Defining Myself Along the Journey Takes a Musical Turn
As a believer that life often happens as it should, I gave into life’s flow and found myself taking music lessons.
As a reader of this blog, you should thank your lucky stars that this forum doesn’t come with a sound track as things could get pretty painful over the next few weeks. I am now taking saxophone lessons. Yes, you read correctly. At 53, one might expect some other, less harrowing hobby or interest to crop up. But this is where life’s flow has landed me and who am I to question it?
During the past few weeks, life’s rapids have steered me, crosscurrent by crosscurrent into community action, parent groups (gasp!) and the opportunity to get to know my son’s middle school music teacher who is an extremely talented musician and instructor. His middle school musicians could easily compete, note by note, bar by bar with high school performers. Last week, after reviewing a draft of his CV, I sent it back with a few very minor notations and wrote, ”OK, I’m really impressed now. (And somewhat depressed that I never picked up an instrument.)” I’ve always loved almost any type of music and am even in awe of my 14 year-old trumpeter and his musically-inclined friends. For me, it was always a dream not to be realized.
Two minutes later, a reply landed in my inbox: “It’s never too late to pick up an instrument…”
Ummm… Suddenly I felt as if life’s flow had pummeled me into a rock and I was jammed. Should I fight my way out or wait for the river’s flow to adjust and carry me forward? I walked out of my office, filled with a mix of amusement and terror, and took an informal poll of my colleagues. I asked them “IF I were to play an instrument, what would it be…?” Luckily, for my ego, there were no immediate bursts of laughter. Instead, three heads turned in unison and said “Sax…” Was the immediate consensus some sort of sign?
I sent another email: “How about sax…?”
Immediate reply: “Sax would be a great choice–easiest to learn… badly! Took me about a week to understand it about as well as I do now.” I was beginning to understand that this might be an opportunity rather than a source of panic. I liked the words “easiest to learn…” As for “badly…” it’s a challenge I accept. Regarding the rest of his reply, time is relative. I am sure his week will be many for me. I accept that too.
Oddly, this twist of fate couldn’t come at a better time. It will help me define myself in a new way and provide a welcomed alternate focus as I come off of treatment this fall. As patients, we define ourselves and realities in ways that give us as much comfort as possible. For two and a half years, I have been a “patient” with an active, multi-pronged plan of attack–surgery, radiation, hormone ablation… I will soon enter what many others refer to as ”nowhere land.” It can be an agonizing place where we patients in waiting are left to wonder what the future holds. The term “survivor” is not a definition I feel I cannot assume for another three years if and when I hear those magic words, “you are cancer-free.” ( That’s a highly personal decision, with no right or wrong answer, that I’ve written about before in the blog.)
As I prepare to enter the next phase of my journey, I will be more than a patient, I will also be a music student. Note by missed note, beat by missed beat, I will focus on changing that “badly” into at least a “passable” and smiling inwardly as I proceed. There will be a new milestone to achieve in that unknown future that is mine.
This is no bucket list reaction. The upside of living with cancer is that it makes you see life differently and embrace opportunity.
Thank you, Mr. Sutherland, for your patience and willingness teach an old(er) dog new tricks. And many thanks to my loving family and friends for their avid encouragement. If I ever get any good at this, I just might someday embed a soundtrack on this site with great pride!