The past weeks have been packed full, and – if I’m honest- more than a little stressful. I just finished hosting my annual Clarinet Symposium (the 14th one at UAB), and after all of the work, worry and doubt, it turned out to be one of the best symposiums yet. Isn’t that usually the way, though? We worry and fret (which never does any good at all), and then we rise to whatever occasion we have to face. As I stood on stage looking at the sixty-five clarinet players playing their hearts out, I teared up, remembering the beginings of it all. When I first came to UAB I brought the symposium with me. I had done it for eight years at my first college job, an event for clarinetists of all ages and abilities, and it grew and grew. When I came to UAB, I had three clarinet majors- all students who had followed me from North Carolina. The ‘Clarinet Retreat’ had about nine people. What a difference the years- and lots of hard work- have made. How wonderful it was to see the fruits of that work, to see my twenty UAB clarinet students with their great attitudes and heart. To see my graduate assistant who I taught all through her undergrad take charge, showing me the wonderful teacher and clarinetist she has become. To see all of the clarinetists from the very young to the those with gray hair, all making music together, having fun. My heart swelled with gratitude and pride.
It’s easy with events like this to get wrapped up in the stress of putting it together and pulling it off successfully…but that’s not what the weekend is about. It’s about having fun, being inspired, learning new things, making new friends. It’s about me finding out yet again what a great guy Dan is when he spends way too much money and works way too hard to throw a fantastic party for the artists and adult participants at our home after the big evening recital. It’s about me remembering what great humans my students are- even when I get frustrated that they don’t practice enough. It’s about me following my Dharma, doing what I love so much in life- playing and teaching the clarinet, even when it’s hard. I have always loved the Buddha quote, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” Such a true statement. While there are stressful days, most every day I feel such joy doing my job, working to guide my students toward being better musicians and better human beings (it’s like solving a bunch of puzzles every day), making music with my colleagues, practicing my clarinet, trying every day to improve at my craft. It feels like play instead of work. How lucky I am to be doing what I love with people that I respect and admire.
It’s those stressful times that come up in life that can act as roadblocks to joy if we let them. I realized that during the Symposium when I thought if I heard, “Dr. Gainey! Dr. Gainey!” one more time I would lose it. ‘Fix this problem, solve this emergency, take care of this and that…” I began to feel like I was being torn into fifty pieces. That is, until I took a deep breath and changed my thinking. Instead of getting frazzled, I looked at it all a different way; solve this interesting puzzle, find the solution to this problem, make people happy by giving them a great and worthwhile learning experience. Make a difference in their lives through the clarinet. Such a happier and healthier way to view it all.
Easier said than done, I know. Sometimes I need a little kick in the head to remind me to see the beautiful and the good and not become all wrapped up in the stressful stuff. Today I found just what I needed- more joy reinforcements- as I went down the long stairway to the street and a flash of yellow caught my eye…. A sign that I had watched for so carefully these past months…
A little ray of beauty to remind me that Spring is coming, days of warmer weather, gardening, and grilling out. And then there were my lunch buddies:
Joy is everywhere, if we would just open open our eyes and hearts and see. It’s a little shift in our thinking, a choice to be joyful as we live our lives. It doesn’t mean we won’t get stressed out, that we won’t go through tough times…it’s just learning to be the calm in the storm. It’s remembering all we have to be grateful for (there is always something), and looking for those markers of beauty and joy around us. If I ever forget, I have plenty of reminders.