Contented

Today was always going to be hectic. I bag packed for four hours this morning, and had a flute lesson straight afterwards. I was met at my flute teacher’s house by a friend, and we went for a very rushed coffee. It’s been a day involving a lot of standing up, forced smiles, and encouraging words for the small people in yellow who I was helping at the supermarket. It was a little awkward, and I’ve been feeling a little emotional as of late. I knew the leader at bag packing is having a hard time, she told me twice today that I was awesome and someone to be relied on, and when I said goodbye, she said she would miss me. I really wanted to give her a hug and say thank you, but even though I’m eighteen now, I didn’t feel like I could. A similar thing happened when I left my flute teacher’s house. It was a little strange. My flute teacher knows most of my life happenings, but it’s just one step too far.

Of course, as is with everything right now, my best friend *cough, we’re retitling her ‘big sister’, asap* changed things. You may remember that back in March, I wrotethis post about lighting a candle in the church with my best friend. Tonight, we went and did that again. This time, we lit two candles each in the church. I don’t know what her two candles were for, and she doesn’t know what mine were for. I’d tell her if she asked, but there wasn’t a chance. I don’t know what it was that made tonight feel any different from any other time that she’s comforted me when I’m having a tough time, but today just was really special. I could see it in her eyes that she really meant everything that she said, and that every hug she gave me, when she held my hand, or gently touched my arm, it was about love, friendship, and nothing else. In a strange way, it kind of upset me more. She wasn’t doing it because she had to, she was doing it because she cared. She essentially had to carry me out of that church, and walk me back to the car with her arm around me and my head resting on her shoulders, whispering comforting words once more. She’s given me her ring again, the one that says ‘believe’. She’s told me to keep it until January. It’s one month until I see her again. It’s going to be a loooong month, and there’s going to be battles to fight. But I’ll do it, and then I get three whole days of her time, and that’s so exciting!

I’m lying on my bed now, my eyes still stinging from the tears, but I’m strangely content. I let music back into my life today, and a couple of days ago, I let my best friend back into my head, too. And breathe. I’m safe now. She tells me it’ll be okay, and that she’s always here for me. We may fight, but we’re essentially family, so it doesn’t change anything. I believe her. Christmas is a time for belief, and a time to be content.

Music

I can’t decide if music is my drug or my enemy. I can’t decide if it keeps me sane, or drives me to insanity, and sometimes, that’s a very very horrible thought.

I’ve grown up to be a flautist, having flute lessons since the age of seven. My first flute teacher was fantastic, but when I moved schools at age ten, playing the flute lost all its joy. My new flute teacher was evil, and regardless of how determined I always was, she knocked me down, and I failed. Time and time again. I had no musical background to fall back on, and my parents simply didn’t understand. Lacking confidence anyway, that teacher crushed me just a little too much, and when I moved schools again at age fourteen, I didn’t speak to my new teacher for a very very long time. What that lady did however, was bring joy and confidence back into my life, and I cannot thank her enough.

She’s taught me that music relaxes me, and allows me to breathe, and to forget. When I’m playing, I cannot concentrate on exams and stress, and so it gives me time out. It’s a beautiful feeling, to feel the tension fall from your shoulders, but it can mean that you open up a little too much sometimes, and that can be dangerous.

What playing the flute doesn’t do however, is make feelings go away. It may allow me to forget about work and exams, because I cannot concentrate on two things at once, but in allowing me to let go, playing music allows everything to escape that has built up inside me for so long. Bands and orchestras are a little different. It’s not ‘my’ music, and I can struggle to become emotionally attached, but solo pieces have a different story entirely. There’s death, love, smiles, and tears all associated with each piece I play, depending on when I learnt it, and what it sounds like. For someone who struggles to name emotions, music is a way that I can explain how I’m feeling. That can be a godsend, but when I’m trapped in a little room with my teacher in the corner of the music block, it can be hell. It can end in tears, because sometimes, the music just gets too much.

The more I let build up inside me, the more I find that the music tears me apart. I’ve stopped practicing my flute, because it’s too much to handle. The rush of emotion is difficult to cope with, and it can exhaust me physically and mentally for days and days. It’s horrible, because I loved it. I love playing, and I don’t want to loose that, but it’s too much emotion. I can’t cope with the flute when I’m struggling, and recently has been a time like that.

As time passes and I drift further and further from my love of playing and my desire to get my grade eight, I’m finding that other things are affecting me more. Without that little time to offload, I’m simply letting the wall get higher and higher, and so not only do I not want to talk at all, I want to ignore my feelings, and when something does make that wall come crashing down, I’m struggling to cope. Again, it’s only music that can achieve it. Listening now makes all the difference. The classical music in the foyer of the doctors, the pieces played in the christmas concert, and the lyrics to some songs on the radio.

There’s a song in the charts right now which has the first line ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you wish you were dead.’ I hate it. Every time I hear it, it destroys me, leaving a mess behind. It goes against everything I’ve taught myself to believe over the past few years, and somehow, that combination of words and sound brings back too many memories. Friendship. Eating disorders. Stress. Hope. Hatred. Pain. Talking. Hiding. Depression.

It’s sad that I’m leaving music behind. It’s just another way to cut myself off from the world, but this time, it’s something that I really love. I don’t want to loose the things that I love, because that will only make coping harder. The worst is yet to come in all sorts of ways for all sorts of people, and I need to be strong, and I need to be ready. Now isn’t the time to say my goodbyes to music, but I’ve simply forgotten how to use music to my advantage. I’ve forgotten a lot of things related to emotions really. I’ve forgotten how to talk, I’ve forgotten how to play. And I mustn’t. I mustn’t allow myself to do this anymore.

Perhaps tomorrow I can face my fear, and play my flute. It would be nice to do so without the pain, and it would be nice to do so without someone having to remind me, or ask me. Something tells me however that I won’t do it without a nudge. It’s just like leaping off a diving board for the first time. If you’re afraid of heights and there’s nobody behind to push you, you probably won’t bother. This time, there’s nobody to nudge me.

Missing the Music

I’ve joined orchestra, concert band, and flute choir. I’ve made a few trips to the practice rooms, too. My flute definitely isn’t missing out on the uni action, and it’s providing vital breathing space for me from work.

One thing is simple though, it’s just not the same. I may be playing my flute, and things like playing Alladin might take me back to my solo in year ten, but it doesn’t mean it’s the same.

I want to be back at school, so I can have flute lessons. I want to walk into that room every Wednesday and know that for fourty minutes, I can be me. I can be quiet, refuse to make decisions, and laugh when I struggle with double tounging. I can say what I need to say and even if I end up crying, I won’t be judged. Nobody will be told about what I say, and I’m safe to let down all my guard and let the music swallow me.

I miss my flute teacher. I think about the day my best friend took me to her, crying my eyes out, and she just arranged for us all to have coffee so that we could talk properly. It was a fairly horrible day, but she reacted in the way that I never expected her to.

Often I wonder if it would be okay to just drop her a text. Say hi, see how things are going. I don’t think that’s appropriate though, is it?

I just want to escape back to that little room, and let the world swirl around me in a few moments of blissful ignorance.

Heartache

I decided, that since I have a lesson tomorrow, I should probably get out my flute. Of course, I jumped straight into my super difficult grade eight pieces that I haven’t played for at least ten weeks. It sounded awful. Okay Alex, warm up, play a few scales, and try again. Still awful.

Okay, scrap that. Lets try my old grade six and seven pieces. Better, still not great.

Disney book. Much better. It finally kind of sounds like me!

The more I played, however, the more I realised that the music wasn’t the problem. Of course, lack of practice is never going to help my technique, but the longer I played the more sickĀ I began to feel. The strange thing was that it wasn’t an ‘I’m ill sick’ or an ‘I ate too much’ sick, it seemed to be more of a nervous kind of sick. That’s silly though, how can I be nervous about playing some easy pieces on my flute in my bedroom when the only people in my house are my tone deaf family? I’m not nervous, am I?

It seems that there are a few issues related to playing my flute today. First, I’m worried. The fact that my practice didn’t go well concerns me because not only will my lesson tomorrow be unproductive, I will also probably be told off for not practicing. On my last lesson. That sucks.

I haven’t practiced because I’m afraid, and to be honest, that’s the real issue here. I’m afraid to play for a number of reasons. The first is because it makes me feel like I’m failing for no reason. My new music is really hard, and if I thought I could get my grade eight, it would feel like it had a purpose, but I know I can’t have lessons this year, and so the purpose is void. I’m fighting for nothing, no goal to strive for.

Secondly, I fear playing because it gives me an emotional escape, and that can trigger a lot of memories, both good and bad. They’re not all flute related, but the music allows you to ignore the present and delve into your mind, and that can often be dangerous.

Probably though, the reason that I really feel sick is because the flute is simply another reminder of what I’m leaving behind. The flute signifies my school days, my safety, and security. It allowed me to make friends, to grow up, and to become an adult. If I really think about it, becoming an adult is scary, and the flute is just another reminder of what I’m leaving behind now I have left school, both physically and emotionally. That hurts sometimes.

I only managed fifteen minutes before I found myself collapsed in a heap, tears rolling down my face. I promise that I really am excited for University, it’s just difficult to leave my routine behind, and all the things that I love. Flute has been a huge escape for me the past two years, and loosing that has undoubtedly resulted in heartache.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

A letter to… My Flute Teacher

To my amazing flute teacher,

Wow. What can I say? For the past four years, you’ve been teaching me flute, and I have come on leaps and bounds. Just fourty minutes a week has completely transformed me as both a flautist and a person. I’m sure you remember just as well as I do the girl that first walked into your room four years ago, desperately clutching her grade five book, silent as a mouse, and shaky. The questions you asked me, and I couldn’t even answer. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the answer as much that I had been so afraid of my previous teacher that I just couldn’t answer.

Somehow though, you drew the confidence from within me, and four years on, four solos in four flute concerts, and two grades later, I’m a changed person. Okay, I’ll admit even the latest concert was daunting, and I don’t even know how I managed to make it through the second piece of my grade seven because I was shaking uncontrollably, but four years ago, I wouldn’t have even dreamed of trying.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago to list off the things that I have achieved outside of school lessons and exams this year. Of course, being me, I wouldn’t just say what I’ve done, but when the person in question asked about music grades, I couldn’t help but break into a grin. I’m so proud of my grade seven merit, and I certainly wouldn’t have done it without you.

In many senses, you were the first adult I ever learnt to trust. You’ve always had an amazing ability to figure me out, and to do exactly the right thing in each situation. That’s meant that I feel like I really clicked with you, I look up to you, and that I can trust you. I feel like you understand me, and so this year, I have told you things that I haven’t told anyone else. You know me a lot better than many people, and I know that you know what to say and do in each situation.

You’ve been much more than a flute teacher to me this year, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Thank you, so much. I’m sure going to miss you.

Alex

*This is part of a personal summer challenge that I have set myself to write ‘a letter’ to a different person or thing every week. I plan for there to be nine letters in total, and if anyone would like to join in this summer, even if just for one letter, or a letter to a person of their own, please link back to my blog, as I’d love to see it!*

Okay Without Wishes

I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it tonight. I spent a few hours in A&E this evening, and we were pushing it. I had the thrill of changing in a car park, and running to the venue where someone else had luckily tuned my flute for me. It’s always me that gets into the wars, isn’t it!?

I had to be there. Tonight was the night of my last ever concert with my school jazz band. That’s sad, I’m so so upset to leave. In the last piece of my set, I had tears in my eyes, but tonight, I found watching the other bands harder still.

With her very ill and at home, I stood and watched others play the solos that should belong to my best friend. Once more, I looked for a star to wish upon. Again, the clouds meant that I couldn’t find one. Maybe that means that we don’t need a star and it’ll be okay without wishes. I’m not going to stop wishing on my heart though, I simply cannot take that risk.

I’m contemplating life again, and I’m not sure how it’s going to pan out. It’s a big and scary world out there, but I’ve decided that I need to keep up a game of pretend, concentrate on the little things, and have fun. I’ve enjoyed tonight, but I think that the given situation meant that it was important to sit alone and let down my guard for a few seconds, to allow myself to worry.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Dance The Night Away

We’ve been dancing since they asked us to dance. We’re the only ones, the audience aren’t dancing. A little girl in a white dress appears, and I smile and wave. Next thing you know, she’s dancing too. FINALLY standing there and making a fool of myself is worth it, because she’s super cute. No adults have gotten up to dance, but she’s still there, spinning around and jumping up and down, and it makes me happy because she’s enjoying herself.

All night, nobody else came to dance, but we stayed and danced with her as she chattered away in Italian, me smiling and showing what I thought were appropriate facial expressions at the right points. At the end of the night, with the help of her dad, she shouted ‘bye bye’ – SO CUTE.

I was happy too, because I needed to smile. My best friend didn’t make it to music tour because of her awful blisters from DofE. I’m missing her, and I feel awful because I wish I was at home with her. But that little girl made me smile so much, and I wish I could have told her how much that meant.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Music Is My Drug

I took the drive home from the leavers concert this evening as a time to reflect. The sky was a baby blue, cut through with marks of bright orange and coral, carefully blended to sugar pink around the edges, and a deep ocean colour as it neared the horizon.

I’ve just listened to two hours of beautiful music, produced by my peers and friends. Our year group is full of fantastic musicians, many of whom will go far. For me however, I decided that three particular performances stood out.

Second in the programme was a flautist. She played a beautiful piece which I will not name for fear of an incorrect spelling. It was calm, collected, dreamy. I was enjoying the performance, relaxing in the music. Towards the end, I realised that I had tears in my eyes. It took me a while to figure of where the wave of emotion had washed from. Of course, it made perfect sense really. That’ll be the last time I ever hear her play. That’s the girl who I aspire to be like, to be as good as. That’s the girl who came and collected me from my grade seven and took me out for coffee. That’s my best friend.

Another girl played a piece from memory on her saxophone. I have no words for this, only feelings. I shut my eyes and absorbed the music. I drank it up like it was a drug. I felt all the anxiety and worry that I had been feeling earlier in the day leave me. I felt myself physically relax. My shoulders dropped, even though I didn’t know they were up. My hands relaxed, even though I didn’t know I was clutching them into fists. I felt free, safe, and happy. For a girl who merely hours previously said that she was so worried that she just wanted to curl up in a ball, it was a little strange. I said I didn’t even want to play the flute ever again, I just wanted to climb into bed. But the music this evening had me firmly in it’s grasp. It wasn’t letting me escape.

Our school have an amazing band. They played last. In their encore, a few of us clambered onto the stage to sing and dance along. That’s a memory I love. It’s like music tour, and it makes me laugh. It makes me smile. And tonight, I really needed that.

I just hope that one day I’ll be confident enough to make it up onto the stage out of choice. Because I know that I’ll live to regret not performing tonight.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

The Bucket List

About two years ago, I started writing a bucket list of fifty things I wanted to do before I die. Today, my list is fourty seven items long, and I’ve completed seven. I’ve decided that it’s time to give you a little peak into my world. My list, as you’re going to see, rangers from the small and seemingly easy to the massive mental and physical challenges, as well as some exciting things along the way.

Number 24 was the first item that I completed: read all the Harry Potter books. Although not a particularly difficult challenge, I felt a great sense of achievement from being able to write ‘done Jan 2013’ next to it, and it really spurred me on to keep going with my list.I first made s’mores over a fire at winter camp with Rangers in February 2013. They were amazing! Giving blood was challenge number 23. It was something that I really wanted to do, but I was very afraid of. However, a week after my best friend turned seventeen, we went together. I’ve been three times now, and am going for my fourth in a few weeks. Is fantastic, and so rewarding! I was so happy to pass my driving test with one minor in October. Alcohol has always been an issue for me, and it’s always something that I worried about. I’m proud to say however that in February I completed number 13, and 14: drink a glass of wine and go to a party with alcohol. My most recent achievement, and something that I’m extremely proud of is getting the Chief Guide Challenge award. I went to the presentation evening in April, and it was fabulous.

I’ve also got fifteen that I’m planning to try and complete in the next year.

1. Complete gold dofe
6. Complete my ALQ
8. Train as a monitor for ATE
9. Get my grade 8 flute
18. Keep in touch with my best friend from high school while at university
19. Watch the sunset on a beach with someone I love – of course, I’m not sure if this one will happen, but it’s an aim
20. Write letters to myself for later stages in life
22. Enter a photo competition
34. Take an exam without stressing – I’ll be very very lucky if I manage that before I leave school!
35. Before I leave school, donate hair to the little princess trust – booked in, it’s on Friday!
37. Bake each friend a special muffin for the last day of year 13
38. Run 10K – in three weeks!
39. Learn basic piano – my best friend was supposed to be helping me with this. I hope we get there sometime!
42. Say sorry only when you need to – this is a massive mental challenge, but I feel that I’ve come so far, I can make it all the way in the next year
47. Surprise my best friend one weekend at uni with coffee, pizza, cinema, and lots of chats

Today however, I discovered something really cool – a bucket list of friendship. I don’t think it’s something that I’d ever mention to my best friend, she’d probably think I’d gone mad. Separately, privately, and without discussion, you each write five things that you want to do together in the next year. Then you sit together, combine your lists, and make the first plan. As you complete each thing, you cross the item off the list. Going off to university is something that I’m really worried about. I’m a complete ball of anxiety over silly things sometimes, and I’m often worried that my best friend will forget about me. I do wonder if this would help me feel better? To know we always have a plan… That way, she can’t forget. As I said, ill never mention it though. I may be a lot more confident than I was when we met three years ago, but I still have a bit of a fear of being judged. Maybe you can try it though, I’m sure it’d be great fun!

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Escape.

Everyone needs to escape occasionally. To let go, to breathe, and to take time away. Away from the stress, the panic, the noise, and the voices. Many people say that their dreams are their escape, but for me, they’re not. They’re the enemy.

I know someone who says that running is her escape. But for me, it’s not that either. Running is a time to think and a time to contemplate. I use it as a time to make decisions. It’s a time to figure out a plan of action, and work out what I need to do and how and when I’m going to do it all.

Reading and writing help. My blog is a chance to express myself in a safe environment. But is it an escape? Not really. I’m frequently blogging whilst doing other things. Like right now, I’m babysitting and have a nine year old jumping on and off me. I’m watching Tom and Jerry, and I’m hearing the latest story about playground crushes.

Girlguiding is helping. Volunteering allows me to be free, and to concentrate on my making sure that my Rainbows spend an hour a week with me which makes them smile. That they make friends, learn new things, and grow and develop into strong and independent young people; ready to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and leap over to their big sisters in Brownies.

But the only thing that really allows me to let go? The one thing that means I can escape for a little while? It means that I don’t have to worry about when I last washed my hands, or what I’ve touched since. I don’t have to think about school work, exams or stress. Worrying about my best friend, and what she ate, and how she’s feeling? Nope, I don’t have to.

And I don’t have to listen to anything, I don’t have to pay attention to what is being said. Because I’m concentrating on the music and I’m escaping to another world. A world that is free and safe. A place that I don’t ever need to worry or be afraid. It’s just me and the music. My flute teacher is playing the piano or watching in the corner. She could even be giving me advice, or playing along. But it doesn’t matter because I’m alone now. I’m breathing properly, and I’m just reading the notes, working out the rhythm, and playing them. The music is coming out, and so are all my feelings. It’s the only time I’m free. And I’m happy.

Escape is important. It reminds us that we’re all human and we all need to take time out. It reminds us the importance of smiling. And every week I leave that flute lesson and I feel refreshed and ready to face the world.

So to my flute teacher I say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to merit my grade seven and for giving me confidence. Thank you for asking questions, for knowing when to just stay silent and let me play. Most importantly, thank you for teaching me to escape.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw