Yesterday, as Heidi was leaving after my massage, I commented to her that I couldn’t believe it had taken me nearly five years to get to the point of being willing to handle my life—to be in charge completely. Heidi, in her blunt way, said, “Well, you resisted it so much! ‘That which we resist persists.’” She’s right. I did not want to be alone, I did not want to live without John, I couldn’t believe that he was really gone, I didn’t want to shoulder all his responsibilities, I didn’t want to do life without him…and I tried very hard not to. I sluffed things off to others, I ran away to do fun things, I spent money, I distracted myself. But life still happened. Maybe I just got tired enough to give in to fate. Maybe I just got frustrated enough with not being my real self that I’m finally willing to take on reality. Maybe my pretense at being okay and capable got to be too much. Maybe my desire to be me finally overcame my anger/pain/frustration at living without John. Maybe I’ve healed enough on some atomic, or sub-atomic level to take another step forward, and that step is recognizable to me as major progress.
But the grief still hurts so badly! I’m sure that’s why I resist. Why would I willingly jump into soooo much pain? The grief is overwhelming. It’s formidable. It’s daunting. It threatens to flatten me. So, I’ve come up with yet another analogy. The piano analogy.
When I took on a brand new young piano student, I did not start by putting Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody in front of them. We started with the basics. Middle C. Hand position. Super basic. We built from there. Years of diligent practice are required to reach a level of proficiency to even start on the Rhapsody. (Huh, interesting side note—about 5 years of exacting practice are required. It’s been almost five years.)
I tackled the Rhapsody in my years of piano. I even conquered a part or two, but was never willing to put in the effort to really achieve proficiency at the rest. When I would look over the whole score, I would give up because I knew what would be required and I wasn’t willing to put in that much work. That’s how I feel now. Facing life without John was like being required to perform the whole of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody. Too daunting and overwhelming. I wasn’t willing to take on such a task. Even though I really love the piece, and would totally revel in being able to perform the whole thing, it has previously felt like too much. I was content to dabble at the parts that I could already play.
Five years later, I’m faced with pulling out the whole score and planning a strategy for conquering said piece of music. I’m taking stock of weak fingers, and fully realizing the extent of practicing my Hanon exercises that will be required to regain strength, mobility, agility, and technique. I’m reading over the score to see which parts are most challenging. I’m recognizing the enormous task in front of me, but also acknowledging the possibility of success. Tough? Very. Am I capable? I will be. I know the steps necessary. I know the time involved. Daunting? Totally. However, instant success is not required. Constant and steady practice is.
I’ve been mulling over the art of practicing life in the past few months. I’ve been more charitable to myself and my efforts at living a Christ-like life. I’ve given myself credit for practicing, and have developed a greater love for the Savior and His atonement. I’m thankful for daily repentance.
When a piano student comes for his/her lesson, we take stock of what progress has been made with the previous week of practicing. We acknowledge challenge spots and develop of plan of action for conquering those phrases. There is praise for achievement and effort. There is often a need for buoying up the student’s spirits, and reassuring him of his capability. There is encouragement. But, there is always the task ahead and a plan for further progress. I used to tell my students that perfection in performance was a realistic goal, and that’s what we were working for.
So, I’ve pulled out the score for Hungarian Rhapsody with my mind’s eye on the ultimately satisfying ability to perform the piece with skill and gusto. To truly enjoy playing the piano with proficiency and expression. To perform! I am a performer, after all. To perform well I need practice…rehearsal…repetition.
My analogy isn’t perfect. Living life successfully and with gusto without John was never on my list of desirable things to do. At least with the Rhapsody I had a desire to perform. In my daily life I still have to work on some positive attitude and eternal perspective aspects. I have to trust that the Lord sees the whole score and knows that I will love it—that it will be just what I always wanted to achieve. That’s a hard one for me…to trust that what I’m working for, what I’m practicing so hard at is truly worthwhile and enjoyable. I honestly feel that perhaps the Lord has asked too much of my capabilities. Maybe He just wants me to practice forever, and never perform. I have to live with that.
Practicing forever—for the rest of my earthly life, doesn’t sound particularly fun or satisfying. When will I get to perform? I have to trust that God’s ways are ultimately wise and loving. He knows best. All things will be revealed in the end, and perhaps even a little along the way. So, I’m back to my piano analogy. Practice, take stock of progress made, tackle the next challenging phrase. I need to rejoice in each measure conquered, each phrase that comes together, each movement mastered. I can’t think about how I’m not able to play the whole piece right now. My little students were thrilled to master each new note and song—to hear recognizable melodies coming from their fingertips. No looking beyond the mark—that just results in frustration and discouragement.
Occasionally, I can’t help but look at the number of pages still to be mastered, and then the tears start. I am very aware of the extent of my talent, and how far I need to go to truly become proficient at Liszt’s Rhapsody. But how I love that song!! I love it!! I love envisioning myself playing it. I love the idea of my fingers flying up and down the keyboard and pounding out the dynamic, expressive notes.
This is my life. Five years ago I had the luxury of saying, “Nah, that’s too hard. I’ll do something else and be satisfied with only a part of the Rhapsody.” I no longer have that choice. Conquering the rhapsody of my life is before me in all its challenging, daunting, formidable glory. This is my path. It’s taken almost five years of healing to be willing take on this task.
Back to my conversation with Heidi, I commented that I must have some incredible strength to resist so fully for 5 long years. Heidi said something along the lines of, “Just think what you could do applying that strength forward!”
Here’s to practice and progress.