“Okay so you need to isolate the energy to your finger tips and hit those piano keys with that, not with your wrist or arm power.”
“Isolate”, he tells me.
But doesn’t he know?
When you’ve never given a second thought as to where your hands typically derive their force from to do daily tasks.
When your fingers are showing with each note you play that they are far older than your 50 years of age (even though they look like they just turned 40? 35? – Hey, I can dream can’t I?!).
When nothing you ask that non-dominant hand’s fourth and fifth fingers to do gets the response you want (hold down the key, don’t stick up straight into mid-air like a sore thumb – you’re a finger for crying out loud!).
When you have to stay cool, composed and relaxed from the neck down as you tickle those ivories, even though you’re so focused to make sure you don’t play the wrong key or miss a beat that your shoulders automatically tense up like a cornered cat.
I now better understand the dexterity needed by waiters busy juggling piles of plates on each arm, trying to make it back into the restaurant kitchen without dropping any. There should be an Olympic-level event for it! (Is there?)
Such is my life each week since resuming my keyboard lessons in September.
I still don’t know what possessed me.
A dare? No, nobody cared or even knew outside of my immediate family, and maybe one or two friends.
A momentary impulse? Not exactly, since this isn’t my first time (I re-started in 2015, but stopped because…yea well, we don’t need to get into that).
A lack of things to do? Puh-leese. Life’s too harsh to grant such moments of reprieve and indulgence.
So why do it? Because I turned the no-nonsense corner of 50 this year and wanted to mark it by biting off more than I can chew (while I still have all my teeth)?
All I know is that these weekly lessons require me to return to basics; to places I’ve no control or mastery over. It wasn’t easy when I was 12 (I barely survived my first piano teacher and lived to tell the tale!), or 45 (when…no I said I won’t get into that, didn’t I? But if you insist, I did mention my sordid past with this instrument of instruments here).
And it’s certainly not any easier now. Guess you can say I’m a sucker for punishment; for getting into places of discomfort, but not always because I choose to mind you.
It. Is. What. It. Is. And. I. Am. What. I. Am.
Perhaps that’s just how I’m made.
And maybe now, finally, as I turned 50 in this epic year, I’m learning to embrace who I am better than I’ve ever before.
Before, I was always second-guessing what others think of me. Always hesitating and doubting myself. Always wondering when my turn will come and people will take notice of me. Why my peers seemed to find their groove so much earlier than me, and I’m the proverbial rolling stone that gathers no moss.
In many ways, I’m still wondering now, still doubting. Maybe that’s why each time my current piano teacher praises me, I quickly deflect his compliments and immediately prove him wrong by banging the wrong keys on his ill-treated (by me) piano!
But I’m also slowly getting comfortable, with being uncomfortable. Accepting that it’s okay to not be okay.
Maybe that’s the attitude that’s helped me weathered 2020 (and 2019). And what will buffer me for what lies ahead in 2021.
Maybe that attitude will allow me to play my “piano in the dark” of what are still my mysterious musical (and not so musical) moments as I leave 2020, and enter the new year.
This unfinished journey I’ve re-started.
Like Brenda Russell aptly sang:
I’m caught up in the middle.
I cry just a little.
When I think of letting go.
Gave up on the riddle.
I cry just a little.
When he plays piano in the dark.”
What about you? What attitude’s lifting you out of 2020 and into 2021?