I never learned to read music. I never played an instrument. But I always wanted to. Not because I felt I had a skill. Of course I don’t. But because like most people I know, music creates a living emotion inside of me. I don’t even have to explain it. You know exactly what I mean. And I wanted to connect to that in some way. Have some kind of participation with that. Even if only in a primal and fundamental way. I spent, wasted, a lot of time over the years buying one instrument or another thinking I could teach myself to play. Of course I couldn’t.
One day I got a guitar.
One day I got an instructor.
Now, almost two years later, I can practice a little bit of playing. I can’t ‘play’ the guitar. I don’t want to get all cocky. I can practice. Though a guitar guy I was talking to asked me how long I’ve been taking lessons, I told him, he laughed and snorted a little and said in a very encouraging tone with a lift of his eye brow “you are playing the guitar”. The man has no idea. But I loved his good natured acceptance of me in to his brotherhood of musicians worldwide. Without ever hearing me. Which is the only way I would ever be accepted. Digression….
I’ll never be great. I will struggle to ever be good. And that’s okay.
I despise the metronome. And that’s okay.
And I’ve told my instructor he’s not the boss of me every time he tells me that I can play chords. When I know I cannot. The man is a saint. But he is not the boss of me. And I cannot play chords. And that’s okay.
I can play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for my kids. And I can play “Amazing Grace”, my all time favorite song. And I can play “When The Saints Come Marching In”. And I can play “The Star Spangled Banner” and made myself cry when I played it all the way through once with out making a mistake (that I noticed and no one else was there to listen so who’s to say I didn’t?). And then I played it like Jimi Hendrix played it and got all proudful because I knew who Jimi Hendrix was (but had to look up how to spell his last name to make sure) and yes I know that he didn’t play his famous rendition on an acoustic but hey, maybe my skills are a little better than I thought if I played that good on my acoustic that I rivaled Jimi Hendrix. And no one heard me to say I didn’t rival his performance, so in my head I can be happy with thinking I might have. And just to name drop a little more, I could learn to play something to show off some Brian May skills, and I didn’t even have to look up his name.
The thing is….I was 49 when I picked up the guitar. Started taking lessons. I was a nervous wreck. I thought I would learn how to “strum” a guitar and play a few tunes and be completely inept and unable to do much of anything. My instructor had a completely different idea. He’s teaching me how to read music. Even though he’s not the boss of me and I had no intention of reading music, I am learning how to read music. But just to show him who’s the boss, I am painfully difficult and a very slow learner. So there! At one point he talked me in to doing a recital. On the eve of my 50th birthday I did my first (and only) guitar recital with a room full of little kids. I was likely the most nervous. Definitely the oldest by calendar years. The youngest by all other standards. The desire to ‘do’ this never, ever, went away. It never went dormant. It never ceased, desisted, and died. It’s always been there. It’s still there. I still want to learn. I still want to do it. It took me awhile to get to the opportunity to do it. But I did. And I’m grateful for it.
It’s a constant reminder that it can be done.
And I have more. More things to do. More things waiting on me to create the opportunity. More things waiting on me to live out the chance to experience. More things waiting on me to find out I can do, poorly, moderately or greatly. Regardless of how well I do them, that I do them, and the doing of them fills my life and my world with experience, joy, education, opportunity.
The doing of these things gives me music. Art. Literature. Exercise. Relationships. Courage. Excitement. Nervous energy.
The doing of these things gives me the youthfulness of adventure and discovery.
The days I pick up the guitar and play a little melody before I step out into the wilderness ….. are the days I survive and thrive from the start.