Back to the positive stuff! A fellow FTSED musician lent me their TENS unit to use! My neuromuscular dentist wanted me to undergo several sessions of using the TENS unit since it showed signs of improvement, yet I couldn't afford it. I'm literally a broke college student again. Boy am I grateful for this generous person to let me borrow their unit!!! It's helped tremendously. I'm already experiencing less pain. Even when the pain does happen it goes away quicker. I just have to make sure that I keep up the ice/heat packing and the TENS unit consistently especially after practicing.
They lent me four electric pads, so I've been using it on my face and my back shoulder and neck. My jaw is popping less, but still just enough to keep me worried. However, I have to say that my jaw feels more sticky in a good way...before I felt like it would pop or crack so easily by the slightest touch, and now it doesn't feel as loose or crackly or off. It's weird, the more I use the TENS unit along the line of my shoulder blade in my back, the more relieved I feel.
Another risk I'm taking is bringing back slight playing into my daily activities. My friend Thomas Jostlein the associate principal of the St. Louis Symphony is here in Boulder for the CMF festival and wanted to see where I was at playing-wise with my disorder. I'm VERY picky about who I play for because it requires a deeper understanding of the complexity of what I'm dealing with (a combination of injuries and disorder), and also an unorthodox approach vs standard lesson approach when giving advice or suggestions. But I trust him as a mentor.
The best thing is that I feel like I've contacted my inner horn geek again...which I've missed a lot! hahaha! It's therapeutic in a way feeling like I'm included in the horn playing world even if it's just talking to another horn player. Even better, one who isn't afraid of my disorder and is genuinely interested.
Many years ago when starting my (horn performance) grad school audition process by visiting campuses, the University of Illinois (Champagne-Urbana) was on my scheduled list. After visiting Thomas, I realized I favored his horn pedagogy and approach to music best out of any other schools, so U of IL became my top choice for schools to apply for. I liked that he wasn't like other typical professors; lost in technique or standard methods of solving playing issues, nor taught by the textbook....he had a unique and innovative approach due to his former teacher, Arnold Jacobs' influence. However, grad school on horn never happened due to my injury and then disorder. However, I consider him one of the best horn players of our time (if you haven't heard him, you need to...he really needs to make a solo recording), so it means a lot knowing he believes that I'll make a full recovery and has been supportive of all the hard work I've done to rehabilitate.
I also had some of my closest friends in Colorado this summer! I went and visited my friend James at the Aspen music festival. He use to play principal clarinet in the orchestra I was in, and we played in a woodwind quintet together. My best friend Lizzie, also from my undergrad, visited me in Denver. She's working on promoting her artwork and trying to make it as a solo artist. I know she will because she has such a diverse set of skills!
Music has always provided the family, support, and sense of purpose I strived for and needed. Even if I could play, it wouldn't mean as much if I didn't have others to share my pursuit of music with. I miss performing with friends, people that I love, and sharing good memories. No, the performance world is not always pretty, there can be drama, but in the end when I look back, it's my friends I miss the most. I proudly watch them grow into professional musicians, already establishing their names and professions. And while I wish I could share in the same things, I can't complain too much....it brings me tremendous joy seeing them shine and accomplish their dreams.
On a completely different note and change of subject, I'm in a committed relationship; something that is a huge milestone. It's taken a lot of courage on my part, but so far I feel like my heart has healed a lot and I'm ready to see the world through a more positive lens again and embrace whatever comes my way without fear.
I'm still learning how to let go of control and to not fear the worst, but I've come a long ways since then. In a way I felt like all these wonderful reunions with musicians I admire and friends I care deeply about, was a gift from God as a reminder of who I am, that everything that's happened in the past, all that I've accomplished, the gift of music I was given....it wasn't all for nothing, and it really did happen. I really could play. Just when I thought the former me was dead and gone, I was reminded that passion and fire inside is still alive. I just needed a jolt to wake me up again. I honestly haven't felt this alive in a very long time, and I'm grateful for it. I can daydream about the future and look forward to every day with the faith that my talent and skills will serve a purpose again.