Tag Archives: mid-life

The post that WordPress ate

piano

I haven’t exactly been ignoring my blog. Really, I haven’t. I had written a very nice post right after Christmas that started to explain why I’m in the state I’m in now — utter confusion.

Then WordPress ate my post. Bless its heart.

It went something like this:

Mudderella: I came, I fell (hard) on my already irritated knee, I walked 1 mile through 1 mud and tapped out. Alecto and Cletus took Kate in hand and the three of them finished. They were awesome.

Post-Mudderella: remember that knee that bitched BEFORE I fell on it? Well, it became very testy after Mudderella so I took it back to the MD. Turns out it was unhappy because it had a torn meniscus and a ganglion cyst AND a benign tumor gumming up the works. So on October 30 it had major surgery, 6 inch incision, and a recovery that was worse than that of a knee replacement because I couldn’t bend it for 6 weeks unless I was flat on my back. All walking had to be done with a walker and in a knee immobilizer. MD threw in some more microfracturing (had that done in 2007) in hopes that we could put off knee replacement for another 10 years or so. It’s getting better, but it’s going to take about a year for full recovery. In this case, full recovery means BETTER than it was before, so I’m OK with that.

The beginning of the crisis in which my lizard brain ran away:

We did the gypsy Christmas thing and went up the mountain to visit Hubby’s family. On the way home I was surfing XM looking for anything besides Christmas and found this:

It’s called Vocalise because Rachmaninoff wrote it to be sung just like that. I used to play a transcribed version of it on the piano, back when I could still play. After it was over, I plugged up the old smart phone and hunted down more Rachmaninoff to listen to, landed on the 2nd Piano Concerto, which I absolutely adore. Yeah, I know the critics don’t like it as well as the 3rd, but hey, it’s my life.

So we’re headed back down the mountain and I’m listening and thinking and Kate is snoozing in the back seat. Wubby and girlfriend had also accompanied us, first time he’d seen the family in at least 5 years. My thought process was something like this:

I will never play the 2nd at Carnegie Hall. I could have chased that dream but probably wouldn’t have caught it, and in the chasing I would have lost the life that gave me Hubby and Kate and Wubby. So it’s all good.

Only it’s not. Because before there was a Hubby and a Wubby and a Kate, there was a piano. Because there was always a piano. Because MY lizard brain needs music like a Southerner’s lizard brain needs 4 loaves of bread and 2 gallons of milk when the weatherman predicts 1/4″ of possible snow. And I have ignored that fact, about my lizard, for way too long and life is getting way short on time.

In case you’re not familiar with Rachmaninoff’s 2nd, part of it turned into this. It’s the long version because the radio jocks in the 70’s cut out the part that starts at 2:57. That’s the good part. It’s not verbatim concerto, but it captures the essence.

There it is. And there goes my lizard.

Coming of Age

I started writing this post around January 7th. Then I got sidetracked by, well, January. I think I mentioned somewhere down there that I don’t really like January.

Anyway, I met with a friend of mine this week who happens to be the music and arts minister at our church. If the term “arts minister” doesn’t register, that’s ok. Suffice it to say that he finds tangible ways to make worship more meaningful for those of us who are moved by music, visual and fine art, the spoken word, etc. I shared these next words with him: 

“If I can’t be the best <insert noun here> then I won’t <insert associated verb here> at all.”

I hear these words every week from twenty different kids between the ages of 13 and 18.

When I was 12 years old I decided that I was going to college and get a degree in music. There were people who tried to talk me out of it, even bribed me by saying they’d pay for my college education if I majored in anything other than music. But my mind was made up and there was no changing it. I auditioned at Brevard College in NC and received a small scholarship, but decided against going there because, back then, it was a 2-year program and I would have had to transfer somewhere else eventually. I also auditioned at James Madison University, was accepted into their program, and headed to Harrisonburg in August of 1979.

Turns out I didn’t like Harrisonburg all that much, and my piano professor was just plain weird. My boyfriend (husband now) was at Virginia Tech, so I went to Blacksburg and auditioned there, fell in love with the campus and the piano professor who heard me play (and questioned some of the techniques and interpretations my JMU professor espoused) so I headed to Blacksburg the following January.

I got that degree a little more than two years later, finishing college in just under 3 years, and starting teaching piano. Make that babysitting piano students. I had about 2 students, and about 20 kids who were dumped at the studio for an hour every week. Decided that I didn’t want to babysit, got a job at an AT&T assembly plant–factory, that is–, got married, took COBOL programming classes that were way easy, got a programming job, and began a life of working in corporate America. The pay was very good, and programming was fun. Maybe if I’d been allowed to just design, build, test, debug, etc. I could have remained happy. But that didn’t happen. Work became all about making this week’s boss look good and last week’s boss look bad, about training my managers to manage, about training fresh-out-of-college boys who were paid more than me to do my job, whatever it was this week. And on it goes.

All during those years the piano remained in the periphery of my life. I played a wedding, played for the choir at church occasionally, played keyboards when we went “contemporary” a decade or so back. If you’re into classical liturgical music you might be familiar with the Brahms Requiem. He wrote two versions of it: one for choir and orchestra, in German, and another for choir and two pianos, in English. I played one of the pianos once. It was good.

So what?? Well, way back in 1984 the hometown newspaper printed an article entitled “Giving up the Dream: Some musicians are happier when the music stops.” This article hit me where I lived then. It said that many serious musicians are happier when they come to grips with the fact that they will never go to Juliard, never play a concerto, never ‘make it’ in the music industry. “If I can’t be the best <insert noun here> then I won’t <insert associated verb here> at all.”

Here’s the thing: 20 years later, I still have this newspaper article in my Daytimer. I still read it on occasion. And it don’t believe it. I wasn’t happier when the music stopped, or slowed down, or whatever it did.

Back in college there was an Education professor who had been a piano major at the Cincinnati Conservatory. He went on to receive a Master’s degree in Education and never played the piano again. Ever. I couldn’t understand how he did that.

Twenty years later I realized that I had, for the most part, done the same thing. I did understand how, but not why.

So here I am, sliding into mid-life, back where I was at 12, coming of age. I want to play the piano, and sing, and dance and write and whatever. I’m not going to Juliard or Carnegie Hall. I’m not going to win a Pulitzer or make the NYT best-seller list. But I am going to do something that gives me pleasure.

Back to those kids, the ones that are saying “If I can’t be the best <insert noun here> then I won’t <insert associated verb here> at all.”

Listen up: it doesn’t matter if you aren’t the best whatever. If you love it, keep doing it!

And for those of us that aren’t exactly kids anymore, who may have bought into the “Giving up the Dream” philosophy: if that philosophy works for you, Great! But if it doesn’t, scrap it. Dust of the piano, break out the paintbrush, dance like no one is watching.

Come of age.