Posted by: eaubeauhorn | February 23, 2008

Getting out of my own way

I’m very aware that my biggest task in life is to simply get out of my own way; it’s hard to remember that day-to-day but I keep trying.

I have my own very personal story about a manifestation of that, that is a very clear lesson for me (I tend to be deaf to lessons because I am in my own way to such a huge extent.)

Thirteen years ago, when I was 45, I took up the (french) horn. I have a degree in music (violin) but had gotten a degree in electrical engineering in my late 30’s, that I use to make a living. Music became a beloved avocation, but I didn’t enjoy playing the violin any more. I took the horn very seriously and embarked on a continued quest to become as proficient as I possibly could on it. Unfortunately I was not able to get good instruction, despite intense efforts in that direction, and was constantly trying to get results that were beyond the physical technique that I had. I did reach a pro-am level, but got there via strong left brain “forcing” of my body to do things that were beyond it, with a continuing “you *must* do this” MO.

A subtle but important disctinction, between allowing and forcing of technique, one that I run into with every physical thing I try to learn, from tennis to musical instruments. I developed a condition called task-specific focal (embouchure) dystonia (you can google it if you are curious) that made it impossible to continue; I lost my position in the orchestra. Every time I “tried” to play….my body would do weird things. It’s like you try to lift your foot and instead it wiggles side to side. Signals going down wrong pathways and producing illogical results. I have since learned that task-specific focal dystonia has a personal history associated with it, that includes parental demands of perfection. In order to overcome it, you have to quit demanding perfection from yourself, and “allow” things to happen instead of “forcing” them. Fascinating; without this particular painful lesson in something that was so incredibly dear to my heart….I don’t think I would have backed off at all on myself. But I had to if I wanted to play again. I’ve made excellent progress, but I’m not back to where I was, and I doubt if I ever will be; I’ve had to change my attitude and my approach in order to play at all. Most people who develop this kind of dystonia are just finished; it happens to high-level professionals.

And I took up a new instrument last summer, the oboe; I’m putting my attention on just letting progress happen at its own speed, not judging myself, and seeing what happens. I have nothing to lose and everything to learn. When I took up horn, it was, by my own assignment, a second chance to play an instrument and love it instead of disliking it. Now with the oboe, the “second chance” is to take up an instrument and stay out of my own way.



  1. I’m glad that you’re learning how to work with your blog!

    Nice new layout and obviously you’ve figured out how to post.

    It seems like a very good thing for you, to express yourself through writing in a blog — especially since you don’t have any REALLY “simpatico” friends nearby to talk with in person about the things truly important to you.

    Although not a specific goal, you just may end up with a few new cyber-friends as a result. Eventually.

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