Lately I seem to spend a lot of time feeling as though something is wrong with me. I had a splendid and welcoming and in general sort of enveloping experience reading my poems Thursday evening with Kevin at the longhouse at Hibulb Cultural Center (“more than a museum” and truly worth a visit). Kevin was wonderful. I sold books. I made new friends. Lots of my peeps showed up to cheer me on. And yet on Friday all I wanted to do was sleep. Ditto for yesterday.
The one thing I had to do on Friday was my piano lesson, which I’d had to postpone earlier in the week because of an urgent visit to see my mom. I had scarcely practiced. I didn’t know the new songs. I wanted to stay home in bed. But I remembered the advice that got me through my last few years of teaching–in essence,
Your job is to show up.
There’s more to it. With a good attitude. Prepared. I couldn’t do anything about not being prepared, or not feeling prepared, but putting on my clothes and leaving the house was enough to lift my mood and get my attitude rolling.
At the lesson, I began by apologizing for practicing so little. Every week I think that I will break through some invisible wall of time and spend 30 or 40 minutes on each session. But this week I’d been lucky just to sit down on the bench and play through one song. “It all counts,” Susan said. “It all adds up.”
I played one of my new songs, and stumbled mightily. Susan made me slow down and count (one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and) to get all the eighth notes in. “You’re running amok,” she said, and laughed her sparkly laugh. She sat down beside me and showed me how in the duet I had to wait for the million notes that she would be filling in around the melody. We played it twice, and the second time–when I was breathing, when I was counting–it sounded beautiful.
Nothing was wrong. Even the one measure I rushed, Susan took in stride, using it as an opportunity to rein me in yet again and walk me through the notes. A learning opportunity. This morning, reading a chapter in Sage Cohen’s Fierce on the Page, I found this, which pretty much sums up what my piano teacher gives me :
“The beauty of a great editor is that she can offer friendly encouragement from a bit farther down the road and awaken you to the distance you have yet to travel.” (p. 123)
“You’re doing great,” Susan told me as I went out the door. “Baby steps.” Nothing was wrong.