The Things I am Not

I am not a musician. I can strum a few basic chords on the guitar, and I can sing (mostly) on key, but I have never been able to feel so wholly comfortable playing any instrument that I've been in control of the sound that comes out of it.

Except for once. I was about 12 and taking weekly piano lessons. I was struggling to get a song right and was desperate to give up and walk away. But my mother was enforcing my practice time, so I kept going and kept on making the same mistakes.

Then I had a moment.

My hands were playing the keys, and my mind was hearing the music, but it was as if I were an audience member,or listening to a recording. I wasn't creating the music. I was receiving it.Transmitting it.

I only realized I had played the song when I was done and my mother asked, "Was that you?" For a moment I honestly didn't know.

I tried over and over again, for years, to recapture that moment, but I was never able to. I've taken lessons. Practiced on my own. Started over at the beginning with the basics. Switched instruments. Even when I was my most diligent, I could never get past "technically correct" and copy-cat mimicking what I heard others play.

It may be that I never put in enough time.
It may be that I gave up too easily.
It may be that I needed a better teacher, a better book, or better practice methods.

Even if all that is true, I'm still ready to say:

  • I'm not a musician, and That. Is. OK.

  • I'm also not an athlete. Also OK.

  • Or a visual artist. Definitely OK.

At some age you just have to take an honest assessment and say, "I am talented in these ways and not in these others, and I am going to put my limited energy into

  • Improving the talents I have


  • Working on obtaining and improving the talents that do not come naturally.

I've chosen the first.

What excites me now are moments like this, where I sneak in and catch Ellie playing along to "All Apologies," by Nirvana, "Box of Rain," by the Grateful Dead, and noodling around on her own tunes and lyrics while she wears an AC/DC t-shirt, sits beneath my 1988 Jim Morrison tapestry and keeps her faithful stuffed penguin Pingu on her pillow.

It's not yet time for her to say, "I am," or "I am not," and that is, most definitely, OK.

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