So much is happening right now- wonderful things, stressful things, emotional things. Just a lot of life. I had some exciting developments come to light professionally at an international conference that I just attended. I’m putting the finishing touches on the myriad of materials I have to submit to go up for the rank of Full Professor this year- one of my career goals. Classes begin again in days (where did the summer go?) My husband is having shoulder replacement surgery soon. The two-year anniversary of my mother’s death is coming up this Monday. And today, the contract for my book came from Carl Fischer Music, New York. My head and my heart are pretty full.
Time seemed suspended when I read the email and the attached document about my book deal. The contract was several pages long, and as I studied it, it suddenly felt like I was separated from my body. If I am honest with myself, even though I knew the book was going to be published, it didn’t seem real until I read that contract. Something inside of me, some fear-riddled demon hiding deep down, just knew that something would go wrong, that the publisher would change their mind, that the manuscript- my work- wasn’t good enough. Even typing those words I hear my mentor’s voice, “Good….but not good enough!” Kal was never satisfied- but that’s part of the reason that he was a legend in the clarinet world. Not always the easiest words for a woman with perfectionist tendencies to hear and attempt to make peace with.
I have worked on this project for a long time, since I first went to New York to study with Kal Opperman as part of my dissertation research sixteen years ago. So many things have taken place during those years, including Kal’s death in 2010 at the age of 90, and my own ‘coming of age’ after the dissolution of a long marriage and the beginning of a new life and great love in Birmingham. Events twisted and turned, leading me from darkness into the greatest joys of my life (so far!). All the change was terrifying at first, but making myself take those tiny, hesitant, steps forward when I didn’t think I could got me to the other side of it all. I have always loved the quote by Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So very true.
I want to let go of the fear and doubt and enjoy every moment of the publication of my book, not allowing anything to tarnish this experience. I have worked hard, I’ve sacrificed. I’ve had invaluable help from friends and family, and from Kal’s family and long-time students. I’ve been lucky. I take nothing for granted, and I will never allow ego to have a seat at the table. I am humbled and grateful at this opportunity, and I want to let it all wash over me, leaving memories for me to cherish as the years pass…and the unshakeable belief that even more good things are in store for me and those I love.
I think I’ve finally given myself permission to accept the fact that it’s real. And…and, that it is okay to welcome good things into my life with open arms and no guilt. I will probably always hear Kal’s words ringing in my head (Good…but not good enough!), but I will also remember seeing a video of one of my lessons that his wife, Louise, shared with me after he had passed away. We were deep into work on a challenging solo work; he had me play, and said those words…but then – unbeknownst to me- he smiled. Seeing that extremely rare smile brought so much into focus. It was never about me being unworthy…Denise the person was good enough all along. I just had to grow to understand that myself- and do the hard work.
Here’s to letting go of the past and of fear, to being hopeful and excited for what the future will bring…and to living in the moment in gratitude. That’s what is real. Still- I can’t wait to hold the published book in my hands.