Friday, April 27, 2012

all balled up

All balled up - that is what my piano teacher, Mrs. Carson, used to say whenever I was in that place of intense emotional response to a piece of music and my technical skill set was lagging behind.  All knots and desperate attempts to unravel and spool myself out being  hampered and I am left hopeless confused.

I haven't thought about Mrs. Carson in a long while.  I took piano lessons for the four years of high school and always felt behind because my image of kids studying piano involved 7 and 8 year olds playing Brahms Lullaby with their teenage selves far beyond simple chords and notes.  During my senior year my teacher somehow talked me into participating in this formal evaluation; it wasn't a recital per say, but I had to perform before some judges who would rate me.  I'm not even sure I understood what it was all for - my mother only recently explained to me the evaluation could have been used to apply to music school.  All I remember is my teacher wanted me to do it and I went along albeit quite fearfully.

I think I played something by Schubert.  I can't really play anything on the piano anymore but my hands almost almost remember the movements of the piece I performed.  I can recall the movement of the music in my fingers, in my body and in my soul.  I can hum a few notes and I still sway, 33 years later, when I think of it.  I loved that piece and I performed it with all of the emotion I dared to leak out which is to say, a fair amount for me but probably restrained by more musical standards.  I don't remember flubbing up and I am still here so I survived.  But I never believed I could be a pianist and so it didn't occur to me to ask about my scores afterwards.  I mean, if Mrs. Carson didn't tell me then theyI must have been embarrassingly low and she was sparing me by not bring the matter up.

After that year I left for college and briefly considering resuming my piano studies but decided against it because, well, it would be a waste of time, right?  In my mind the time had passed for me.  I was too old, too late in my ripe age of 17 to amount to much.

It never occurred to me to consider that I really enjoyed playing the piano and that I might continue my studies purely for my own pleasure.  

A year or so ago the whole topic came up with my mother and husband.  My mother expressed her regret that I hadn't continued playing, that she and my father held onto the piano for years hoping I might start up again and that reluctantly they sold it when it became evident I would not play again.  I confessed that the evaluation process was the final proof that I was wasting my time at something I would never be very good at.  My mother sat stunned.  "You scored very high ... in the 90s ... Mrs. Carson wanted you to apply for a scholarship ... she thought you should study music but you seemed to have decided upon art and we didn't want to push you."  

In the months since my mother relayed this bit of information to me, I have reexamined the string of decisions made afterwards over and over in my mind.  It pains me to realize the number of times I abandoned something - myself really - because I compared myself to others and felt I was lacking and should quit.  Piano. Photography. Writing. Foreign Languages. Teaching.  All things I enjoyed but never pushed myself to pursue too seriously because, well because ...


And now I've returned from The Makerie Retreat and two full days of painting and I want to immerse myself in it.  My first day back at work someone asked me how I was and I broke into tears sobbing "I don't want to be here, I want to be painting!"  

I want to be able to devote more time and attention to what I love; to what opens me up to passion and engagement and presence; to feel utterly alive and awake in this life.  I want to dare to say "This matters to me and that is reason enough to pursue it."  

What holds me back - the nets that block my leap from the cliff and into the colorful abyss - are notions of responsibility, selfishness and good old-fashioned guilt.

listening to crow who has been insistent he has messages I need to hear ... and heed

So here I sit, all balled up.  I know which ideas I can dismantle but others are harder to evaluate honestly.  And while all of this has been on my mind this week, today is my day to paint and play  and to let all these thoughts drain away.  Right now I can commit this chunk of time to following my bliss and my curiosity.  That may be the best I can do for awhile which isn't to say I am abandoning myself again but rather committing to this moment and what is possible.  And that's a good place to start.  

Stay tuned.  

she always helps me to find clarity and purpose albeit often with a healthy dollop of chaos and distraction


  1. oh, oh, oh....

    i think you know my thoughts on this...that i mutter fervently on your behalf that your way is clear and your heart is brave and you step into what it meant to be yours.

    i'm here -- loving you and holding space for you while you pick your way through the thicket. there'll be hot tea and elderberry wine waiting for you at base camp upon your return. :)

    much, much love...much. xoxoxox

  2. {{{{Lis}}}}} wanting your to know you have courage - you have such strength such inner wisdom and the flame within you burns bright - and is getting brighter each day - you inspire me - and others with the wise words you share. luving you - Jersey girl - my hand is here to hold - should you need. xo

  3. Oh my goodness, I just read Mel's post and now this. I am a total emotional mess with all this truth telling and longing and such love--oh so powerfully expressed. I can barely breathe with how this post has affected me. You have this brilliant willing open spirit that sings
    whenever you write of your life and I always am glad I have come to visit.
    Lynna G

  4. I am always so struck by your honesty and inspirational words.
    I know I have tended to do the same - not believe enough in myself and have given up on dreams. Love your words and your thoughts.

  5. I am so with you in every word, what a kindred spirit you are xxx