LESSON NUMBER ONE – AGAIN!
Date Published: March 17, 2012
Over twenty years of abandonment! The guilt and pressure had kept me away. My love for music and my singing soul longed to find a partner in a stringy instrument. Dust and two decades settled on my lonely guitar, forgotten and unappreciated. Would I eventually fight for my long-deprived desire?
When I turned fourteen I wanted a guitar for my birthday. My mom studied the piano for fifteen years at a conservatory and yet she always wished she played an instrument that she could carry around to share her music. They’ve always been supportive parents and she was excited for me: my wish immediately came true. I was a dedicated student and participated in many extracurricular activities at school, so I was endlessly distracted. My intention to become a guitar player was forgotten and inadvertently, that energy dissipated.
During my second year of college, I started dating a guy (whom I eventually married) who played the guitar in a mesmerizing way; I admired his perseverance and skill. I fell in love with the guitar again. Digging it out of my closet, a spark lit in my eyes. Soon, I started taking lessons with his guitar professor but two things hindered my undertaking. First, I’m a lefty. Since most guitar players are right-handed, they insisted it was more practical for me to play like everyone else. They found it easier to teach me and said I would always be able to find a guitar to play. In theory, that made sense and I concluded it was merely a question of getting used to. In practice, the awkwardness of learning a new instrument was magnified by the inversion. The second obstacle appeared when we had issues scheduling my lessons and soon I was a student without a teacher. Frustrated with my fast-approaching defeat, I asked my boyfriend to help me switch the strings around so I could play lefty. That took me back to square one. It was effortless to indulge in the guitar by watching his fingers dance and play so beautifully. How could I ever master it like that!? Full of shame, my guitar retired and my enchantment for the guitar remained as that of a fan rather than as a musician.
Divorce left me without the magic of the guitar at home. The hooks where his collection once hung reminded me constantly of their absence in my life. I became close friends with an incredibly talented guitar player and everywhere I went, the sound of vibrating strings intentionally reached my ears as if they were haunting me. A conversation with a dear girlfriend about my unfulfilled dream suddenly changed the story. “It’s never too late!”, she told me. “My mom is in her sixties and she’s taking guitar lessons for the first time in her life. It’s wonderful to see her so happy”. I entertained the idea that playing the guitar was still possible in this lifetime, but I was still trapped by my stagnant excuses.
During one of my spiritual retreats, my teacher explained how we have a strict punishing voice (that of the ‘parent’ within us), which expresses we are not good enough. It comes from non-love and uses words such as ‘should’, ‘have to’, and ‘shouldn’t’. I sat up straighter. Then the rebel voice (that of the ‘child’ within) wants to be set free because it feels trapped and bullied. Immediately, I understood what the inner voices were telling me about the guitar. One voice said I should learn how to play fast, I had to be an excellent player. The other voice said it didn’t want the pressure or the possibility of failure. I came to grips with the dynamics playing in my mind. Facing the strict voice with the rebel had kept that voice alive; instead, enabling the voice of wisdom (forgiving, generous, tolerant, accepting and patient) could heal through love. My internal voices had kept me away from simply enjoying the hobby and learning to play at my own pace.
I still had a significant dilemma… what was the ‘right’ way for me to play? My musician friend gave me his opinion and I knew his answer was correct when I felt my heart sing with delight. He suggested I play true to my nature, many amazing guitarists have been lefties.
My old dusty guitar was in Argentina… a symbol of failure and abandonment. I needed a new instrument that I could fall in love with; preferably black and unlike the typical yellow classical guitar with which I had an uneventful relationship. Dissatisfied with the expensive or poor selections I found online, I decided to go to the Guitar Center to get expert guidance. The guy promised to search online and find something for me; several weeks went by and I still couldn’t find my dream guitar. One afternoon, I drove to a Sam Ash store convinced that, magically, I would find what my heart was aching for there! A rational voice within me whispered I was never going to play if I didn’t have an instrument. My fantasy guitar was giving me the cold shoulder… so heroically, I gave up on that whim. I walked out proudly with a Takamine electro-acoustic lefty guitar that was on sale. Yes, it’s yellow and I like it.
The last thing I needed to become a full fledged guitar student was a teacher. That became evident when two weeks went by and my new guitar was still practically a virgin. A friend enthusiastically recommended someone and I immediately contacted him. At the end of our first session, I realized that he had kept me motivated, was teaching me theory and several basic chords… a tremendous evolution in one simple hour! We agreed to meet twice a week, and I agreed with myself to practice at home whenever I can, without pressure. I know that the hardest part was getting to that first lesson. Now, it’s just a matter of showing up with consistency and enjoy strumming my pain away.
For over twenty years, I’ve had the desire to learn how to play the guitar. Finally, I’m a curious guitar student with sore fingers, a big goofy smile on her face and a huge sense of accomplishment from understanding that only I can limit myself. Lesson number one: the pleasure of life is found by embracing life itself, not by being paralyzed with high expectations. What have you been denying yourself? I’ve learned to enjoy my hobby, find a way to discipline the practice and get rid of all the excuses. I say you go for it! It’s never too late.