I remember a battered, yellow covered music book with my mom’s name carefully written in the top right corner. It was the only book she used during a brief period of childhood piano lessons.
I remember being granted my desire for piano lessons and a bringing home a bright red book of my own. It was the first of many music books that would sit on that piano as those lessons continued until I graduated from high school.
During high school, playing the piano was a place of refuge. Whether I was pouring out my angst over unrequited teenage love or wrestling with issues of faith, the piano was my safe place where no one intruded. No one offered unsolicited advice. Playing at home, by myself, there was no judgment; there was simply contentment and freedom.
Over the years how much I’ve played has depended on mundane things like whether a piano was accessible. I’ve carted ridiculous quantities of music books with me, through multiple moves, sometimes carrying a large stack of music books with me even for a week of housesitting. I’ve always made time to play for myself. Playing in public has always been a source of nerves, but that didn’t stop me. I’ve been a church organist when my local church was short on cash and couldn’t afford to hire someone who was trained to play a pipe organ.
Three years ago, all of that changed.
When I walked away from any involvement in my local church, it wasn’t a conscious choice, but I also walked away from playing music. My guitar and the piano have both sat untouched. I’ve thought about playing, but the time has never seemed right. So much of my musical expression over the years has been related to my faith and when I walked away from the outward expression of that faith, there seemed nothing left to say.
I stopped playing.
A little piece of me quietly died from neglect.
And I didn’t even notice.
One morning this fall, a work friend sent me a message, "Do I remember correctly that you play the piano or am I losing my mind?"
There was some teasing about the losing her mind part, but I did admit that I used to play the piano. By the time the laughter had stopped, I’d agreed to be the accompanist for a local community theatre company’s Christmas show. How could I resist a show called Bulby the Christmas Jackalope? Better still, the music included I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas! Who doesn’t love that old Telus commercial?
I had no idea how rusty my fingers had become in the last three years. Several times I seriously considered backing out of my commitment (one of those was right about the time I wrote about Step One). I was super nervous about my piano skills or lack thereof. Add in some old-fashioned lack of confidence and feeling intimidated because I know how talented the actors are. I’ve seen them on stage and loved their performances. I didn’t want to be the weak link in the chain.
Knowing that I’d made my commitment to Step Two public, even in such a small way, definitely made it easier to chose to keep moving forward rather than running away to hide in fear.
I am super glad that I stuck with it. It was a crazy, busy month with three rehearsals a week. Show week felt like I was hardly home at all. Add together a regular work week, tech rehearsal on Monday, dress rehearsal on Wednesday, preview on Thursday, two shows on Saturday (did I mention that was my birthday?) and one show on Sunday. It’s no wonder I was questioning where I lived by the end of the week.
But the crazy schedule, the panic-y nerves, and the lack of sleep were entirely worth it!
That little piece of me that had shrivelled away from neglect? It bloomed again!
I’m certain my mom thought the world must be coming to an end. I actually looked forward to the time I needed to spend practicing. That never happened during all those years of lessons. I had no idea how much I missed spending time at the piano.
Not only did I reclaim my love of making music, I found a sense of face-to-face community that had also been missing.
I enjoyed it so much that, without even thinking, I almost said yes to playing for the spring show. Some of the trepidation about this show wisely spoke up and reminded me that I need to look before leaping. Fear does exist for a good reason … as long as we don’t allow it to overwhelm us.
After being honest with myself about how much time I would need to invest, I knew that other things, like writing, had a greater priority for me. While I declined that commitment, I did let them know that I’d love to be involved in future smaller scale projects.
The opportunity to express what is held deepest inside is too precious to waste. So here is my commitment stated aloud. In 2012, I will make time and space to play the piano or guitar, just for me even is nothing else requires that I play.
Last night, I started inching forward on Step Three. There’s more drawing in my future. I’ll keep you posted. As I sit here watching the New Year’s Eve broadcasts, I’m excited for 2012!
What about you? What have you walked away from that you need to reclaim?
Here’s to more courage for all of us to keep moving forward in 2012!