Our fear of being unprepared won’t end well

By Hattie Butterworth

Lying in bed at 9:40 on a Sunday night isn’t an easy place. The looming week ahead has coined the phrase ‘Sunday Blues’ for a good reason, and here I find myself hard-core relating. Tomorrow sees a rehearsal with my piano trio- the second rehearsal since playing together again and, truthfully, I am elated.

But I feel a return of the familiar anxiety, stomach churn and realisation that my brain isn’t satisfied. My mind wants reassurance. I don’t feel prepared- I usually do more work than this for a rehearsal.Today has been draining- I’ve actually felt a bit depressed the past few days, which can make practice difficult and I want to push back. This heavy brain-baggage is pulling me towards compulsive late night practice. A dark and draining place for those who know it. It promises a strange allure- the paradoxical thrill of working when everyone else is turning to rest. I tell myself I can’t rest because I am not finished. I am not worthy of rest yet.

To have recognised this compulsion is a step and it is why I am writing. There isn’t any real bone in my body that wants to go back to practice now. I am giving in to the fear of unpreparedness. Who am I, flawed, in the face of my two brilliant friends?

I think about what the trio, Sophie and Songeun, would want me to do if they were here. Our Ravel trio depends on me getting my shit together learning the part, but still I know they’d want me to honour the pull to rest. The only person here that is dissatisfied is me.

To be unprepared is to be alive. I can’t be ready for the future because the future is out of my control. I can decide to prepare in line with my physical and mental health, understanding that my love for the cello is a mutual affair. If I push myself too hard, the burn out forces me to stop. If I don’t push at all, I sense a longing and my life feels hollow in some way.

This evening I was given a choice, either to honour the familiar brain path to burn out and dissatisfaction, or to work with my mind and not against it- to place my worth as a person above my skill level as a cellist, because that is healing and kind and feels right.

Stay awkward, imperfect and unprepared

Hattie xx

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