A few months ago I was able to conduct maskless in front of a maskless orchestra. This week, with the Cincinnati Symphony, I’ve donned my mask again, as have the strings and percussion sections. I can’t see everyone’s face again – nor can they see mine. The little bit of normalcy I was finally able to experience at work has yet again been taken away.
It felt like we were collectively on the right track, moving towards a future with some sense of certainty, only to be thrust back to where that hopeful horizon again seems a distant blur. And to have that bit of expectation, of hope, yanked away again is not simply frustrating, but disillusioning.
I think we’re all battling that sense of fatigue; hope is energizing, and the loss of hope feels as much a physiological let down as it is an emotional one. And I know that I’ve found it increasingly difficult not to be pulled back into the defensive crouch in which I spent a great deal of the last 18 months. Which has led me to ponder, how do I move forward? How do I make progress when the world seems to be regressing?
A wonderful mindfulness teacher once told me that fostering feelings about what should or should not be happening keeps us from accepting things as they are. And I’ve been thinking a lot about this a lot the last few weeks, as I’ve been lost in my “shoulds” – we should be in a better state, we should be moving towards higher vaccination numbers, there shouldn’t be a record number of Covid hospitalizations, my friends in the medical field shouldn’t be thrust back into the frantic despair of the beginning of this pandemic.
Yet here we are.
At one point I felt that letting go of shoulds/shouldn’ts meant I was giving up on a better future. Accepting the present as it is doesn’t feel aspirational – it’s hard not to think of it abandoning the possibility of improvement. But I’ve realized that I was approaching it the wrong way.
The same teacher told me that every moment is a moment of evolution, and I think everything is contingent on this truth. Because accepting our present as it is doesn’t imply a static state; it simply means that we are moving through the present, moment by passing moment, and moving to all of the upcoming moments that hold the possibility of change.
The present may be challenging, but the only way to move forward to accept it as it is, because it’s this acceptance that allows us to move forward. When we are grasping at our “shoulds”, we are stuck in the sense that our lives betraying us. We are static in this constantly frustrated state. And that’s a painful – and exhausting – state in which to be.
I’m exhausted of my exhaustion, and so I’ve decided to focus on the things immediately at hand; planning for tomorrow’s rehearsal. Feeding Pinkerton. Spending a few minutes stretching because I never seem to stretch enough, and I have 10 minutes now, right now, in this present. And feeling connected to this continuous cascade of moments slows me down enough to let go of my anger towards the world, to accept that regardless of the choices that have brought us to this point we are still at this point, and that we still need to live through today.
And so today, after a long day of work, I feel tired, but not exhausted. I feel that I’ve at least shifted the needle from my neural groove of my frustration, and that I’m ready for a different tune.