Man, this is hard to write about: I’m dealing with another round of lip difficulties. It’s my bottom lip this time, and the trouble began on November 4th, 2014, during a tough rehearsal of all piccolo trumpet stuff. The bottom lip collapsed on the right side without warning. I won’t get too much into the details, other than to say I can still play, at least. I’m at about 75%, with the top lip and the left side of the bottom lip functioning fine. The right half of my bottom lip just won’t contract all the way.
Donald Rumsfeld said the following in 2002, and the notion of “unknown unknowns” is one that’s stuck with me:
There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.
I’m reluctantly entering another round of information gathering, and the hardest part is admitting to myself I don’t know as much about embouchure injuries as I thought I did. I didn’t think of myself as an world-class expert, but I thought I had my own situation pretty well sorted out. I’m looking forward to working with a wider range of medical professionals, players, and chop docs, and I’m going to come out of this latest injury with a more robust understanding of how the embouchure works.
I truly believe that this is all for the best, but I’m the one who has to make it that way.
When to Give Up
This is the elephant in the room. I’ve been living with lip injuries since May 2010, and though I’ve become a much better player in the midst of those injuries, it’s still been a long war. We’re coming up on five years. How long do I keep this up?
In thinking this through over the last two months, I realized something:
I am not capable of giving up the trumpet. It’s just not an option for me.
It’s kind of liberating, actually, as it’s one less decision I have to make. The only thing to decide is how to move forward.