When you are swimming in the middle of an experience, it is easy to become lost in the small parts, the little pieces of what is happening in your life that make up the whole.  In order to gain perspective, sometimes we  have to find a way to stand back and find the big picture in order to move forward and make sense of it all. 

I have seen this with myself lately, as I have embarked on this summer of change, working for a healthier version of me after a year that, frankly, kicked my tail. Hard. I considered all of the various parts; changes in diet and exercise, the addition of meditation, preparations for a solo trip to Madrid, getting ready to return to a new school year filled with change, and the underlying current of the approaching first anniversary of my mother’s death. Lots of change, spurred by love, loss, determination, and hope. 

Isn’t that what life is about, though? Every experience, every challenge, all woven together in a rich tapestry, dark patches and light, all necessary. I have attempted to look deeper this summer, working  to identify the root of some issues I am tackling. I am finding more success with eating healthfully after confronting  emotional eating, something that I (and so many women) have dealt with for many years…the “I’m not good enough” mantra that fuels the fire to eat in ways that are destructive to our health.  The more I understand the big picture, the more I understand the triggers, the more I can face them in healthier ways. It is working- I am down thirty pounds so far, and I realize that for me this will always be a battle that I will have to wage…but it is a battle of love. We can’t truly open our hearts to others if we don’t love ourselves, too. 

The trip to Madrid has moved from being something I’m terrified of, to something I am feeling growing excitement about. Don’t get me wrong- I still have moments of panic, but I am working through the fear and am focusing on the adventure of it all. I think of how I will be inspired by some of the greatest clarinetists and pedagogues in the world, of the amazing things I will see and experience, and- maybe most importantly- what I will prove to myself by breaking so far out of my comfort zone and making this trip alone. Priceless gifts. 

Work was an incredibly stressful place last year, but we have new leadership with great energy and fresh ideas, and I am excited to see what the future will bring. There will be a lot of change, but change is what we need to grow our program. It is so easy to get stuck in what feels comfortable and safe, but those are the very things that can make us stagnate if we aren’t vigilant. No matter what happens, I am grateful to be doing what I love for a living every day. When I focus on the students and on the music, the path is clear. 

Finally, I feel the specter of last summer as the anniversary of my mother’s death approaches. It is not a gut-wrenching feeling, but a pall of sadness in my heart. Life goes on, and I see its cycle so clearly- my beautiful niece is getting married, the family gathering this time for a happy occasion and not to mourn. I will find a meaningful way to mark the anniversary, and while I may shed some tears, I will always celebrate my mother’s spirit and the love we shared. There are many layers to a relationship that lasted fifty-one years- joys, struggles, tears, and lots of laughter. I know it will take a long time for my mind to work through everything, and I am still learning how to be Denise the woman, and not Denise the daughter and caretaker. Quite a different feeling, both sad but also quite liberating. There is time for me now that was never there before. I am learning how to use that time well to grow toward my best self. 

Separately, each factor has challenged me, most often in very good ways. Together, I feel the enormity of it all…as the reasons to change are tied to so many other events in my life, every  action having a reaction. Looking for the big picture, I see that stressing over one area will affect all the others. My perspective has changed, and perhaps I am finally learning to be more gentle with myself…I cannot and never will be perfect, and that is okay. I can only do my best to face the world with an open mind and an open heart. Remembering that will help me let go of the things that don’t serve me and be open to the many wonderful experiences to come…I am ready.  


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