So She Wouldn’t Forget

At no one’s urging, my daughter sat at our piano and sounded out the simple tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” practicing it over and over until she could play it quick and smooth. I joined her to add a couple of complimentary chords, so that she would understand the potential of a song.

She wanted more. I dug out my son’s first lesson book. He’d taken piano and voice at a private music school, then picked up cello and guitar in his public middle schools, but no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve yet to convince my daughter to take lessons to learn to play an instrument. She doesn’t want to set a timer for thirty minutes of daily practice or be required to perform in a recital. She flipped through the first few pages of my son’s old book and began asking questions. Where do my fingers go? What are the keys called?

I showed her how to identify the notes A through G, how patterns repeat over and over on the keyboard, how to move her fingers through a scale. I walked away as she began randomly striking keys to hear how their notes combined. She called me back when she discovered a pleasing riff she wanted to share.

I explained that the notes she’d chosen were a portion of a chord, then demonstrated how she could create some easy chords herself. She added two she particularly liked to the end of her riff and decided this was a song. She asked me for paper to record where her fingers had gone so she wouldn’t forget. I printed off a few sheets with keyboard diagrams she could color. She kept at composing for the better part of an hour, asking me to listen each time she added a new progression to her song. She had no purpose besides pleasing herself, no motivation to continue besides the sheer joy of creating.

When I was my daughter’s age, I spent hours alone in my bedroom spinning records over and over, memorizing lyrics and melodies, learning to sing by imitating what I heard. I wrote song lyrics out on paper, studied the forms they took, tried to mold my own words into similar shapes. Those days continue to resonate.

We grow up and we require better reasons for spending our time. We seek measurable results, quantifiable benefits, proof that the outcome of our lives will be worth the cost of our days. My daughter doesn’t want the applause of an audience or an award of excellence or royalties from publishing her song. She is content hearing the harmony she has made. She has not yet learned to need anything extra for her effort.

I sit here shaping these words against an imperative to defend every minute I spend. I fight to remain faithful to the pure impetus of creation, to serve as a reliable witness, my daughter’s student in this lesson.

 

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I’m participating in Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge. This is #17 of 52.

 

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Evolution Revolution

I feel an evolution happening within me—a revolution really. I’m beginning to feel free in a way I haven’t before. I’m beginning to feel settled, on the inside.

For decades, I’ve been trying to figure out how to live authentically. I recognized when I was in my mid-twenties that I was struggling to allow myself to be seen. I had developed a habit of hiding behind what I’ve come to think of as my costume, the outer me that I projected to all others.

On the inside, I was someone different from the person everyone thought they knew. I had learned how to observe what people expected from me, what made people respond to me, and how to contort myself into these shapes. When I was very young, I wasn’t conscious of doing this. But as I matured into adulthood, I became aware of the disconnect between my inner and outer selves. It manifested as a tension that threatened to rip me apart. I managed to cross the breaking point without being swallowed, and I’ve been slowly making my way across the other side ever since.

But I’m still not living authentically. Yes, it’s gotten a lot easier to reveal myself in some situations, but there are still too many instances when I bend and twist myself. Why do I do this?

Continue reading “Evolution Revolution”

Thoughts on Worry and Purpose

As 2013 was winding down, I found myself more and more contemplating the state of worry I seem to usually find myself in. If I strung together all the minutes I spent worrying, how many days have I lost? I suspect the answer is in weeks, if not months. And what has this time spent on worry done for me? Yes, I realize the answer.

I don’t know exactly why I’m such a worrier, but I’ve been one for as long as I can remember. Years ago, a good friend recommended the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff. He recognized the amount of energy I was wasting getting caught up in stressing over things that either didn’t matter or might never happen.

In just the past few weeks, I’ve begun repeating a mantra to myself to counter all the worry: You have a place to live. You have food to eat. You have family to love. Everything is OK. I’m finding that repeating these things to myself helps calm me during those times when I feel my belly begin to burn and my heart begin to pound. Remembering that I’m secure in the things that truly matter helps me let go of the rest. Every little thing really will be alright. Continue reading “Thoughts on Worry and Purpose”