The Good Parts

I got up at 5:30 am on a recent Tuesday. I had come in at 11 the night before after teaching 9 students in a row, and driving home, and so obviously had not gotten much sleep. The gig I was on my way to was an education concert that did not have a lot going for it, from my perspective – a trip through American History with peripherally related orchestral music and amateur actors. We were playing in an elementary school in Nowhere, IN, and there were two shows in a row for the same money as one. I was playing English horn, which is something I love to do, but the downside of the EH is that you spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for your piece to come up, which is NOT something I like to do. I’d rather be playing. The school was a solid two and a half hours from my house, and the orchestra is a great group, but not one of my usual ensembles so I was basically out and driving before the sunrise to count rests with strangers for a bunch of ten-year-olds who did not want to listen to us. This gig was really just about the money, and honestly everyone must have days like that, right?

Anyway, I was in the middle of the second show, sitting in the orchestra waiting for my final piece (John Williams Liberty Fanfare – great material but not an English horn feature, to say the least). The orchestra was zooming through the Overture to Candide, in which I don’t play, and all of a sudden I felt a tremendous rush of well-being and satisfaction. Yes, the morning’s service was not one of the more spectacular moments of my career, but isn’t it great that I can be sitting in the middle of an ensemble, enjoying this wonderful music, being a part of things, AND make my living? I could be actually working – digging ditches or cleaning houses or telemarketing or turning tricks – but instead I am being paid to perform. I wonder if the amount of energy and hassle that it took to get me to that point in the morning was a factor in my feelings?

Last week I headed out on a long run. I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been struggling through my runs lately – I love getting through them but the actual running part has been more of a drag than a pleasure. This time, though, after the first forty-five minutes, I got a fabulous second wind and zoomed through the remaining fifteen or so LOVING the endorphin rush. I had forgotten over this long winter that the best part of the run happens AFTER the first five miles, so when I get discouraged and head home after four, which is what has been happening, of course it doesn’t feel fun. Maybe it’s all of the effort that really makes the payoff magical, in life as well as exercise.

Or maybe it’s just that I should get up earlier more often. It could just be punchiness from insufficient coffee…

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