Left Hand Descending

I don't know if I have written too much about the teaching (violin and piano lessons) that I do in my spare time (insert chortle like someone who just snorted milk up their nose...or is it out? I can never get that one right). Somehow it must've slipped my mind in between all the other million things that seem to go on around here. Or perhaps it has been in half my posts and in my sleep deprived state, I just can't seem to remember what day it is much less what I have written.

At any rate, I had one of those "moments" recently while teaching. My student was trying to play a Hanon exercise for me but it became apparent very quickly that she wasn't quite ready for prime time, as my father is fond of saying. She could play hands separately just fine but putting them together, well, that was an entirely different thing. It seemed to get especially tricky on the descent. (For those of you who are not musicians, Hanon is a series of finger exercises for the piano in which you play a particular pattern up the keys a couple octaves and then back down again. Some say it is boring and monotonous but I find it almost mesmerizing, relaxing, rejuvenating even; like rocking in a rocking chair back and forth, or how some people must actually love swimming laps in a pool instead of just enduring them like the rest of us who choose to torture ourselves in that fashion. Again, similar to how some people feel about Hanon, but I digress.) At any rate, I kept having her repeat the descending left hand, then adding the right slowly to no avail. And it hit me that this is very much how life can be at times. You get parts of it right. You even get all of it right at different times but it's the putting it all together that can be so difficult to accomplish. There are times in life when things simply don't come together for whatever the reason. Sometimes it is no fault of our own. Other times it is. Quite often it's just juggling too many balls where any one of them alone would be easy as pie.

As I was working with her, I tried to point out how she had no problem playing the parts separately. Even though she was struggling to get them together, she definitely knew each part. She had successfully learned both hands. There is often success underneath our failings, little victories inside our fallings short. There is often plenty of goodness to uncover; sneaky bits of progress to discover just hiding in there. Sometimes all we need is someone to remind us that just because we aren't getting our hands together perfectly yet, we are not total failures. We have plenty to work with; we just have to keep giving it our best until one day we get it, whatever it is. Or maybe we won't but you know, some things, well, they're only Hanon.

It made me think of a scene from a few weeks ago. I had taken the five kids to play in the cul-du-sac down the street and at one point I saw Madeline prowling around in the neighbor's landscaping.

"Madeline, get out of their flowers," I reprimanded. "We don't walk through landscaping. People work hard to make their yards pretty and....." I was about to go on when she interrupted.

"Sorry, Mommy. I was just looking at the beautiful butterfly," she said so innocently as this enormous butterfly came darting up from the yard and right toward where I was standing with Solomon, nearly hitting me in the face. She went chasing after it as my heart dripped from the dagger I pictured plunging into it. When do we stop chasing the butterflies? Heck, when do we stop even noticing them?

Fleeting are those moments. How easy it is in the hustle and bustle and worries of this world to miss the forest for the trees. How easy it is to get stuck on the flailing Hanon exercises of life. How easy it is to feel like we have failed miserably when really, we just need a little more time, a different focus, a certain someone who is willing to believe in us and rejoice in our little successes, regardless of our inability to "get it all together" presently. Perhaps recognizing our need to stop and enjoy the butterflies gently drifting by is what it's all about anyhow. Perhaps sometimes the left hand descending is good enough all on its own.

(Of course, it's a good thing my student doesn't read this blog because I'm totally making her do it again and again and again! Because sometimes what we need is someone to help us get it right when we can't seem to do it all by ourselves!)

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