that at the pool (same pool which is at the gym) still is with me today, very palpably. I relate to her plight so strongly; I understand being a victim of a doctor's mistake and paying for it. And whatever platitudes people tell me, I *do* identify myself with the sick/victim persona. People tell me that is not me, just a small part of me. Well, it *is* me, and I cannot change that. My entire day and night, every minute, is effected by it. The illness issues and feelings are constantly with me; please don't tell me that it isn't my identity now. It is an identity which has taken five years to try to be heard, and I need it to be heard.

And I miss playing horn. Boy do I miss being that person. I cry for her.
I mourn for her. She ran a large part of my life, for better *and* for worse. I saw myself as successful through that lens.

Now I am successful for surviving near death, and raising my kids.
And I still want to play in symphonies.
A paradox which needs a spacious soul to hold it all.


  1. I was having similar thoughts today.

  2. Hugs Sarah, you express this so beautifully.

  3. That's exactly what you are doing - mourning it out. Hopefully the time to mourn will not be extensive. Sending love.

  4. I do understand your grief, darling. It is so hard to let go.... I'm sorry for your pain. I am with you.

  5. I am sorry this all happened to you...

  6. It's good that you can express all this and share. You quoted "A time for...". There is indeed a time for everything and our beautiful Torah recognizes the human emotional need to mourn at times. Here, on the one hand, we are taught to have faith; on the other hand, we are taught that our faith should not turn us into smiling zombies but should experience that faith as humans with feelings, humans who thankfully sometimse laugh and are filled with joy and can even experience beautiful and joyful moments in the midst of pain. Humans who also, thankfully, can experience sadness and the need to mourn and are actually encouraged to mourn at times. Those who truly feel a need to mourn are those who have merited great love, be it love of someone or in the case you write about here: love of an art, a profession that was so much, is so much, a part of you. As painful as it is when we feel that loss, the gift of having merited that love is so very worth it. Dear Sarah, with the music, I hope you will once again have a time when you will feel able to play and able to listen with joy. The children are growing, and G-d willing the future should be one where you will have less pain and more strength. Refuah shleimah my dear friend.

  7. I hear you-after 14yrs. not playing pro horn anymore. People always ask why I stopped. I stopped because I was fired-i was too expensive for the Ranaana orch. But I have lots of health reasons why I couldn't hold an orch. gig anymore...I have barely been to any concerts since i stopped and find playing amateur pretty frustrating-but better than nothing-which may also happen. But you know that being a pro horn player still influences you . The desire to succeed-not to give up-to get better and work hard at whatever task is at hand-comes from the years of discipline and hard work we were used to ! Unfortunately we are not used to being unable to influence the outcome-I am a control freak and don't like surprises...but life doesn't work that way!

  8. Dear. Dear Sarah,

    It’s crazy that as I read this powerful blog, all can think is “Wow”.

    In my article, the sidelight lists the four grief tasks. See if they can help you here. In fact, I’ll send you my workshop handout. You may find some of it helpful.

    There just isn’t any easy way through it. But you’re doing it. Kol Hakavod.

    Lots of love,

  9. I think few people understand the term "victim". People hear this word and think "awful" and it is, but when they take it one step further with the attitude "don't be a victim" they are turning an objective fact to something entirely different. This is what happened in the beginning of the State of Israel with the Holocaust survivors. Initially there was an attitude of disdain, a lack of understanding, and a reaction that "we won't be like the Jews of the past and go to the slaughter house like sheep, we will fight". Only later was there understanding and recognition of how people did fight and the triumph of the human spirit, the incredible courage and will to live in the midst of the greatest evil of humankind. Recently all of the residents of the south were victims of rocket fire. That is a fact. Our lives were in danger and routine was disrupted. Was it awful that we were victims? Yes. Did we have a say in it? No. What we did have a say in was our attitude. Do we let the experience destroy our whole being or do we rise above it? Do we crumble or do we carry on? Do we use it as a crutch to be unproductive or do we choose to have the determination to move forward, live the best we can and add whatever goodness is in our power to produce whether small or great? Sarah, there is nothing wrong with the recognition of being a victim. And my dear friend you can have that recognition and hold your head high because you don't use it as a crutch. You continue to live and add goodness, many a time to a height beyond the average person who has had fewer challenges.

    1. Darlene, you write so amazingly, with such depth. I am humbled by what you wrote above, in both places. You often put into words what I want to express/communicate. You do it so eloquently. I thank *you* my friend, for being who you are. You have come out of too much sorrow for one person. But, that is not ours to decide. You give your experiences a holy kli, or soul, if you will, which is just such an inspiration to me. Love you! hugs!!

  10. Sarah, I so often think (particularly when I see or hear horns) of your professional career and how much it must hurt to not be playing. I got up to (but never completed) diploma level piano and sang in very good amateur choirs (like Toronto Mendelssohn) and while I was never anywhere near your level, I completely empathise about what you are going through. I just will not attend choral concerts these days--it is far worse for me to sit in the audience and not sing while others are up there singing than it is for me to miss it out altogether. I don't have health issues, but I also don't have the time to make the kind of commitment that that type of choir requires. I sing in our church choir and it is very very frustrating most of the time--the only challenge is the first day when we get new music (which is only once or twice a year) on that first run through when I get to sight sing and actually am challenged for a few minutes. In my case however, it's about priorities. Much as I miss singing, I know that I could change priorities if I wanted to and stuff it back into my life (although my instrument is degrading rapidly. :-) Your health isn't giving you that option right now, and I can't imagine your frustration and grief, especially with never knowing when things will improve enough.

    Do you not listen to music because of the grief or because of what it demands? When I was going through a period of intense grief (the deaths of both my grandmothers and mother within 4 months), I found that I couldn't listen to classical music. It was too complex, and the part of me that it fills was so full of pain that I had no room for it. Mindless pop music didn't have that effect at all. Is that similar to what you experience?

    Wrt the identity thing, instead of thinking of differences as being "a small part of me," one of my lecturers this year talked about "multiple identities"-- in my case, mother and engineer are probably the two main ones. They don't compete--I'm not "partly" a mother and it's not a small part of me--it IS me, to my core. But it also doesn't make me less of an engineer or a musician. I can't see how you couldn't have a strong identity based on what you have experienced since the NF made its nasty appearance. Even if its effects vanished tomorrow, what you have gone through is now woven into your being and it will shape your approach to life from now on. That said, I do pray that the struggles that have defined your life recently abate and things get easier.