Wednesday was a rough day. Even though I rose at 5am to do kickboxing and walk Marley before I began my early teaching day, I felt weepy and overwhelmed. I know I am not alone. I have always loved teaching and performing, loved my career; but the current reality Covid has given us bears little relation to the career I have known for the past thirty-four years.
My emotional bag is filled to the brim right now. There is a part of me that feels excited to be back at school working with my students and colleagues, even through the veil of masks, face shields, clarinet Covid bags, Zoom meetings, and gallons of hand sanitizer. It is a tiny spark of normalcy in a world gone mad in seemingly every way possible.
The other part of me stays at DEFCON Five stress level just underneath the surface much of the time, the least little stressor taking me over the edge into full-blown anxiety attacks. I exercise, I try to relax, I write, I talk honestly and openly with Dan, but none of my usual tactics seem to have lasting effects. It is just life right now, and I have to find a way to deal with it in a healthy way because things are only going to get more stressful.
As of today I became President of the International Clarinet Association…during a pandemic. I never in my life dreamed of this or wanted this; I was just happy to serve as Secretary for two terms. I have never had much of an ego about my abilities and have always been a big believer in humility. But, somehow I have ended up serving by leading this organization that I love in a way that I know will be both exciting and stress-inducing. There is no turning back; it’s time to stand up tall and do the best I can, both for the organization and for myself sanity-wise. Thankfully I will have great people all around me.
Working from home a lot is making me realize that I need to create boundaries; otherwise I don’t stop working until bedtime, and then I don’t sleep (which has been the case for several nights now, frustratingly). I’m trying to stop looking at emails by at least 8pm (needs to be sooner), and to separate myself from stressful television or situations if at all possible hours before bedtime. Otherwise, my brain goes into overdrive starting at 2:30am and I become a very anxious Zombie.
Life is not going to be perfect; believe me, I’ve lived through my share of heartbreak and challenge over the years. I don’t expect perfection, but I do have to learn to carve out time to recharge emotionally so that I can face what lies ahead. I count my blessings each day, but I also need to make myself a priority enough to be able to give of myself to my students, my home and family, and to my career. It has always been a weakness of mine, just as it was for my mother; we put everyone else first and ourselves last.
I’m working to set clear boundaries with work and professional duties, but it will take time. Life will happen, but I’m going to do my best to protect myself from unnecessary stressors, as there will be enough real ones that I have to face. No matter what, I’m grateful that I have a life that gives me things to care about enough to be stressed about, for better or worse.