Here’s a surprise: my biggest challenge last year wasn’t Covid. Not by a mile. Exactly one year ago, I broke my right wrist. So badly that I needed surgery. One 3” titanium plate and 10 screws later, loaded up on painkillers and still unable to feel my entire right arm due to a surgical nerve block, on Day 2 I assessed my situation. And it freaked me out.
Writing was my first challenge. As a multimedia producer, I do a lot of writing. The week after my surgery, a major deadline loomed for an 1,800-word blog post for one of my clients and a video script for another. Thankfully I had already done the background research. But boy, left-hand typing and non-dominant hand mouse-ing was quite laborious. (Speech-to-text was not the easy functionality I had hoped, which I’m sure my friends with different abilities already know.)
But here was the biggest challenge of all: playing the violin.
You see, I’ve been a musician since I was six, and a violinist since age 9, having apparently begged my parents relentlessly to play that instrument. Growing up, I spent hours taking violin lessons, playing in youth orchestras and competing in solo competitions acro
ss my region. On weekends, various musician friends and I would play on street corners in Georgetown, a tony neighborhood in Washington, D.C., to earn money towards our college funds. Years later, when playing in my college symphony orchestra, I learned from a relative that my great great grandfather Giuseppe DiLuisi had played the violin for a living, in summer riverboat orchestras on the Mississippi and
winter music halls in New York. At the age of 9, he had arrived in this country from Italy with only the clothes on his back and his little violin. So my passion stems from long family roots.
Flash forward, and I’ve been playing at a professional and semi-professional level for, well, a bunch of decades now. In the Washington DC area where I live, I’m lucky to be surrounded by great musicians, and often play in churches, in various chamber groups, and with my amazingly talented colleagues of the NIH Philharmonia.
Back in March of 2021, the thought of never playing again was devastating.
Music has been essential to my life—not only personally, but also professionally. As a content creator, I spend a lot of time curating just the right music, reviewing sound mixes, working with talented sound designers. Because sound is more than half the picture.
So when I broke my wrist, I did what I always do when producing a complex multi-media project: I threw myself into the details. I read everything I could about rehab for string player injuries. I showed up religiously for painful physical therapy sessions twice a week. I took my PT “homework” very seriously. And my talented surgeon Dr. Peter Fitzgibbons—who had been briefed in advance on my absolute need for full flexibility again—brought great confidence to each of my check-in’s. At one point, I brought in my violin and the Bach Brandenberg Concert #3, which the NIH Phil planned to play in December, and demonstrated a passage to show how far short I was falling to manipulate the bow into Bach’s many nuanced sequences. I was determined to not just play the part, but play the principal 1st violin solo part for this concert. And that was my goal every single day.
Focusing on one overarching goal has a way of putting everything else in perspective. Whether you are managing young children through Zoom schooling, grappling with your evolving career, or facing the trial of you or a family member struck by Covid. Take the climb in small steps. Break the challenge into manageable pieces. You will get there.
Today, I plunge into the work of 2022 with gratitude. I can write and produce videos. I can play the violin again. The healing took so many steps. But I’m finally there. And you will be, too.