Yesterday served as an interesting laboratory experiment to test some of my theories about making my performance life work. On Friday morning my life started normally with the household routine running smoothly in its divinely inspired order. I was fueled and lubricated by caffeinated coffee and a just enough bagel-borne carbohydrates to allow my brain neural networks to operate. This was a concert day as I had a performance/demonstration scheduled at a local college music department later in the day. So I was happy to get the family out the door so I could get to the piano to gently remind my head and hands about what they were supposed to remember later in the day.
All was going according to plan, but I made the mistake of checking my e-mail one time too many. Of course on the last glance there was an urgent message from someone on the East coast who desperately needed to tell me that my next performance trip scheduled for 5 days hence had fallen apart. I will spare you all the particulars, but the essential fact was that the trip was going to be postponed and my thoughts for the day would be overshadowed by all the things I needed to communicate to people on the other side of the country. All the while, I really needed to have my head on straight to play some demanding repertoire for an audience who was expecting me to be on the top of my game.
Honestly, my first response to the situation was not particularly poised or clear-headed. My initial reaction was to honestly own the disappointment with the reality. It probably did not take that long but it seemed important to just sit with the mess for a minute, in part to figure out what was true and what was not about the circumstance, but it also seemed important to own the emotional response in the moment. This is not my first inclination--usually I am one to bottle things up and go into deep denial. Soon I realized that it would be better for everyone involved if I took a brief period of time to verify the facts on the ground. My thinking was that then I would be able to put the necessary decisions behind me so that I could effectively turn my attention to the concert I was about to play.
As it turned out, the denouement of this mini-drama was boringly uneventful. After two phone conversations and some quick decisions about how to best frame the necessary communications with some disappointed people on the other side of the country, I was able to set the matter aside well enough to get on with the day. At the performance in the afternoon I felt that I played well and that I connected with my audience in a meaningful way. During the question and answer period that followed, the students were quite engaged with my ideas about the music and the process of performance.
So the moral to my story is this--shifts happen. Those adverse changes that we cannot predict and seem to disrupt everything we understood before. As performers we like to minimize the scariest of the surprises, but sooner or later your life will run over a speed bump of some kind. In those moments we rarely have much control of the big circumstantial framework in which we operate. There really isn't much of a choice except to adapt to reality to the best of our abilities. As Byron Katie has eloquently written in many different places, "You can choose to argue with reality, but you probably won't win very often."
As we prepare for our lives' performances we really cannot control the circumstances that confront us along our own individual paths. Sooner or later something is going to just show up that is at least inconvenient, or at other times even life jarring. In each of these moments we are presented with a choice of how we will respond in the face of the situation. Truthfully, one way or another, my plans will work themselves out over time. The best thing for me was that, at least on this one occasion, I did not allow the challenging change in next week's plans to ruin the work I needed to do that day.