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There Is No Rose

Friends, I'm not gonna lie. I have really been in the dumps this past week. On top of feeling sad and unmotivated and lonely, I am fully aware that many other people are facing much more dire circumstances in their lives and, in some cases, catastrophic loss, so I'm feeling a bit ashamed about not being able to rise above feeling sad and unmotivated and lonely.

I've attempted to mitigate my feelings with what has sometimes helped me gain perspective in the past: journaling, contemplative reading, digging in the dirt, yoga, prayer and meditation. Instead of feeling lighter, though, I've been crying more and sleeping less, and I seem to alternate between avoiding my husband and unwittingly picking fights with him. Today, we ended up having a huge row about some household decisions and that devolved into the perennial conflict we have over his demanding work schedule, our differing perspective about financial well-being, and the inequity between our incomes. I know I've been triggered when I end up railing against being a glorified housewife who dabbles in the arts while depending on her husband's hard work for economic stability.

I like to believe I've done a great deal of shadow work, and then a global pandemic comes along to humbly remind me I'm still susceptible to the same lie I've been reckoning with for decades - that my artistic pursuits and professional music career are expendable.

For now, I am incredibly grateful that we don't really have to worry too much about the impact of losing nearly all of my income thanks to the Covid-shutdown. Many of my colleagues are not so fortunate. But that doesn't mean the loss I feel isn't tremendous. I saw all the events on my April calendar that I had yet to remove, and I was hit with the realization that my prized student, a graduating senior, wouldn't get to perform her concerto with the school orchestra, a piece she had been preparing since last summer. The high school flute choir I was coaching won't get to perform at their annual Collage Concert. All of the performances I was hired to play with multiple symphony orchestras have been canceled for the remainder of the season. Two of the local music directors who warmly welcomed me as a colleague when I moved to the area are retiring after 30 years of teaching, and they won't be receiving the send-off and well-earned accolades of their students and community. The majority of my private students have chosen not to continue with online lessons, and the ones that have stuck with me often struggle with the technology - despite the investment I've made in optimizing the hardware and software on my end. I've tried to continue making music on my own, but practicing without any promise of collaborative events on the horizon just seems to exacerbate the complexity of the loneliness I feel. I see so many of my colleagues putting their beautiful music out there on social media, and I sometimes can't even bear to listen because it hurts too much.

Maybe I'm just now starting to allow myself to grieve, not just my own losses, but also the collective losses of my students and colleagues, and our society as a whole. Maybe the full moon has been pulling at me, reminding me of the inevitable ebb and flow of life. Maybe my spirit is resonating with the heaviness that is often associated with Holy Week in the Catholic Church, my native spiritual home. Maybe the grief our society is experiencing needs to be felt and honored. Maybe embodying this grief is necessary before we can be resurrected from it.

Tonight, I managed to meet some of this grief in my studio. I used the Acapella app to record some of the flute choir piece I had been working on with my students. With each track I put down, imperfect as some of them are, I began to relish the luscious togetherness of this piece - how the foundation is constructed by the rhythmic interplay of multiple instruments, how the inner parts add depth and complexity, and how the sweep of melody is more poignant because of the harmonic tension and varying tone colors of the other voices. I was reminded how much teaching and playing music often opens my ears to what I most need to hear and how I dearly miss sharing that process of discovery in person with my students and colleagues.

Tonight, I honored the togetherness of our grief with the hope that we will also share the togetherness of our joy again someday.

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