The Guitar

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.

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.


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48 thoughts on “The Guitar

  1. Great story. I completely “get it”.

    We are cruising on the same highway this morning. You might want to read


  2. That’s the most important part, isn’t it. The desire and passion for a musical instrument. You are probably better than you think, but keep practicing because it gives you such pleasure. That alone is worth it.
    I don’t play piano well, but a few years ago I played something for my grandkids. I struggled and my fingers looked all twitchy. My granddaughter said, “This one’s too hard for you.” She was about four. ^^’ Was my face red! ^^’


  3. Well, so many things here Colleen. First of all, wow, never knew that about you and I think it’s great!! I have to say, the fact that you say you don’t ‘play’ the guitar gets me a bit. I am teaching my 7 year old daughter to play right now. (Yes, she hates the metronome too!!) and she could never achieve what you do, not only because she is so new to it, but also because of a lack of strength and motor skills in her hands. But does she play the guitar? Yes! And do you? You bet!!


  4. lexiesnana says:

    One of my earliest memories of playing the guitar was strumming and singing a song about a man that got hung in the town square because his alibi for not doing a crime was he was cheating with his best friends wife. My sisters and I didn’t even know what the song meant but they always cried because they said it reminded them of Daddy. I don’t know why but it makes me laugh now.


    • Uhm……..WHY did the song remind them of your daddy???? The name of the song is eluding me….. did it have something to do with a mountain too?????


      • lexiesnana says:

        Who knows. Maybe because they were both dead. I think the name of the song was The Long Black Veil or something like that. I just know it was in an old music book my Mom had and it started– Ten years ago on a cold dark night someone was killed neath the town hall light. Crazy that your post made me remember that.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. niaaeryn says:

    Music…I have difficulty playing it as well, and it has been some time since I have read it, but it really does speak to the soul in such a profound way. I wholeheartedly agree with you 🙂
    That is great that you are playing! I bet you are even better than you think, we are often our own worst critics.


    • 🙂 I have told my instructor that I am AMAZING when I’m playing by myself. Because I’m only playing to make me happy and it doesn’t matter what I sound like as much as it matters that I’m learning to do it. But if other ears are listening, then it matters differently. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Great friend you’ve made with that guitar. Music and musical instruments do something special for quality in our lives. I don’t play an instrument either but have a dream to someday take piano lessons. Happy weekend. 🙂


  7. viveka says:

    Colleen, what a wonderful post …. nobody can use words and make them make such sense as you do. I would love to be in your wilderness …. and listen to you. I wish you both a pleasant weekend.


  8. Mustang.Koji says:

    Where’s the vid of your Carnegie Hall performance with the little kids in the audience? I know Po took one!!!


  9. I love this post! The analogies that you use are awesome. I bet you are a lot better guitar player than you think you are! I use to play the piano until I wanted to play the flute, then I got too old and too cool to play in the band at school (so I thought), then later in my years I taught myself to play the organ and did very well on it. Something happened. I don’t remember what. But, I stopped playing the organ. I wish I had not stopped. 😦


    • Thank you Priceless. No, I’m pretty realistic about my skills. I am not ‘good’. I am ‘okay’ and having fun, which is the best part of it all. I’m not ‘having’ to do it. Which would be an entirely different matter. If I was having to do it and having to be good, or worried about good, I would be miserable. But I’m okay with where I am. I am much better than what I was when I started. I will definitely agree with that!!!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. reocochran says:

    I think this is what is so important about doing something you love. For yourself, for your soul and for your being able to declare to others, in not a proudful way but a humble way. You can play Jimi Hendrix, Amazing Grace and all of the other mentioned music. Brian May is great! I am proud of your performance, with the audience of young ones, Colleen. The way you are spreading the word to them, which is so meaningful and deeper than playing a guitar: you are demonstrating “Do what you love, whenever you can and as soon as you can, always.”


    • I do hope that they want, and get opportunities to play music at a much younger age. That was part of my motivation to do what I always wanted to do. Whether I did when I was younger or not, the fact that I still wanted to do it, and DID do it, I wanted them to see that as well. I love your last line Robin. It is absolutely what I want to do. Always.


  11. markbialczak says:

    I bow to you for learning to play the guitar, Colleen. This is fantastic. I still only know how to play the stereo. 🙂 Now go learn how to play chords. You can do it, buddy. You can do anything if you tell yourself you can and stop telling yourself you can’t.


  12. dogear6 says:

    My cousin hated playing the piano when he was growing up. We couldn’t believe that after he turned 40, he started playing again and taking lessons! It was the same as you that he just felt like playing and didn’t have to impress anyone with it. That’s the best way to enjoy it too.



    • “Having” to do anything sure puts a different spin on it doesn’t it? I do enjoy that I am doing it because I want to. I keep telling my instructor that it’s job security for him that I am soooooooooooooooooooooooooo pitifully slow at this. 🙂


  13. Jim McKeever says:

    This is awesome, Colleen. Whatever healthy pursuit makes you feel alive, embrace it — and you are doing so! And learning to actually read music? You’re brave indeed. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes progress. (Stealing a quote from my kids’ second-grade teacher way back when).


    • I think the reading music surprises me more than playing the guitar. That’s some hard stuff there! And I like that. Practice does make progress. And I am VERY happy with progress over perfection!


  14. Gibber says:

    Good on you for doing it! You’re probably better than you think. He is the boss of you while you’re in lessons. lol


  15. Whether I’m really practicing, as in correcting and perfecting difficult parts, or just playing for the fun of it and running right through the mistakes, I spend time at the piano for the way it relaxes me and keeps me closer to the music. I think it’s just great that you participated in a recital. That’s a great effort. Keep at it for the joy of playing. 🙂


    • That’s what I tell my husband. I love that I am doing this for the sake of doing it. The learning of it. The enjoyment of it. There is no “have to” involved. Which makes it SO very lovely for me. 🙂 I get exactly what you mean.


  16. April says:

    I always wanted to play the saxophone but I was stuck with the clarinet…my parent’s choice. Our youngest took up the saxophone, and then stopped. I can remember some of the music I learned to read, and I’ve often thought about teaching myself to play that sax sitting in a closet. Yeah, thanks for the inspiration. 🙂


  17. Anonymous says:



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