There are a lot of Why’s to explore within myself. Why Violin? Why Now? Why Write about and share it? Why add something like this to my plate?
Why the Blog: I’ve wanted to document this process for a while. At first I didn’t want to get ahead of myself if I didn’t stick with it, and now it feels more like I’ve missed so many opportunities to write before now. Sort of like starting a baby book when your child is two, which I’ve also done. Twice.
I’m a member of a group of adult starters in violin on Facebook, and the process of sharing support, thoughts, fears, etc. has transformed my relationship to myself and how I see this process. I think that without that ability to express things and share, I would still really be in a tentative start to feeling like someone who plays an instrument. So this blog is for my own benefit – because I need to put my thoughts together. And I need to write.
One really surprising thing that I have discovered through this is that being an adult starter on an instrument isn’t actually that strange. More surprisingly, it isn’t strange to be an adult violin starter. Which, is insane considering that it’s arguably the hardest instrument (along with the whole bowed and non fretted string family). I knew it would be hard, and I knew that I would be up against something as someone who didn’t benefit from any kind of music lessons as a child. So, I never thought that there would actually be a tribe of people all over the world who also share this journey, given what a feat it sounds like. This makes me want to write in ways that others can discover, as opposed to in a diary. (Haha! Writing in a diary after getting home from a violin lesson, that would really make me feel like I’m 12 again). This is un-isolating, which brings so much in itself.
The idea of having these writings to look back on is also important to me, because unfortunately I can imagine a time where I’m no longer playing the violin, and I’d appreciate a chronicle of what this journey has brought me. This isn’t negative at all, it’s just a fact. Even if I were to play violin until I’m too old and infirm to do so, I may still want to reflect. But, I can also foresee reaching a point where I’m not as involved for one reason or another. It has always been important to me to have realistic expectations. One way of having realistic expectations is to understand that being a soloist for a professional philharmonic is unlikely. But, another way to have realistic expectations is to be careful that I’m not expecting playing the violin to provide me with never ending satisfaction, free from unexpected let downs. I’m not expecting my relationship to music to always look exactly like this. I’m not expecting to be completely free from life events that curtail your freedom or resources to do something like this. Anything can happen. If I get to the point that this isn’t fulfilling and is an exercise in stress and unfulfilled expectations, then I’ll be done. If and when the day comes to put down my violin, whether by choice or not, having an acceptance of that eventual possibility means that I’ll be able to relish the journey that I’ve had instead of merely feeling sorry for myself.
Noted shame researcher Brene Brown, who has written many best – selling books on courage and all things resilience, says that we can only really know joy in the context of our sorrow. A flower or a baby is wonderful, and fleeting. The sorrow over potentially losing it gives rise to the gratitude for it. You only feel gratitude deeply if you know it’s something special to be thankful for. And then joy comes, because you are able to appreciate the state of being thankful or enjoying something that could just as easily not exist. In contrast, you can’t run from the fear or the sorrow and expect to feel that gratitude and joy as deeply. It is in the contrast to the dark that the light feels bright.
Facing the temporary nature of this musical journey and accepting it is a vital part of experiencing the joy in this journey. As an adult there are several aspects to this journey being temporary that I resonate with. We don’t know how much time on Earth we have. We don’t know how far we’ll get with our skills, or how kind the word will be in receiving our music. We don’t know when injury (either self-inflicted from poor technique, from aging, or both) will strike. Not to mention the possibility of accidents. Not to mention time or money becoming more scarce. We sometimes feel fragile, like one harsh blow to our hope or self-esteem could knock us over. So much about playing this instrument feels like it could disappear at any time.
So, I have a choice – I can embrace the temporary and changeable nature of this journey, or I can feverishly avoid and plan for and fix anything that threatens it. The first option allows me to experience the joy and gratitude. The second turns it into a shadowboxing fight that I won’t win, and which will rob me of understanding the point of it all.
This is the real gift of this journey – a practice in finding beauty and joy amidst acceptance of what is. That’s what I’m writing about here.