If all goes as planned, this is my final weekend of convalescence. I’m up to 90 minutes of playing a day now, and well on my way to more than that. My progress over the past week, especially, has verged on the exponential, which is heartening!
Next week, I’ll be playing the first half of the Classical 4 program, which will mean for me that I play two pieces by Lili Boulanger. The Mendelssohn First Piano Concerto (with the fabulous Stephen Hough) is reduced down to six players, and since I’ll be sitting DFL for this concert (orch-dork speak for “Dead F-ing Last”), I’m done for the night. It will be an easy way to come back to work, evaluate the stress level on my body, and then see how I will structure the rest of my return to full-time status.
The next ‘big’ program is Classical 5, which mostly consists of the massive Symphony No. 6 by Gustav Mahler. I’ll need to be careful approaching that week, and be realistic about my energy reserves and the amount of stress I can put on my recovering shoulder muscles. The orchestra is being great about allowing me to come back on my own terms, and would rather I come back slowly than try to come back too fast and miss much more time – which is my sentiment exactly.
It has been such a strange journey these past few months. Normally I get to the end of the summer break and am raring to go into the new season. In this case, I lost nearly three months, and my need for structured time has become only more acute. To say that I’m beyond ready (mentally) to come back is the understatement of the year!
Needless to say, I’ll blog my experience of coming back to work, and hopefully it might help those who suffer similar experiences to have something to compare their experiences to.
I just had my last scheduled check with the fracture clinic, and my clavicle break is considered fully healed. It’ll be about another 4-8 weeks before I can do pull-ups or push-ups on the arm (pardon me while I stifle my laughter at that likelihood), but I’m cleared to really ramp up my work to get back into playing shape.
I’ve been working with my physical therapy team on ways to get my range of motion up to par, and to build the strength necessary to play the instrument for upwards of 4-6 hours a day. At this point in time I’m at about 20-30 minutes per day. The plan is to play until tired and keep track of the time trajectory. I need to be careful not to overdo it. It may be possible to come back to part-time readiness in the orchestra in about two weeks if things work out the way I hope they will. Ultimately, however, I’ll have to make the call on whether I’m up to what I choose to take on. The last thing I want to do is return to work only to have to take more time off because I came back too soon.
It was only when I began to contemplate the way to plan my reentry into the season that I became aware of the sheer physical demands that the job makes on one, even at the peak of health. Not to mention the mental preparation involved. I’m finding myself daunted by the prospect. It’s a bit intimidating, and my self-confidence is not at an all-time high as a result. I just have to keep reminding myself that each day must be taken by itself, and as the follow – one after the other – progress will be made.
Yesterday marked the first day that I was able to play anything on my viola for a period of time measurable in minutes rather than seconds. It was both a relief and a stark reminder of how far I have to go. There will be questions of how my instrument is set up to deal with, both in terms of the chin rest and the shoulder pad. I may have to go higher with the chin rest, and lower with the shoulder pad, to relieve pressure on the clavicle, but I may adjust – the left clavicle is a bit higher than it used to be, and that will take some adjusting to. Overall, it is good progress, which I will be steadily building on. I remarked to my wife after I was done that it felt like playing an entire Mahler symphony, not a simple three-octave scale! I am truly missing being at work with all of my colleagues, and also want to get out on my bike again before the weather really turns to the rainy season. These are two powerful motivators, as is my diminishing sick leave balance!