I had just sat down for an orchestra rehearsal, putting my music on my stand and emptying spit from the valves when an authority figure–someone who does not translate into my orchestra reality—handed a mouthpiece to me and said for everyone to hear, "They want you to practice with this to help improve your tone." Apparently, "they" weren't impressed with my tone at our last performance and thought I needed help.
And there I sat flayed in front of the rest of the group, exposed as a fraud. But also there I sat wondering who "they" were. They weren't the conductor or the principle of the horn section. In reality, orchestra board members don't sit around the table discussing this or that musician's qualifications, so who was it who was so critical of my playing and had the authority to take action? I was perplexed and never learned the answer.
I was also perplexed because I couldn't figure out how to use this practice mouthpiece that was designed to correct flaws in playing. It was large, like it belonged on a trombone, and it was blue with a black plastic rim with uneven edges. You couldn't possibly play with it without ripping your face up, and so how was it meant to help?
When I woke up from this dream, the residual feeling I had was one of complete failure and of not belonging, old feelings that used to plague me. I have spent ten years conquering these nasty demons, though, and once completely conscious, I thought to myself, "Enough, already." I really thought I had overcome this stuff, this interior hammering away at my self-esteem and ability to live fully. I really thought I had achieved a level of self-awareness and acceptance of my abilities to achieve.
I guess no matter how much you manage to squelch your inner demons, they really don't go away. They just hide out in the shadows of your subconscious, and when your defenses are down, they come out to haunt you just for kicks. The point I want to make—knowing that while in your fully conscious state you know what's real and what's a lie, and you can quickly shake off the lies, is a real sign of growth. So, get back in your hidey-hole, you ugly demon. You've got no hold on me, at least not while I'm awake.