If I had to choose favorite chapters from the books I’ve written, this would be one of them. It’s from “This is Livin’! Learning to Move from Messy Moments to Happy Places.” And since we’re all trying to find a new rhythm and our equilibrium, it seems so timely. Enjoy!
Some refer to the occurrence as a moment of amazement that defies talent.
I refer to it as the time when my sister Lori was so tired of practicing that her brain froze up.
The event was the annual piano recital.
Here’s a little set-up to the important performance …
His glasses were always perched on his forehead, and his legs were always crossed. Mr. Anderson was an extremely gifted piano teacher who reminded us that music was more than notes and that any God-given talent was intended to be developed. He would bang out our weekly lessons with his two index fingers on an antiquated black typewriter using carbon paper between the pages. He called each of us “Ole.” When we weren’t prepared (he always knew when we weren’t prepared!), he’d type an “Ooftah” on our weekly lesson plan. I’m not kidding. He’d type “Ooftah.”
Spring piano recitals were held in the basement of Mr. Anderson’s home in Crookston, Minnesota. As little girls, we’d practice and practice and practice for the annual performance. Stressed-out nerves would hit a crescendo the night before the big event. A whole lot of deals were proposed to God if he would just help us memorize and remember the piece this one time.
And now, to the big night …
It was Lori’s turn to show the rest of us how much she had prepared. She was ready. At least she was until she sat down on the piano bench.
Lori started playing. But her right hand found a tempo that was very different from the tempo her left hand found. One hand was playing two measures faster than the other; one playing allegro, the other adagio. One was forte, the other pianissimo. (We had never heard this song during her hours of practice!)
She stopped. Paused. Started over. Once again, her right hand skimmed the keys faster than her left. She stopped. Paused. Started over. Aaaannd…it was as if her hands were each attached to two different people, each listening to a metronome set on a different speed.
The next and final time she started the song, she just kept playing. Two hands playing the same song in different tempos and different expressions. The confusion sounded nothing like music.
At the end of the song—well, when her left hand finally finished the song a few seconds after her right hand—she stopped playing, placed her hands in her lap, and just sat on the bench for a moment looking at the keys. The basement was completely still. My other sister, Julie, and I had stopped breathing, clenching our little hands in our laps, wanting to just grab Lori and head for the cookies and punch.
Mr. Anderson took his glasses off his forehead, rubbed his eyes with his hands, and graciously murmured, “Amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The minute Lori got home that evening, she sat down on the piano bench and played her song perfectly.
Life has felt like a botched recital for me at times. Everything just seems out of synch. No matter how many times I pause and start over, my rhythm is off. My lesson is filled with Ooftah’s as I try and try and try again to find my equilibrium. But all the energy and effort I muster can’t get me back on track. I just cannot get it together.
We’ve all had those moments, haven’t we? We will have more of them, you know. Count on it.
The good news is, those moments will eventually end.
I’ve learned that the best action I can take in that messiness is to simply stop. My mind needs to reset. I need to take a deep breath. Walk away for a minute. Stop trying so hard. Maybe have some fruit and a veggie drink…or cookies and punch …
And then begin playing again the next day. In synch.