Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Persistent Piano
The dreaded words, uttered by my mother each afternoon, never ceased to make my eyes roll. It was the cannon blast that signaled the start of the daily war.
The piano was inherited from my Grandmother and had been in a house fire years before. A strange (and yet delightful) fireman rescued her from the ravaged house and restored her to perfection. The story goes, he felt so badly about taking in from the house and repairing it so well, that he returned it to my grandmother. Somehow, it ended up in my parent's house after it was decided that it was my call and duty to play as well as she once did.
And thus it began. From the age of 4 to 16, I took weekly lessons from a woman who spoke to me mostly in French. My half hour with Madame Holly consisted of me struggling through pieces I detested. I wanted to play jazz and learn the art of improvisation, she wanted me to be firmly rooted in Schubert, Chopin, and Beethoven. She won.
At 16, I made my stand. I called Madame Holly and told her I would no long be taking lessons. I stopped playing all together for about a year. I refused to touch the piano after enduring the encouragement (a.k.a. nagging) from my parents for so long.
It was bliss.
But then...I felt like something was missing.
One afternoon, I sat down and played and played. My friends, Chopin, Schubert and Beethoven poured from my fingers...rusty, but there. My foundations were solid. I remembered what I had been taught. I am no prodigy, but I to love to play just for the sake of bringing something beautiful to the world.
People often use the word "talent" when it comes to the arts. In my case, talent has nothing to do with it. Interest, yes. I could have learned a million other skills as a child that would have served me just as well, but the value of playing the piano was larger than the music. What I learned while playing was persistence.
I will never be the "best" pianist, singer, friend, writer, artist, teacher, mother, (or anything else I may do) but what does that mean anyway? My value isn't found in competing with others. It is found in rejoicing in other's successes, and in my own--as small as they may be. Each day I try to bring to this world my love, enthusiasm, joy, and attention but even if those fail--and oh how I fail--I can be persistent.
We are allowed to fail. ALL OF US, EVERYDAY. It is necessary and even beautiful. How else will we ever learn to exercise our persistence muscles?
What is important is that we begin again.
In what ways do you persist?
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