I didn't pick up my flute once during that summer. When school started again, I felt geeky. My fingers slipped on the keys and I couldn't keep up with the music. The day we had to play in front of the whole band in order to determine our seating assignments, I froze. My hands sweat so much I could barely hold on to the flute. My shallow breathing couldn't make more than a squeak come out of the instrument. I tried several times to start on the right note - B flat, I still recall - and never got it right. Mercifully, Mr. Toney, moved on to the next player. I ended up in the last chair of about 10 flutes. It was the beginning of the end of my music career.
The end came later that year when band competitions were mandatory. I'm not sure which could have possible been worse - playing solo or with a group. I joined in with 3 other girls for a quartet. As luck would have it, a college student down the street could play the flute like a pro. She tutored me for weeks. I could play that piece backwards and forwards. I was ready for the competition. Until I came down with strep throat. I was sick, as in really sick, not just in a state of panic sick. I didn't attend the competition. My group had to back out which basically made me persona no grata. I was deflated and relieved at the same time. It would be 30 more years before I'd put myself in that kind of a position again.
And I've always wondered, as if there aren't more important things to take up the empty spaces in my brain, what might have happened if I'd tried to play that piece? Can you be so scared that you make yourself sick enough to need antibiotics and a series of B12 shots?
The reason I'm even bringing this up (in case you're wondering) is because I've been organizing the first Le Chat Writers Circle Give-Back-to-the-Community - a book drive for the homeless shelter in town. For weeks I've been driving around with books weighing down the back end of both cars. And now here I am in bed, the crud having moved from my head to my chest, passing through the flaming tunnel that was once my throat. On a much smaller scale, it is flute contest deja vu. Not so much the performance anxiety, but the feeling of letting others down.
Is it better to get up, get dressed, wrap a scarf around my neck and go, putting everyone else at risk of the plague? Or is it better to stay home and let it happen without me? Do people want a leader who walks into battle with no thought of her own health? Or will they thank the Lord for my good judgement? Who am I letting down - me or them?
Deep questions for a rather soggy brain. I think I'll take a swig of cough medicine and ponder while I sleep. I'm pretty sure if I completely turn this day over to recovery, tomorrow I'll be hefting and alphabetizing books to beat the band. (Pun intended!)
Today I'm grateful for the sun shining through the blinds making a nice warm spot of the floor for Suzi, the Nurse Dog, to sleep. I'm grateful I survived the 8th grade.
Wishing for you an opportunity to move beyond life's embarrassing moments,