“If music be the food of love, play on…”
William Shakespeare: Twelth Night.
The other night, I broke my foot just before going on stage to perform at the school Christmas carol evening. So much for breaking a leg!!
Yet, as a violinist, or even a violinist in the making, I didn’t let a little problem with my foot stop me from playing. Oh no! Violinists are tough. We never give up. Indeed, we play on no matter what!! The show must go on,! Just think about those legendary violinists on the Titanic who kept playing until the ship had slipped right underneath the frozen waters of the Atlantic. They didn’t runaway or cower in fear. Oh no! They played on and and faced the end with stoic composure…an inspiration!
As a survivor from the Titanic went on to say:
“Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musicians_of_the_RMS_Titanic
Perhaps, it’s the nature of the violin which makes us so tough. As I’m sure you could appreciate, learning to play the violin and overcoming all those vicious cat-clawing squeaks and wails is the ultimate test of perseverance. Violinists know adversity and we have very well-developed resilience. You can’t endure so much screeching and not come out stronger…perhaps, even Tonka tough.
Last Sunday night, just as I was getting ready to go on stage at the school Christmas Carols, my right foot fell into what for other people was probably a barely discernible dip but for me with muscle weakness, proved to be quite a hole. I have sprained my ankle many, many times but this felt different and in addition to the searing pain which was worse than anything I’ve experienced in the past, my foot did feel like it was in two pieces. Even still, in all my drama queen glory, I never even considered that my foot could be broken..even despite the pain.
Violin in hand, I fell to the ground where the asphalt grated my left knee like a lump of cheese and excuse the graphic description but blood was flowing down my leg. I also knew I’d be back on antibiotics to deal with the inevitable infection due to my reduced immunity.
Unable to get up, I was frantically calling out to Geoff and waving trying to get his attention. Of course, he couldn’t hear me over the entertainment and he was looking just beyond my line of sight. It was like how you see things in a dream or, more accurately, a nightmare when you seem to be looking out through thick glass and everything moves in very slow motion.
“Geoff! Geoff!” I called, no doubt emitting a barking cough as well. It feels like I’ve had a ferocious Alsatian watchdog barking in my throat for the last 2-3 weeks. Wish someone would throw the wretched thing a bone and get rid of it for me.
It felt like I was calling out in a vacuum.
Then, like an angel, a stranger asked me if I needed help and could she get someone for me. This was when the fun really began. Geoff was still looking at the stage oblivious that I’d gone down. I was having trouble describing Geoff to the woman and described him as the man with the hat. The trouble was that being a sunny evening, there were a number of men wearing hats. The woman approached a few other men with hats and as I’m still pointing, I tell her it’s a country Akubra style hat but of course there had to be another bloke in a similar hat nearby and, of course, she picked him. By this stage, it feels like hours had passed, as I lay in agony in some weird kind of suspended animation. How could my ankle give way tonight especially when I was just about to play Christmas carols in public for the first time ever? I’d only ever played them faultingly on the piano at home before whereas my mum had always played them on the organ at Church. Now, I was finally graduating in a sense.
As I lay on the ground in agony, there was no thought about not playing… just how to get up. How to get up on the stage which was a rather small makeshift box set up in the playground. It had steep steps and was covered in cables which were all potential trip hazards. Yet, at this point, I was a long way from getting anywhere near that stage. Indeed, the stage was a distant dream. I was still lying flat on the ground and Geoff was still looking the other way watching the show and my rescuer was still getting to know a lot of other men wearing hats.
I admit I felt sick at heart for Geoff when the woman finally tapped him on the shoulder and I waved up to him from the ground…the fallen hero. It’s not a nice feeling. Once again, he’s the knight on the white charger coming to my rescue. He’s used to it. He’s done it many times before but that doesn’t make it any better. One day, it would be nice for him to get a different kind of alert such as wining Lotto. It really isn’t fair that he is constantly coming to my rescue. Another drama. More bad news. Another trip to hospital, a doctor whatever. He deserves so much better than this.
Fortunately, the kids didn’t see me fall. They were off playing with their friends. My falls really terrify them and shake them up and their whole world feels very, very tentative and unstable. I’m supposed to be their rock. Their strength. I don’t have to be perfect but it’s no fun breaking into all sorts of bits and pieces like a cheap, disposable toy. Being faulty. But this is what it is. Life goes up and down like a yoyo and not that long ago, I was triumphantly skiing down Perisher’s Happy Valley and in all 5 days of skiing, I didn’t fall over once. I have always considered this a miracle. Divine intervention.It was really something my medical history would have deemed “impossible” and yet I did it. So many things never make sense.
Geoff lifted me up. Helped swab my knee and helped me over to my violin ensemble.
There was no question that I wouldn’t play. It was just a matter of how. After all, it takes more than a broken foot to stop a violinist. I leaned on my violin teacher as I walked up the stairs and managed to traverse the cables without incident. Typical. I walk on plain ordinary grass and trip yet I negotiate known trip hazards no prob! Go figure!
After all this drama, our performance was almost an anti-climax except that my colleague had put the sheets of music around the wrong way and we were blundering along playing from memory trying to find our spot. Geoff said we sounded good so I think you can put that down as yet another miracle.
I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my ankle for awhile and I already had forms at home for a scan and x-ray so we decided to wait until Monday and dodge the local Emergency room. Moreover, the kids were performing the next morning at the school talent show and there was no way I was going to miss that…even if each and every step to the school hall was pure agony. Our daughter, who is usually not inclined towards solo performances, was singing a solo of Let It Go from the movie Frozen. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see her singing a solo ever again so there was no way on this earth I was going to miss that. Our son was playing Guy Sebastian’s Battle Scars and was also part of a magic show. Of course, I was looking forward to that too. Despite our difficulties, he’s had a great year at school and we’re very proud of him.
It was only after Miss had performed that I finally went and had that rotten pest of a foot x-rayed. I was also booked in for a scan. At no point, did I ever really consider that my foot might actually be broken. Broken bones are the stuff of childhood drama queens. Something you bung on when you’re trying to get a day off school. It’s not a line you want to use 9 days before Christmas when you’re about to go away to the house by the beach with a thousand steps !
Much to my surprise, I was told I’d broken my foot. It wasn’t in my head. It wasn’t a sprain but the real thing. This, of course, brought on an entirely new form of suspended animation as I thought about getting through the school holidays with my foot in a boot.
Suddenly, I was very proud of myself. I might not be the best violinist but I’d “played on” …even with a broken foot!
Goes to show that we are stronger than we think and can overcome all sorts of hurdles to fulfill our dreams. That said, there is also a time to rest, recover and simply be. I certainly haven’t been going a thousand miles an hour with my foot in the boot and taking painkillers and there’s still the matter of the cough.
Me resting? Indeed, that could well be another miracle!
Do you have any stories you’d like to share?
xx Rowena & the broken foot.