Monthly Archives: February 2015

Falling Off My Horse

I have an hour-long piano lesson every two weeks.  I practice nearly every day, working on my scales and Hanon exercises as well as my pieces.  At every lesson I learn new practice techniques for challenging passages.  I’m working hard and loving it more than ever.

In spite of all this, my last lesson didn’t go well.  I stumbled on notes that I play perfectly at home.  My fingers were shaky though I wasn’t particularly nervous.  I was well prepared — hoping to play my best — but it didn’t happen.

I came home disappointed.  “What’s the point of all my practice, if I can’t play at my lesson like I play at home.  Why do I even bother?”  Those interior words kept me from my piano for the rest of the day — and most of the next day.

During those two days I struggled to put things into perspective. “This was only one lesson out of many.  Sometimes I play really well, even better than I expect. One bad lesson doesn’t make me a failure.”

During my ponderings I recalled a childhood time when  Dad and I were riding horses on a mountain road near our family campsite.  I was eight or ten years old and had laid my jacket across the saddle in front of me instead of securing it with saddle straps behind.  The jacket fell off.  The horse spooked.  I landed on the gravel road, scraped and bruised, but not seriously hurt.  Dad never got off his horse while I sat crying and scared on the road.  “Get back on the horse,” he said, in his calm, logical voice. “You have to show the horse that you’re in charge.”  That was the last thing I wanted to do. However, I knew Dad was always right about such things.  So I did what he said.  After securing my jacket, I rode the rest of  morning without incident.

That’s how it is with most things.  We can give in to our fears and disappointments and failures — or we can get back on the horse and continue to ride.

Only then can we put the past behind us.

What’s keeping you from getting back on your horse — or getting back to your writing — or putting your fingers on the piano keys — or returning to your kitchen to try the recipe again?

Set your wounded pride aside. Then move forward.

Until next Tuesday…

An Epic Beginning

A few weeks ago I decided to cull books from my collection.  Books I don’t intend to read again.  Books I have yet to read that no longer hold my interest. Books I started and never finished.

Removing clutter from my life, rather than creating space for more books, was my motivation.

The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye has occupied shelf-space for at least two decades.  The covers are faded and the page edges have begun to yellow. I bought it at a used book sale because I’ve been fascinated with India since the early 1960’s. Every time I’ve noticed the two-volume set sitting on the shelf, I’ve thought, “I really ought to read them,” but I always had an excuse for not reading: no time, more pressing books to read, the impossibility of finishing such a lengthy novel.

This time was different.  This time I said, “I’m either going to read The Far Pavilions or I’m going to get rid of them.  Enough already!

So I bravely began on page 1 of 1135 pages — a daunting tome for a self-diagnosed slow reader. The books are large and the print is small, but I’m determined these attributes won’t deter me from my quest. I read for thirty minutes at a time to give the author a fair chance of engaging me in her story.  And I read during the day, not in bed when I’m nearly asleep.

I was hooked in the first thirty pages.  The story is intriguing enough that I want to keep reading — and I have.  I’ve already read more than 400 pages; sometimes I’m surprised by how quickly I turn the pages.

I know I will finish.  When? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter.

What matters is reading the entire story, giving it my best and serious attention, savoring the scenes, living with the characters, and remembering life in India.

An epic beginning — or the beginning of an epic.

What I know about such beginnings is

  • I have to show up
  • I have to begin the work
  • I have to keep moving
  • If I’m not engaged, I can abandon this path, and head in another direction.

Until next Tuesday…

Control Addict: Part 2

Life messages come at me from strange places sometimes. A few weeks ago it was the hair spray labeled “Control Addict 28.”  I could have taken the 28 as my age and let it go at that, but instead I focused on the control addiction message.

Packaged with the hair spray was a small can of volumizer — a classy black can with metallic green letters — GUTS 10.

Now I’m pondering again — it’s what I do.  I don’t know what the 10 means, because, unlike the hairspray, this can label has no rating scale for guts.  Ten could mean a lot of guts or not so much — depends on your measurement tool. With no scale, the label is meaningless.

I’ve learned a few things from these ponderings:

  • Control is important, even necessary sometimes.  Beware of extremes.
  • Guts are a good thing, and often necessary for our forward movement.  Again beware of extremes.
  • Be sure you understand the measurement tool before you accept a judgement of your life.
  • Control and guts go together — like two cans of hair product.

Until next Tuesday…


Coming Back

Illness is a strange thing:  unexpected, disruptive, uncomfortable, disorienting.

But illness happens. Without our permission.

And refuses to leave until it’s ready.

In the meantime, we see the doc, take our meds, drink fluids, and rest. And cancel our life.

Illness causes disconnection — disconnection between our physical body and everything else in our life. Suddenly our focus is on surviving — not thriving. While I’m laying on the couch, aching and coughing, I can barely even think about the writing and reading and piano playing I normally do every day.  They seem far off, even impossible, in my current state.  I know they’ll return; I have no idea when.

I try to be patient, not pushing to make things happen that can’t. I give myself permission to take care of my body, remembering my passions will return in their own time.

Exactly one week after I became ill I realized I was better.  Not at the beginning of the day, but late in the afternoon when illness usually feels worse. The headache was gone and I felt like eating.  I even fixed something for supper.

“I feel like myself again,” I said to a friend.

I read a book for a little while — even enjoyed it.

Later, I slept all night, without the hourly coughing spasms, and woke refreshed the next morning. I began to think about writing and practicing.

I’ve returned to myself.

Our path toward wholeness is like recovering from the flu. We attend to the ailing parts until they become strong, then welcome the gradual return of our passions after their unplanned hiatus.

Sometimes we have to come apart for a while — to ponder, to reconsider, to take gentle care. Our integration is stronger as a result.

Until next Tuesday…