Why is it so hard to accept being crazy?


Up until quite recently, cello has been something quite outside the rest of my normal life. Maybe that doesn’t make very much sense, since I’ve spoken before about how I’ve all but completely rearranged my life around playing the instrument. It’s been different because somehow I’ve managed to mostly keep my own insanity out of it. Yes, there have been numerous blog posts filled with my ever present neuroses, but that’s not quite what I’m trying to talk about. So far, the cello has given me more joy and happiness than anything else I have done in my life. I feel more like the person I always wished I was rather than the person I wished I didn’t have to be. Whenever I have gotten in the way of my own learning, I’ve managed to just simply set my neuroses down and get on with things (after some crazy blog posts, of course!)

But now there’s now. Okay, so that didn’t make any sense either. Let me see if I can figure out how to say this. For the past year and a couple months or however long it’s been, I feel like I’ve only been playing cello with part of myself (the non-crazy part.) I’ve been making progress despite my neuroses and without my neuroses. I feel like I’ve been pretending to be someone else and learning to play cello based on that person. Note to self: You’re sounding even crazier!! I’ve spent so much of my life wishing I didn’t have to be stuck inside my own head — as soon as I could talk I was apparently expressing this type of sentiment to my mother, or so she says.

Crap. I have no idea how to say any of this.

I have been playing cello for the last year with only part of myself —> I haven’t been playing cello with my whole entire self!

Disconnected thoughts here. Okay, so what got me thinking about all this nonsense? A reply to me in a comment thread of the Il Troubadore Klingon Music Project FB page:

Well, as Spock said to Saavik in the movie. “Kling akhlami buhfik, Elysia-kam!”

Sadly, I had to google it, since I’m not awesome enough to speak Klingon, and it means nobody’s perfect. Clearly I’m not, since I don’t speak Klingon! This has been a wee bit of a theme throughout my life. Okay, more than a theme, but I’m trying to be somewhat nice to myself here. I once had a teacher (non-academic) when I was younger who got really mad at me and yelled something to the effect of “You’d make faster progress if you stopped trying to be so perfect all the time!!!” It took two years of chewing it over before I finally grasped what he was saying.

This got me thinking about what I started out saying at the beginning. This theme, this one about perfectionism, it gets in the way. So far it has served me well in learning to play (no wonder I’ve been so happy for the last year!) Except I’m not playing cello with my whole self. I have to figure out a way to allow in the unwanted parts and play cello with those too. So this is what I meant about until now cello has been outside the rest of my life — it wasn’t, but I thought it was because I was being ignorant about something I already knew.

@Jon– Who would have thought that a comment said in jest would have resulted in this? (I’m assuming you were the one who wrote that comment, yes?)


6 responses »

  1. It almost seems like maybe you have OVER-accepted that you are crazy, Elysia 🙂 I mean, if the craziness and the “unwanted parts” are hanging out somewhere else while you’re occupied with the cello, why not just go with that and the feeling happy instead of looking for a way of letting them in?! Maybe there are ways of letting that energy and mindset spill into the rest of life, rather than insist on letting the crazy “rest of life” enter into the cello…?

    From what you’ve written on the blog, at least, it seems like lots of what you feel are your neuroses are to do with you being in the position of a student, of being evaluated and evaluating yourself in those classroom and learning situations that didn’t really serve you well and gave you some narratives about yourself that have taken root (like being convinced you’ll eventually disappoint — as you talked about in another post). I don’t think it’s _you_ that’s stuck in your head (well, no more than we all are stuck in our own heads and bodies!), but, to some extent at least, those narratives that you’ve let be “truths” about yourself that are stuck in your head…

    Even though you’re a “student” of the cello, you’re not stuck in that lousy educational context anymore, and there aren’t really those kinds of judges around; this is just you doing your thing, how you like and to what ends you like! And probably the neuroses-inclined part of you gets plenty of exercise and worthwhile places to deploy its energies in keeping you practising and super-focused on getting the latest cello-quandary to improve, so I think you can just keep calm and carry on and be happy! 😀 (or freak out and break things, of course, as sometimes that sounds more fun, and frankly, metronomes deserve it now and then 😉 )

    • My poor metronome. I’ve been able to fix it every time, but it really doesn’t deserve the beatings it has gotten!

      But to the topic at hand. I’m doing the worst job ever articulating. Gonna try again… So I talked about the perfectionism problem. Every tiny little mistake sets of a ridiculous internal monologue, which is incredibly unhelpful. It’s absolute insanity what happens inside my head when I make a mistake, especially when it’s a mistake I know how to avoid doing. This sort of internal monologue of crazy is more what I was trying to convey. The thing is that I can’t just turn it off. Instead, I get crazier and beat myself up about it. Then I beat myself up for beating myself up. And so on. It’s quite absurd. Before I can work with my own internal bullshit I have to accept it, really accept it. It’s there, yet I push it away, which gives it more power, etc. So I have to just work on allowing myself to have the crazy that’s already there before I can actually do something about it. So I have to sit there practicing, allowing myself to feel those crazy feelings since they are there anyway. And I have to sit there with my cello trying to accept the awful sounds that come out of her.

      Oy. Lost my train of thought. Does that clarify a bit more?

      • oh, yes, definitely I see what you mean now! And I know exactly what you mean… I think there are certain types in whom this voice is more active than others…I have one too, maybe a bit different to yours…I’m not a perfectionist but can find other fuel for the voice!

        I once read an article in a pop psychology magazine at the hairdresser’s that scripted out 2 internal monologues — the acutely self-reflexive person’s and somebody else’s (I forget what they called the other type) but this person’s was all focused on external happenings — my eyes goggled at the thought it was even possible to think like this other person! (With the anecdotal rehashing of the pop psych magazine I clearly offer a searingly profound commentary on this matter! 🙂 )

        I guess Dostoevsky made an art form out of the self-reflexive type’s internal monologue… Have you read Notes from the Underground? (I personally can’t stand it, but the Underground Man has a lot of that going on…)

        Along with happy acceptance of oneself, I do think it’s possible to kind of “re-train” the inner voice a bit, though — to have some conscious strategies to break the vicious circle (and sometimes vicious lacerations to one’s own self)…

  2. I wonder if your teacher wasn’t really suggesting that you should stop over analyzing things versus being a perfectionist… This learning experience – i.e. learning the cello – is your journey. If it makes you happier to be a perfectionist, then have at it. Perfectionism is a driving force to improve. Just don’t get too down on yourself if you’re not perfect.

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