Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mislaid Plans

I had plans for tonight, free tickets for a burlesque show. But the friend going with me had to cancel, and everyone else I called had plans already. I wasn't brave enough to go by myself. Not brave enough to sit alone at a show, not brave enough to navigate the unfamiliar streets of downtown in the dark, not brave enough to walk through an unattended parking garage and dark streets by myself. I'm not as far along as I thought.

I spent nearly two weeks on Maui by myself, alone in the midst of vacationing families, couples and honeymooners. There were moments of self-pitying meltdown, but many more moments of doing adventurous things like snorkeling, surfing, hiking, dining alone in nice restaurants and going to shows. Maybe it was the sun, or the sea or the fact that I was paying for everything, so I was determined to get out and enjoy it.

The tickets for tonight's show were free, so I don't feel so bad for not using them. It was easy to tell myself that it's cold and dark and I'd rather just stay in and get some work done, work I didn't get done during the fun but woefully unproductive editing session this morning. No one else got much done either; it was our first meeting since the End-of-Nanowrimo 2009 celebration in early December.

I could spend this evening finishing up Chapter 9. The exercise on creative u-turns is partially finished. I stopped at the part that asks if any abandoned dreams or desires can be resurrected. I watched part of a show about the Smithsonian; it was called Superlatives. One segment was about the musical instrument collection. There were two cellos, one rented from a music school, the other...a cello made nearly 300 years ago by Antonio Stradivari. The music school cello was played first. It sounded fine enough. Then the Stradivarius. Oh. My. Rich and resonant, even through the television. It brought back a long buried desire.

When I was a child, I wanted to learn to play the cello. My parents told me I had to learn piano first. The piano and I are natural enemies. It didn't work out. I never got to play cello.
When my much younger sister decided she wanted to play cello, my parents said yes. She didn't have to learn piano first. I'm not sure why the different treatment, whether money was a factor and we already had a piano and a cello had to be rented, whether my parents had learned that love for an instrument can't be forced, or whether by their third child they were just worn out and didn't want to argue the point.

What I do know is that all these years later, I'm still surprisingly bitter about being denied what I really wanted. I did try learning violin a few years ago, but my inner critic and perfectionist made it a miserable experience. Now that I'm learning to loosen their pernicious grip, now that I'm learning to allow myself to be a beginner, to allow myself to suck, maybe I could try learning cello without the expectation of being perfect or knowing how to play before I learn how. Maybe I can approach it with beginner's mind.

My friend Najah is studying Tai Chi. The instructor tells students "Learn to invest in loss". I think this means accepting that we will never be perfect, that nothing will ever be mastered, but that knowing this we still show up in the class, at the laptop, the pen & paper, the kitchen, the instrument, the relationship, wherever, whatever, and in that moment, with beginner's mind we do our best.

4 comments:

ginger said...

i'm sorry, so sorry.

kate said...

No worries :). Stuff happens.

Jenn said...

Interesting what you say about the sibling instrument/bitterness thing. When I was a kid I asked to play drums. I loved them & wanted to give it a shot. My mom said no, just flat out no. When my sister asked to play piano mom went out & bought a keyboard & signed her up for lessons. I too was very bitter about the unfair treatment so that is why I'm making my own childhood now and taking drum lessons every week. Let me tell you, as a fellow perfectionist, it is so liberating to leave that side of me outside the door and just learn. It means more to me that I ever thought it could. I strongly encourage you to give it a try because if you wanted to do it that bad then & still think about it now it will be something you thoroughly enjoy!

Bridgete said...

I've wanted to learn the cello for a long time. Not as long as you, I started wanting to learn sometime in college when I decided I absolutely love the sound.

It's possible your parents wanted you to get a well-rounded musical education. Learning the piano is surprisingly important no matter what instrument you ultimately want to play. I struggle even with singing because I don't know how to play piano. So it could have been one of those "trying to get it right" things parents do with the older children. Anyway, just a thought. Doesn't make it any better that you didn't get to learn when you wanted to, but it's a possibility.