Today I was playing bata with my teacher and I was doing well. My strikes were clear, and I was holding a pace consistency that was unhurried but moving along correctlywith the right amount of vigor. My focus was solid and I dimly was aware of almost no corrections from my teacher. He signaled me to speed up pace with him, which is unheard of, because it’s usually the opposite, and I made several cued transitions from one Okonkulo rhythm to another smoothly. I was in the Zone.
I knew part of this peak performance was because the other bata student is away at a drum camp and I was free of the distraction of her playing and the teacher correcting her. As I realized I was doing well, I began to think about how long and hard it’s been for me to get to this point, how utterly mad I used to think my teacher was in the demands he was making on me. How I used to fume and have tears come, fight to stay in the room. My focus began to waver. I started feeling more self conscious, and not in a good way.
He taught me something new I wasn’t used to, and a part that I had had trouble with before which I still don’t understand the nuances of became a disaster he corrected over and over. My focus deteriorated more, and I could hear my strokes getting muddier. This is usually the time when the emotional demons come: frustration turns to rage against the teacher; OR I start feeling helpless, it becomes shame and rips me apart from the inside out.
But something miraculous happened this time. Somehow I avoided getting pissed off at my teacher for insisting on something I have yet to fully comprehend technically and I kept on going though it was clear my best efforts weren’t cutting it. I accepted that I’d lost being in the zone and wouldn’t be in it again this day. I also let go of the regret that I have yet to be able to play well and enjoy my excellence while it is happening. I’m not really quite sure how I did it, but it had something to do with deciding to be kind to myself, a radical idea I have never been close to being actually able to do.
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