Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Drumming diary: Live for the good days, live through the bad

When I was in the Army, I did a lot of stupid shit to my body. I was young and anxious to prove myself, wanting to show everyone how awesome I was so that they could report back to me on the subject. This led to all kinds of over-drinking, over-working, and picking up Cadet Holgien.

Cadet Holgien was the biggest guy in my ROTC battalion. He was 220 pounds of craggy-jawed muscle; he was the kind of guy that you expect had camo PJs as a kid. One day we were learning casuality carries -- fireman's, piggy-back, two-man throne -- and had to practice picking up "the wounded" and carrying them the length of a football field.

I, being the gung-ho idiot that I was, decided to prove my mettle by picking up Holgien in a fireman's carry. This screwed up my shoulder something fierce: I pushed a ligament out of the groove of bone it's supposed to rest in. Then I exacerbated it more with pushups, oh the endless pushups. The campus docs injected me with cortizone, but I didn't give myself the proper time to rest. Between that and the Morton's Nueroma in my foot, my days in the service were numbered.

But goddamn if I didn't carry Holgien to the end zone.

The point of this little anecdote -- and hush, I do so have one -- is that sometimes, when something's come out of its groove, trying to force the issue is just going to make things worse, and then you wind up sore and irritated.

Drumming, as with all things, has its good days and its bad days -- days when you sit at the throne and can't keep a groove to save your life. Your muscle memory fails you completely, your limbs won't obey your commands, and your toms appear to have inexplicably shifted two inches, causing you to smack your knuckles right on the metal rim. one of those days.

It has, I'm pretty convinced, nothing to do with skill. I suppose the more muscle memory you have the harder it is to lose it, but when your internal beat goes haywire it's not something that you can just power through.

So I stopped trying to play anything specific and switched to basic practices -- flams, paradiddles, triplets, open rolls, that sorta thing. I don't know if it's a sign that I'm getting older or what, but I'm much gentler with myself than I was as a kid or a young adult.

Be gentle with yourself. You're gonna fuck up and you're gonna have days where it Just Doesn't Work. Accept that, and roll with it.

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