My wife, who believes in me, is sending me in February to the San Francisco Writer’s Conference.  There I will attempt to find people who want to help me go from good to great.  In order to do that, I’m preparing my elevator speech and my bio.

In the world of creativity and performance we must “know our audience.”  I’ve preached that, and it has really helped me to focus my efforts on the people that I can most easily reach, and that are most interested in what I’m doing.  Sometimes, however, I perform for the wrong audience.

When I was a child, I had to endure a great sadness.  While I have since adequately dealt with it, there are times when the memory or the consequences of this sadness completely overwhelms me.   It feels like an unbearable weight, something I’m just not going to be able to carry. 

 

When I get stuck over handling my emotions, I like to think about the body.  Sometimes figuring out how to deal with a problem of the body can teach me how to deal with problems of the mind or the heart.  On the body, the unbearable weight is the head. 

I have no more right to write a remembrance of Ron Dicenzo than anyone else who knew him.  I only venture to do so because he shared many stories of his life with me that I would prefer were kept alive, and because I consider him a great friend.  When I attended Oberlin in the late 80’s it was possible to be great friends with a professor without invoking any electronic demons like Facebook, if you had the courage and the will.

When I was a young teenager it became necessary for me to numb myself in order to survive and move ahead.  I had to block a certain amount of emotional and social input so that I could manage emotionally and socially.  Without realizing it, I also closed myself to physical sensation as well.

 

Many years later when I’d gotten well into the process of untying my knots and emerging as a social / emotional person, I discovered a stumbling block.  I was finding physical sensation a difficult thing to process.  What helped me through this block was realizing that sensation is not pain.

As I write this, I am a few hours away from participating in an afternoon recital with some of my colleagues.  Many of my students will be there with their parents.  Although I am only playing a short movement from a Mozart sonata, I am feeling the pressure.

 

Last Friday, though, something happened to change the balance of the equation.  I was opening a folding door and the third and fourth fingers on my left hand got caught.  The third finger was jammed and swelled up so that it wouldn’t really bend.

 

Over the course of the day, the injury retreated enough that I was confident I could still play the recital.  However, it was uncomfortable and I was no longer certain I would play well.  This setback turned out to have an interesting benefit.

 

I think people fall into two camps when it comes to mistakes, or are of two minds.  On one side, we seem to understand that mistakes are necessary in order to learn.  On the other, we seem to agree that mistakes are something to be avoided.

 

If I accept both ideas, then I don’t know whether to welcome mistakes or dread them.  I don’t think its enough to simply accept both statements as valid.  Maybe there’s more to mistakes than meets the eye.

It makes sense that we should try to live our lives as free from stress as possible, right?  Actually, I don’t think so.  Consider the rubber band.

When I was a kid I wasn’t very good at sports.  Even so, if I happened to make a particularly good football catch, for a few minutes everyone around me would treat me as if I was a good player.  Then I’d mess up and miss the next one, and the respect and opportunities to play vanished.

 

I didn’t miss because of my ability.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t catch the football, it was that the pressure to repeat my success made it more difficult.  I was carrying the expectations of my success and it was too distracting.

I want to be great.  I really do.  Like Beethoven-great.

 

The older I get, the more I realize that’s not up to me.  

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