I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Recital’

Ignorance Was Bliss

“Agree to one husband, get two children to mentor without your getting (additional) stretch marks FREE!” 

How could I not take the deal. 

19 and 10. Girls. Both smart and beautiful enough for me to claim them. In public. It may shock you to know that it took me several months after becoming engaged to have my first panic attack about being a stepmother. What brought it on, you ask?

Lil One’s dance recital. 

It was the second dance recital I’d ever been to – the first was my own in 1990. A lot changes in 25 years, the most obvious being showing up to the recital hall and suddenly realizing you play for Team Mom now. Holy crap. I sat in my chair and had to partake of my purse booze that I keep for bumpy flights to help keep it together. One, I immediately had empathy for all my music parents who ask me, “How long will your program be?” because we were there for over three hours. No more self-righteous thoughts – not that I’ve ever been stupid enough to program anything that long! Okay, for real now – no more self-righteous thoughts. Lil One danced twice in three hours. I’m all about supporting kids I don’t know on stage, even when they are literally picking their noses, but combined with the realization that I have signed up for the nightshift of child rearing was too much for me at the time. 

I began to reflect on all the sacrifices that have been made for me. Hell, that are STILL being made for me. How many evenings did my parents give up so that I could remind other parents to support other people’s children? How many weekend mornings do they still give up to watch me cross a finish line? I felt incredibly guilty for being such a leech. I resolved then not to tell them about any other races I’m doing because I didn’t want to take their time. Pretty selfish of me, huh? 

In the past, I’ve told my parents that I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t have me because I’m a lot of work. They usually would first stare at me like I have two heads and then tell me how they couldn’t imagine life without me. Then Daddy would get on his soapbox about how wrongheaded people are who don’t want to have children because it’s hard. Lather, rinse, repeat, boom, I’m 30 and at a dance recital, not able to imagine life without girls I didn’t know a year ago. 

Being sarcastic and scared about child-rearing was fun, I admit. It was ignorance, and the worst kind. The type that is self-absorbed and seeking its own ends. I no longer have that privilege. Instead, I am becoming part of an insta-family who will consistently and lovingly challenge me to be a better, stronger wife, daughter, stepmother, and hopefully mother of Jamerigreeks someday. That growth will not be easy, but truth, especially with love, beats ignorance every time.  

 

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Answer: Everything that kills me makes me feel alive. Recital Report, Part I

Question: Why the hell am I here again?

I asked myself this as I pulled up to my performance venue after a hectic morning. I had anticipated feeling panicked, but at about two hours before show time I just wanted a nap. Music is cool, but naps are better, right? Alas, I would feel guilty drinking later if I didn’t play first. Onward!

I met with the owner and worked out some final details. A local university student was there with her professor, checking out pianos. “Fantastic,” I thought. “People who know what they are doing. I bet that feels good.” I tried to shut everything out and settle myself.

Dress? Check. Playing shoes? Check. Diva shoes for the after party? Check. Confidence? Uh. This face stared back at me in the mirror:

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Oh, dear. Maybe we can get some confidence from upgrading that face. My makeup application took me 5 whole minutes. That’s 10x longer than normal. You know this must be a BFD. Next came the dress, pearls, and shoes. I giggled. “I’m cute. Still tired, but cute.” I checked my watch. 45 minutes to go. By now, the others had cleared out of the hall and I could warm up.

I adjusted the bench how I like it and started playing through my favorite (read: most terrifying) sections of each piece slowly. Heh. “This Steinway D shole is purty!” Soon after I had begun, one of my cousins popped her head in. Polite pianistzilla that I am, I gave her a hug and asked if she would wait outside for me until 1:45. She was cool. “Hey, could you keep others out for me too?” “Sure!” she says.

I start playing again. I hear another person. “Gah!” Oh yay, it’s 3M! Happy to see her, I ask her to go away, too. 🙂 My mom and aunt then came in (cousin you are REALLY sucking at this) and my mother tried to attack me. “Ermahgerd lemme see how beautiful you are!” Thankfully, my aunt shuffled her away. I got about 2 more minutes in before I went to go hide and check myself out one last time.

I had wanted to minimize my contact with people before I went on the stage. However, as there was only one bathroom, it became a bit of a reunion area. “I’m so excited!” “Are you ready?” “Good luck!” Everyone please SHUT. UP. I smiled and hugged, of course, and in retrospect, that is probably what I needed. I managed to hide, eat a Bonk Breaker (hey, endurance is endurance) and await 2 PM. I checked my watch. 1:53. As I sat in a room by myself, I repeated the command from Philippians 4:6 to be anxious for nothing. I thanked God for my family and for music and the opportunity to bring them together today. “Uh. What are you gonna do if when you make a mistake?” I asked myself. “Keep going. No big deal,” I replied. Keep breathing. Have fun. Think happy thoughts. Did Jesus really die on a cross for me to whine about Chopin? No, probs. Chill out.

I came out at 2 and told owner dude I was ready. I turned my head and saw my Dad TOTALLY not in the performance hall. “Waaaaaaaaiiiiit!” I asked him to wait 5 more minutes. I wrangled my father, who was giving directions to a turned around family member. Real talk? When my huge family of Caribbean descent is involved, starting an event 5 minutes late is like starting an hour early. I couldn’t be mad.

No, seriously. I couldn’t be mad. I had a job to do. They are clapping for me!

Separation Anxiety: On Winding Down

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about something low-stress, like dropping your kid off at day care for the first time or saying farewell to your military spouse before s(he) deploys. This is SERIOUS. As my recital approaches, I am finding that I have had to spend more time away from the piano than I would like. I had planned for this, as this is not my first rodeo, but it is unsettling nonetheless.

Incidentally, today was also my rest day for my triathlon training. No playing. No biking. No swimming. No running. Um. What else is there? Aside from descend into self-sabotaging, paralyzing thoughts of what could go wrong. Hah! I didn’t do that either, actually. I suppose I must be maturing because I feel very matter-of-fact about my performance. I know I cannot cram any more details into my head. It is what it is.

So why is this pulling away so uncomfortable?

I think it is the waiting. I wish I could fast forward to 4 PM on Saturday when I should be having my first glass of champagne. Before that, I have to welcome family into town, ensure that I sleep and eat well, finish printing programs, get dat recital day pedi, and wait backstage without losing my mind and keeping my heart rate down for about 30 minutes until show time.

Moreover, the approach of any event is the time in which friends and family are in my face like so:

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I know they mean well, and because people aren’t usually comfortable with anything less than a sunny disposition, I try to reply as such:

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I don’t feel like I will know I’m ready until I sit at the piano on recital day and play E flat with my RH 2. Or maybe I’ll know when I play the final B octave with lefty.

What I do know is that this – the discomfort, the waiting – this is how real women are made.

Triathlon Tough = Recital Ready?

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Two days ago, I almost fell off of my bike. Almost. 🙂 Winning!

Red Rocket and I had stopped at an intersection. I was riding with a group (in the back, per usual) and the group had restarted. The road was a *tad* bumpy and as I was trying to clip in my left foot, I couldn’t get the bike steady. I’m thankful that the cars to my left and behind me slowed so that I could live to say I lived through another day of triathlon training. Heh. Anyhow, I managed to straighten out Red Rocket, continue, and catch up with my group.

Strangely enough, this *near* fall excites me. My relationship with Red Rocket is becoming increasingly less tortured. Imagine that – you nurture something and it grows. Who. Knew. “But Lady J,” you ask. “Why would you be excited about almost falling?” Aside from the fact that I am unscathed, it means that I am one near-miss stronger. I was reminded of something that my piano teacher from high school once told me:

“You don’t really know your music until you’ve missed every note.

That used to baffle me, but now I understand. As I prepare for my recital, I’ve created opportunities to play for others and have been a little surprised at some of the errors I’ve made. My mock recital was especially helpful, because I had really forgotten what it was like to be that nervous before presenting an entire program of music. I even briefly forgot how one of my pieces started! All kinds of things I was NOT expecting happened as I was playing, but I survived, and now I know at the very least I will get through my recital.

Working to conquer the fear of my bike has helped me make great strides in my music making. Of all the legs of triathlon, I feel that cycling is the closest to piano playing, in that I am working to steer both my body and an instrument. The piano and bicycle are both the means by which I move forward, and it’s my job to manage my body in such a way that the motion is as fluid as possible.

There are times when I’m with Red Rocket that I’m absolutely terrified everything is going to go wrong and I’m going to fall on my face. My heart rate shoots up and I start to shake. I have to remind myself that 1) I know how to ride and stop the bike if I need to and 2) if for some reason I can’t, I will most likely be okay. I cannot live in fear of falling and expect to move forward.

Likewise, as I come to passages of music that I find technically demanding and I wonder if I’m going to make it, I must remind myself to live in the moment and make the very best music that I can. If I think about messing up, my heart rate increases just the same and my proficiency of managing the instrument decreases. Falls at the piano are inevitable, and they come much more often for me than on the bike simply because I’ve logged more notes than I have miles. And boy, do I remember my falls. “I remember from 2005 during the second A section of the Brahms rhapsody when I missed that F#. Why am I here.”

Indeed. Why DO I do this? Both triathlon and piano performance terrify me. How am I spending my summer? Preparing to do both. Investing time and money in both. It’s not even as though I’m particularly good at either! But – in 25 years, I’ve never DNF’d at a recital. There’s no greater feeling than finishing something I’ve set out to do. I’m a champ when it comes to moving forward.

Freedom to Choose

“Joan. Not everyone is willing to make the sacrifice you are to make the music that you know you can make.”

The words of my piano teacher have been bouncing in my head since I last played for her a few days ago. At first, I just thought she was talking about practicing, as it can be bloody boring and tedious and not everyone is willing to sit and make it happen. Freaking duh. That’s why students quit piano lessons once they reach intermediate levels – if not before. That’s why students enter college and switch majors from music like, five seconds after arriving.

But what of we badasses who survive the hell that is being a music major?

I can only speak to one badass, of course. I managed to make it out of graduate school and the longer I’ve been separated from formal study, the more I want to learn and surround myself with music. Playing it, teaching it, studying it, ery’thang. The last time I had formal lessons before I decided to give a recital was 2009 while I was still a student. My last recital was in 2008. I’m doing this because I want to and that’s amazing. Perhaps this helps you to understand why I was a bit perplexed when my teacher was talking about sacrifice. “I love you, dear teacher, but I’ve been at this a while. I know it sucks quite a bit of the time,” I thought.

As you may already know, I’m quite charming. I also have a very large family. People like for me to spend time with them and I love quite a few of them. It hadn’t dawned on me just how often I turn down requests to hang out because I have to practice, train, or work.

This really isn’t one of those “OMG check me out, I’m soooooo busy!” kind of posts. I’m sure it’s coming across that way, but I swear that’s not my intent. I am not busy to show off – hell, I have to practice and train as I do because I’m working to suck less, hah! The sacrifice my teacher was speaking of has to do with choices. To choose to do anything is an inherent rejection of something else. I eat eggs for breakfast, that means I don’t have a shake. I train for triathlon, I don’t play soccer. I practice to perform – I have to make plans in advance to hang out. My life lacks spontaneity. I suppose I’ve become so accustomed to it that I stopped noticing.

I can’t have it all. Dammit.

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