The Fear of Coming Back

I have taken time off from my blog because I needed to spend extra energy finding my feet after my heart illness.  The transition has not been easy.  This post may come as a bit of a contradiction when compared to my summer post about returning to playing, but returning to work and returning to my previous playing level are, and were, two different things.

One of the things that I found most troublesome was the inconsistency that I encountered on a week to week basis.  Repertoire, teaching, chamber music, and family life all contributed to my struggles. The numerous beta blockers diminished my concentration levels, and I noticed that with certain repertoire I still lacked the power and/or stamina and even after 10 months this still remains a problem.  I have had some colleagues tell me that they thought that it might take a year to recover what I have lost, we will see.  I know from past experience that the old axiom, "1 day off/ 2 days to recover" holds true for me.  That would mean 8 months to recover my full stamina (March-April).

A detail concerning my "heart failure" and its impact is about oxygenation of the blood. Reduced heart function (65% at this time) means less efficienct oxygenation.  This means (in my experience) that getting fresh blood into the lip muscles takes longer.  Long, loud phrases are more difficult and I tire faster than usual.  To be honest, I never thought about conserving energy in the past.  I was always used to having not only enough, but extra in reserve.  Now…….

It is so hard to train yourself (at age 49) to take it easy and plan how to get through the whole rehearsal, concert, or even the next 15 minutes.  My practice sessions have gone down to 30 minutes at a time.  I used to do 45-60, but that is now impossible.  Becoming conservative at my age may seem odd, but it is really a problem.

As is often the case in these situations you always second guess yourself and wonder what colleagues think. I know that I haven't been myself and I know that it may not be completely obvious to everyone, but it is a worry.


The previous paragraphs were written before Christmas.  Things have improved a lot since then.  I decided that I would say no to all free-lancing until after Christmas of last year.  That decision cost me a lot of money, but also bought me piece of mind.  January of this year saw me start to say yes.  It has turned out to be a painful lesson, but a valuable one.

This January I started to finally feel like myself, but had trouble putting together back to back weeks of high quality.  Mental fatigue was as big a part as the physical part.  Confidence is the "golden ticket" to horn playing.  If you have put in the hard work you build a solid base of confidence, but when you sit down in the orchestra it takes time. 

More on this later, but for now I will be catching up on various topics which have been put on the back burner for the last 6 months.

© Bruce Richards 2012-2019