the long haul

The picture is a bit of an exaggeration, but I feel a bit flat now. It was hard to find the energy today after all the excitement and pumped-up-ness of rehearsals and opening night, and then still a bit adrenalised for the Sunday show. 

A day off is a good thing. To rest the chops and the mind. But it is amazing how quickly you go flat and disinterested. Initially I was excited to start the show today, but was actually missing that really intense excitement of the first week, and it now has become a bit of a grind already.

Churn them out now. Cookie cutter one after the other. And it is sort of tricky actually, without the edge of the seat anticipation. It is like the blood drains from your heart and it is harder to concentrate.

After interval today, I felt like really went off the boil - there was some technical hitch and we sat on stage waiting for what seemed like about 15 minutes. I started to feel depressed as I thought of all the tricky things I had to play, but without the nervousness to drive me on. I had to manufacture some sort of caring. 

So, to change things up a bit I started to play around with my attention. 

I have often used an 'grounding' exercise called the five senses before a performance - notice five things I can see, four things I can hear, three that I can touch, two that I can smell and one that I can taste. I have found that really effective for that time when you are sitting on stage waiting for the conductor to come on, waiting for the downbeat. It takes you out of your anxious mind, out of the downward spiral and into the here and now. 99.99% of the time we are safe in the here and now.

When I am performing, I often have a tunnel vision thing happening. I focus down tight on what I have to play both visually on the music in front of me or on the sound I am making. I ruthlessly stare at either the music or the conductor. This is both a product of my anxiety and a way of coping with the anxiety. It is helpful to have a way of focussing on what is important when I feel like my body and mind are spinning out of control. But the flip side is I reckon it makes me sound a bit rigid. And it's tiring to be so fixed in my thinking. 

And after all, the whole idea of ACT is to become psychologically flexible!

So today, feeling that I have done a pretty good job so far of the exposed solos in my part I thought I would try something new.  For the first time in my life that I can remember, I deliberately started looking around at different things and Istarted deliberately noticing different smells when I had an important solo. 

Like a mediation, I mentally gently placed a soft feather on things I could see - the light over the conductor, the cable that lead to that light. I deliberately noticed the singers walking past me and the other walking down the stairs opposite me. The lights on the stage. I labelled them.

All while I was playing a solo entirely on my own.

It felt liberating. I was loosening the grip on tunnel vision.

And it was fun.

Deborah HartComment