Following several performance cancellations, James Levine, maestro conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, is “…looking very carefully at his work schedule to stay healthier.” . I wish him luck with that.
Maestro Levine is 67 years old and has survived two bouts with cancer. In the past few years, disabling back problems due to a fall, have periodically kept him from conducting. A year ago, I wrote (Filling the Bank) about Levine’s challenges, saying that he was fortunate because his position had earned him loyalty and he would have more leeway than most to figure out his capacity.
Wouldn’t you think he’d write his own ticket regarding what he wants to do? Then why did he commit to a grueling Fall/Winter season schedule?
Here are my hunches:
- He can’t believe that the back problems aren’t something he can push beyond. He’s spent his life working as hard as a person can and getting rewarded for that behavior.
- He can’t believe that this won’t “go away” with some rest. Rest, medicine and treatment/surgery – one or the other is usually a cure. Most people are unprepared for what chronic does to you.
- He can’t believe, because maybe he hasn’t had to until now, that there is any place between all or nothing.
I’m no “world class” success and I don’t have as much to lost when working gets hard. But it’s difficult for me to accept when my ailing body doesn’t improve — and I’ve had over 30 years to practice. Last August I wrote about some broken bones, maintaining I wasn’t too upset because bones, unlike chronic illness, heal. Silly me. Don’t you think I’d know that nothing is for sure with my body’s wacky nervous system (multiple sclerosis)?
I find that a new health setback requires readjusting to a new normal. How can something that sounds so simple be so tough?
This kind of “readjust” requires keen self observation, strategic thinking. It’s actually much more efficient with thoughtful help from a neutral, supportive party (yes, I do mean a coach).
Recently a new client told me that she’d taken six months off from work to “get better” a few years back . Her health improved but those were also the worst months of her life, she said. Now she’s sick again. But this time she doesn’t want to consider leaving work. Instead, she’s struggling to figure out what it’s going to take to maintain at work. Good thing for her that she’s made several years of good investment in that good will piggy bank at her current job.
She’s not a world class conductor and knows the bank can empty. Hey, let’s face it. Even Levine can tap out on his “good will “savings if he can’t replenish it.
What do you think about filling the bank? Does time “off” heal you?
Living with the moving target of chronic illness is hard. There are so many variables and impossible to predict.
The truth is that chronic illness is unique and unlike anything else people face. At least in my experience. How so?
- It waxes and wanes, gets better and worse, and not always based on what you do. In fact, even if it is dependent on your activity, man people report that there are still many variables. That means you’re at a loss to predict when you’ll be worse.
- It’s chronic, which means it’s never completely gone. Unlike a disease which can be “cured” by surgery or a traumatic event that occurs, this never goes away nor does it stay the same. So, you’re trying to adapt to a changing situation.
- It’s almost always invisible to others. Even if you have a disease that has objective and physical findings, it’s rarely obvious to the “naked eye”. That means that you can look at yourself and believe you’re well even when you feel horrible. And others will do the same -unless you talk about it.