Small Steps, Great Strides
We are happy to introduce you to Gwen Givens, a guest blogger and new friend of BlindAlive. If this post strikes a chord with you as it did with me, we'd love to have your feedback in the comments section.
Small Steps, Great Strides
When it was time for sixth grade, the county agreed to mainstream some of its disabled and blind school children. I was one of those, and it was exciting to think I would be going to my area elementary school. And the most exciting thing was … they had a band. I desperately wanted to join the band. I badgered and pleaded, cajoled, practically stood on my head (I wasn’t so bottom-heavy at the time), so I could get into the band. My parents got tired of this, and so they bought me an inexpensive clarinet. I think they soon regretted the noises that came out of my practice sessions. My father said I needed to get rid of all the crickets that resided in the instrument (squeak, squeak), and my other tones sounded like poor Canada geese that were seriously ailing and desperately trying to fly south. If we had had a basement, they would have happily moved me and my licorice stick downstairs.
They decided that in order to facilitate the process, they would provide me with an instructor. He taught at the university, and at first he despaired. I cannot tell you how many times he yelled at me before the music stand went flying past my head! He never aimed to hit you; just to make you jump and focus better. At first I despaired. The crickets seemed to be healthy, and the geese were not. But over time, by practicing each day, a little at a time, I got better. I would not jump in and try doing all of my scales at once; I would do maybe two majors and their minors, one octave at first, then progressing to two octaves, then three. I would not move on until those felt good to my fingers. I would listen to great clarinetists, and make their tone a part of my mindset, and I would imagine, as I played, how my tone would someday be lovely and full as theirs. Over time and diligent practice, the crickets left the safe environs of my clarinet, and the geese got well and proceeded, in a perfect v formation, to fly south. By the time I graduated from high school, I had a concert-worthy clarinet, and I could perform movements from major clarinet concertos and other pieces. I enrolled in college with a double emphasis on clarinet and voice.
Why are you saying all of this, you ask? Well, getting on a good exercise program and changing to a healthy life style is something like this. It can’t be done in a snap. It takes time. A few years ago my doctor told me that my guide dog was healthier than I was. He wanted to put me on one of those medical diet programs and a bunch of medications. I said, no. I asked him what would work and he recommended a diet, and an exercise program. I did some research on the diet before I began it, mapped out a plan of action, and began on Thanksgiving Day! I figured if I did not get started on, I would then have the excuse of Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, Easter, Memorial Day, ice cream in August, Labor Day, Fourth of July, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving day, and any other day I could think of to put it off. I did things gradually, not jumping into it and not becoming the sad person at the restaurant, wringing my hands and bemoaning the fact that there was nothing on the menu for me to eat. I gradually started using my newly-acquired treadmill, starting slowly and only increasing my speed and incline when I felt fully comfortable and happy at my progress. I did not want to get to the point where I was so sore and miserable that I would quit. Over time, in about two years, I was almost at the point where I wanted to be. I had only about a few more goals.
Unfortunately some medical issues came up which were extremely difficult to handle, and there was a time that I was so worried and felt so bad that I lost my focus. It was just like going on vacation for a month and leaving my clarinet; I had lost some of my skills.
I am on track again, however. I will not beat myself up and say what a horrible person I am. So I am back again with some of my crickets and a few of those wayward geese. And the wonderful thing is this: I did it once before, and I can do it again. I have begun slowly, with my eating, my treadmill and, in addition, the stability ball exercise cd. I am starting slowly, but I can already see changes that mean I am on the right track. I am happy to be in the routine, and I know that my goal is out there as long as I do not run towards it and trip and fall, but walk steadily in that wonderful, and attainable direction.
To contact Gwen, you can follow her on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/morningsong5103