This is an experience I wrote about back in February of 2017. I thought it was worth sharing.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I DO NOT play the piano. I have an elementary knowledge of sight reading and note value etc. left over from my childhood days of piano lessons, but like most kids I didn’t practice, so my mom discontinued my lessons.
In my teen years, I began writing songs, but didn’t really have the inclination to learn to sight read. Instead I developed a code for writing down my notes—it was easier for me. But even with that code, I wouldn’t play in front of anyone. . .ever! However, as I became an adult, I started to feel limited by my lack of skill on the piano and my inability to accompany myself competently. Still I refused to learn.
As I thought about it recently, I could pretty much link my piano fears and aversions to my nine-year-old piano recital. I had to play Mozart’s Moonlight Sonata. I was terrified. For some reason, I was so afraid of messing up that I was literally sick with terror. In fact, after I was done my mom told me I was shaking so badly she thought I might not get through the song. Even as a nine-year-old I was burdened with perfectionistic tendencies. Prior punishments and traumas had embedded in my subconscious that mistakes cause severe pain and feelings of rejection. Apparently, that carried over into playing the piano.
The idea of putting myself out there and playing the piano in front of people—a situation where I could mess up and then be rejected, criticized, and hurt held no appeal for me. I simply refused to learn to play. Then I would be safe. I would never have to repeat the feelings I felt as a young child.
Well, last night we had a last-minute assignment to give a family night presentation at a local senior rehabilitation center. A few minutes before leaving I felt that I should accompany the opening hymn on piano. What a strange thought! But even stranger was the fact that I felt like I SHOULD do it, AND stranger still—it didn’t freak me out! In fact, I found myself saying: What a great opportunity to overcome a fear! So, I grabbed the simplified hymn book (because even that challenges my level of sight reading), picked a song with no sharps or flats and played through it 5-6 times before leaving.
It’s crazy because had I had this thought even a year ago, playing for seniors with impairments (THE least judgmental audience EVER) would have terrified me. But I wasn’t scared. And I did a decent job. Sure, I missed a few notes, but mostly I did okay.
But then I was unexpectedly asked to play a closing hymn! I hadn’t practiced any other songs! I fumbled through the closing song quite badly, but miraculously didn’t feel awkward, rejected, nervous, embarrassed, or upset with myself. I had done what I felt I should do. I did the best I could. I had faced a fear.
This morning I felt proud of myself. The more I put my real, authentic self forward—flaws and all—the more peace and joy I feel. How can you feel happy if your best is never good enough? How can you feel peace if you somehow must reach some ridiculous standard? How will you ever bless the lives of other people if you’re always concerned about yourself, your performance, and how other people are seeing you? You can’t. I found a lot of joy muddling through my simplified hymns so that suffering seniors could sing praises to the Lord. In return I found peace and a little bit more courage to be the authentic, real me.