As an INFJ, I am often more prone to thinking with my heart than my brain. Oftentimes, my emotions overran calm logic, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve aimed to create an equal balance between the two in order to lessen anxiety.
Even though I had a difficult piano professor in college, I did learn some really important lessons that I applied to other aspects of my life.
One of the major things she taught me was that I was in control. The piano doesn’t play you, you play the piano. Often times, I would attempt to let my fingers fly across the keys, in my younger years depending heavily on muscle memory. I learned as I grew older that developing a method of 100% precision is not possible with just muscle memory- while useful, the mind is prone to blanking out, especially when overwhelmed onstage with a thousand eyes on you. The only way to ensure no memory fumbles is not to rely on the memory. Instead, you must perfect control over the keys, and that means studying each note, individually, as each finger plays one and expectantly lands on the next, not just through muscle, but through mind. In conclusion, sometimes “winging it” is not the right plan – sometimes, you just gotta prepare as much as possible in as many concrete ways as possible.
When you focus your practicing, you are also wasting precious time and efforts if you are playing a piece from beginning to end over and over again aimlessly, with no conscious intention on what particular segment needs to be fixed, or breaking it down by specificities: what is the greatest technical pattern to practice in this section? What is the tricky fingering in the left hand here, and do the dynamics between the first and second contrast each other well? You practice intention as much as the physical action itself, which means you can greatly improve performing your piece by listening to 10 different artists’ recordings and interpretations, studying the pages away from the keyboard. Basically, exercising intent and logic is just as important as processing your emotions and feelings.
So that’s what I’ve been applying to in terms of the management of my chronic illness. Both onstage and offstage, I am susceptible to bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. There are factors both in your control and out of your control, and the most you can do is prepare to the best of your ability what is in your control, the rest is out of your hands. What have I taken control over? I guess I feel the culmination of all my work leading up to this point right now. I’ve felt overrun to a pulp by all the insurance crap because there are so many complicated pieces to it and it’s confusing af. I’ve felt completely overwhelmed by the whole decision making on my quality of life, the goals I want to achieve and the health problems that are obstructing my way to those goals being achieved.
As a feeler, I don’t really have much problem talking about my problems and connecting to others emotionally and empathetically. I actually may have too many feelings for my reservoir for feelings, so the first step in this journey was to control that to the best I could, which led me to a concrete plan of:
- Therapy – I have anti-anxiety medication which has helped tremendously despite my hesitation to take it. It has maximized my productivity to tackle shitty feelings when shitty things occur along with boring, complex adult things like insurance, and more emotional control so that I can put more energy into more motivation and focus on completing tasks that are rarely fun or exciting, but necessary.
- Education – I have spent a lot of time to inform myself as much as possible on whatever the problem is. When you have a greater understanding of things, you have a better grasp on things, and therefore will lead to less anxiety. I have poured hours into reading up on lung transplants, statistics, and asking questions on the internet and to my transplant team, who I trust very much, with my life (literally). Just like organizing and breaking down a piece of music to conquer it, I have taken time to reflect on mini goals and research. What are the risks, what is the medical process, recovery time, what can I expect in the beginning, middle, and end? What are the finances in terms of insurance coverage, who is my support team, and what are medical opinions on how I’m doing?
- Non-Medical Goals – social life, family and friends, other goals like work/career, travels, relationships, personal habits and new skills to learn, what are my priorities and how do I break down the steps to achieving them, one day at a time? What are my passions, what is my mission in life, how do I want to impact the world?
While playing with heart and passion is always an important factor to your success as a musician, conveying emotion also requires technique and technical methods to break it down efficiently. So here I am, trying to meditate a bit and bring in some calm, and today I completed some insurance tasks. To give an idea, here are some of the things I did today:
I liaison between my dad’s company adviser, my dad, and my therapist, the insurance company, and my physicians to produce a letter and other documents proving that I should stay on my dad’s insurance plan after the age of 26;
I called my insurance company’s behavioral health department to confirm the steps to receiving teletherapy care with my therapist;
I sent in a request to the insurance company to update my PCP for a new card;
I reorganized my list of medications and verified their approved pick-up dates with the pharmacy, also re-ordering one of them.
I proceeded to watch Hasan Minhaj’s correspondence dinner on Youtube, began reading a new book (“The Bonesetter’s Daughter” by Amy Tan), did my daily 15 minutes of Korean, spent some time chatting with my best friend, and am now going to clean out my bag and organize everything.
The greater process requires equal parts to yield optimal results.
Be your own fucking boss. Get in control. Even if often times, it doesn’t feel like it.