Pre-diagnosis, anything that took me away from my all-important practice schedule would leave me feeling guilty. When doing anything else I felt as though my attention was split between that activity and thinking about either the music I was learning or when I was going to practice again. That imbalance describes many years of my studies.

Irish poet and priest John O’Donohue describes this imbalance beautifully. “If you only awaken to your will and intellect, then your work can become your identity. This is summed up in the rather humorous epitaph on a gravestone somewhere in London: “Here lies Jeremy Brown born a man and died a grocer.” Often people’s identities, that wild inner complexity of soul and color of spirit, become shrunken into their work identities. They become prisoners of their roles. They limit and reduce their lives. They become seduced by the practice of self-absence. They move further away from their own lives. When you encounter them, you meet only the role. You look for the person but you never meet him.”*

A non-musician might assume that choosing a career in music would guard against this problem. Don’t artists share “that wild inner complexity of soul and color of spirit” on a daily basis with their audiences and their students?

My diagnosis of focal dystonia allowed me to step away from the imbalance of my obsessive practice schedule and move toward my own life. Happily, my flute playing is now responding as a result.

*From O’Donohue’s Anam Cara

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