On rebuilding hope in my flute playing, digesting heavy news about the pandemic, visiting home, struggling with disordered eating, & upcoming projects for this blog.
Recently, the light turned back on in my sound (an off-hand phrase I coined for something that depends on numerous factors). Ironically, this happens as I'm having problems with my hearing. But I knew my sound was back because of the way the flute vibrates against my face & in my hands.
To celebrate, I recorded a clip of my practicing yesterday. Below is one of the opening phrases of "Danza de la Mariposa" by Valerie Coleman (one of many pieces I've been sightreading this summer).
The first time I played this phrase a couple weeks ago, my sound wasn't at my best, but it was the most transportive experience I'd had with music-making all summer.
Granted, I'm playing it drastically under-tempo, mostly because the flexibility of my sound has suffered a bit over the past month (something to do with the muscles in my lips being out of shape).
Ideally, I'd be sharing a polished clip of the entire phrase, no starting & restarting. But once I make it my goal to produce a polished recording, I develop tunnel-vision & my playing becomes more & more tense. I'll get there eventually.
For now, here is the phrase, deconstructed. For me, a constant challenge is to maintain the quality of my sound & intonation across phrasing. If I'm out of shape or simply not careful, my phrasing becomes note-y, bumpy. Another challenge is to manage my breathing, which you can hear me mess up towards the beginning of this clip.
Despite these holes, I am hopeful now that my sound is back.
All summer, I've struggled so much with my playing that I secretly welcomed the sudden lack of gigs.
Whether the gigs come back or not, I'm able to believe again that I have something meaningful to cultivate & share through flute, and it will find an outlet — through a live performance, some kind of collaboration, or a recording project of my own.
In other news, I've been reading about the worsening pandemic. The heavy news & the glimpses of chaotic, inhumane situations has quieted me. Like that time in April 2020, when the overwhelming news of a global pandemic took me to a dark place (I wrote this post to bring myself back).
But this time around, I am more rooted. This news, it quiets me. First, to be present to the reality of others' pain. Then, to open my eyes to the gift of my health & the health of my loved ones. Then it grounds me in the creation of beauty — as this precious contribution I can make, no matter how intangible, to a reality torn by suffering & death.
Yesterday, the sunset was an ocean frozen & painted in shades of gold, rose, blue & purple.
I’ve been nervous about visiting home this month. But looking at that breathtaking sky, I thought — how crazy to go into the sky & to land in the city where I grew up.
What a gift. To be able to see my family for the first time in so long. To leave this city for a little. A change of scenery, a different series of spaces.
Unfortunately, I'm also experiencing a resurgence of disordered eating — the urge to starve myself, to shrink my body back towards some semblance of thinness.
Recent introspection brought me this thought: the phases when my constantly-changing body was “thinnest” are not the best phases of my life. In other words, the thinnest versions of my body are not better than other versions of me. They are all equally worthy (something I still don't believe, but that is okay).
In addition, I've finally started listening to a podcast recommended by a friend, Food Psych. I can't believe I waited so long to start listening. Thank you Susanna!
The first episode I listened to, on binge-eating & emotional eating, reiterates how as women we’re flooded with the message that thinness is the key to everything: love, success, happiness.
These days, I'm able to look this lie in the eye. Then, to detangle its grip from my thoughts & actions.
Lastly, here are some updates on creative work outside of flute.
All summer, I've had ideas for more focused, polished pieces on this blog. But I've been burnt-out from this kind of writing up to now — which I attribute to an open letter on my blog back in May (not to mention the stream of prose pieces that preceded it).
Recently, I looked over some of my creative work. And I was blown away that I've had the audacity to share this stuff when so much of it is developing, unpolished, & incredibly vulnerable.
Along those lines, I took down the open letter about my tattoos. While writing this piece, I couldn't see that I needed another few months to refresh my perspective, to see what this piece might really mean to eyes other than my own.
When I read it for the first time in a while, I realized just how great the disconnect was. I believe this piece has a future, but not on my blog.
That said, I am immensely grateful to everyone who took the time to read the piece, everyone who shared what it meant to them, & everyone who has ever encouraged me to continue writing.
It isn't common, I realize, to have this much audacity about sharing creative work that is so raw & personal. For me, it comes from years of encouragement from my friends, mentors, peers, & family. Thank you all.