I have a little sneaky and insidious problem. I don’t talk about it, because when you put it on paper it seems like a really righteous thing. It actually sounds really cool. Actually, I’m sort of proud of it. As far as addiction goes, I think it’s much better and less shameful than other addictions – which actually makes it more shameful, and probably (for me) more dangerous.
I seriously think that this is probably worse for me than drugs, or eating, or sex, or smoking, or whatever I’ve been doing. It’s over-practice.
Over-practice has caused me physical pain, emotional pain. It’s broken my heart and my spirit. It’s made me sick. It’s alienated me from my friends. It’s completely stagnated me in my career. It’s given me an illusion of control. It’s made me feel completely justified that I’m doing the right thing.
You can’t get arrested for over-practice. Now I actually have had to go to rehab for my addiction, when I had a binge and I popped my arm and gave myself tendonitis or something like that – in January. I’m lucky I don’t have carpel tunnel. But there’s really no methadone for the hacking that I do. In some ways it shares some traits with anorexia; with the striving for perfection. Anything that is self-loathing about oneself can be rectified in the abuse heaped upon me in the quest for ultimate perfection. Because it is impossible to score a perfect performance. If I restrict myself and my career to when I score a perfect performance … that’s a harshness. An ultimate punishment. Something that I probably will never live up to as a professional.
Over-practice has its benefits too. It’s one of those addictions that I’m good at, like sex or eating. The ones that are legal … that you could do fine if only you could do them in moderation. See, I’m fine at the just-staying-away from it stuff. I can’t get hard drugs – nor have I tried them. I’m a wussy – because if I actually did something like coke and I could get it easily and I derived any benefit from it, I would be totally screwed and I’d be hooked. And that would be bad because there is a stigma and I am not good at being that kind of problem child. I am too secretive and I would not be able to handle that kind of pressure. I think that I’m so above all that though, and I’m really just exactly the same. Except I’m kind of worse, because I’m in loads of denial about my problem. And my problem really isn’t seen that seriously because it’s not really that dangerous (like meth or whatever) or troubling (like cannibalism). I’m totally in denial, bent double-over like Igor with laughing drool squibbling out the corner of my mouth, 3AM-crazy-eyed and wheezy.
But I secretly know I’m not any better than anyone else. I won’t take signs and signals or no for an answer - the eyes are bugging. And this scares me in the dead of night, at 3:28 AM when I’ve played the first four systems of the Rondo from the Pathetique over and over and over and over and over for the past hour and a half. Making it faster and faster and faster and faster. Thinking that if I could just make it absolutely perfect … that my life would be completely okay and that everything would change for me. And it’s all because I’m acting out.
My husband says that all these feelings of mine – these feelings about the “new person” and the “old person” (and my lack of control particularly on the latter issue) are really all about the fact that I don’t have my enviornment under control. I’ve got to finish setting up my room. I’ve got to clean up my area. I’ve got to finish putting my software together – that last little bit so that I can do the rest of the stuff that I’ve got to do for the musical. Then I will be good to go. Perhaps I will not be obsessing about stupid crap. But as it is now, I dread the morning – and I sit around and over-practice rather than go to sleep. Of course, I make sure that I’ll over-practice by ingesting four cups of coffee during the day.
None of this is smart. None of it.
But it all looks good on paper as I get more and more flawless technique and I slowly die inside – heading for another bout of tendonitis like I had in January because I pushed my luck with a Liszt piece I shouldn’t have been abusing myself with.
And then, after, the shame of knowing what I have done, and how bad I will hurt in the morning and how I don’t know if I’ll be able to function. Just how sick will I be from it all?