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Tag: lessons

True gratitude includes being thankful for the stuff that sucks too.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

We all know the things we are supposed to be thankful for. We celebrate them as often as we can- having food, shelter, family, love, good health etc. That’s the easy part.

True gratitude and insight, I believe, comes from being thankful for all the things that suck too. Without the dark there is no light, so to speak. After a three year stretch of navigating rough seas, I am trying to find light in the darkness, and understand how to be grateful for the things that haven’t been easy.

Today, I am thankful for suffering multiple losses in a short period of time. The grief was a testament to the fact that I am a well loved human. I had grief to wade through because I knew love. I knew companionship and support and joy through others, both human and animal. I loved sincerely. I am grateful that even though the loss is painful, it is there to remind me of love, and not everyone has that.

I am thankful for the lessons that the stress and uncertainty of this pandemic has offered. It showed me that we are capable of doing hard things together for the sake of others. I am grateful for the people who disappointed me during all of this, because it helped me reevaluate relationships that were draining me and helped me to better appreciate the ones that filled me up. It allowed me to learn how to say no. It gave me strength to stand up for the things that I think are important to stand for, and the tenacity to see them through.

I am thankful for pants that are too tight, or feeling guilty for not exercising enough because it means that I always have enough to eat. It means that my children don’t know what it is to be hungry. It means that my dogs eat better than some humans.

I am thankful for balances on credit cards and lines of credit and sometimes having to wait until next payday to make a purchase, because it means that I have appreciation for the things we have. It means that I understand the value of hard work and the value of privileges we enjoy. It means that I value the time of others, and don’t take them for granted. I am thankful for the lesson it teaches my children of having to work for what you have instead of expecting it to be handed to you.

I am thankful for illness and injury because it gives me empathy for others who are suffering.

I am thankful for mistakes because without them we would never learn anything new. I am thankful for doing it wrong a million times before getting it right because it teaches us perseverance and hope and determination.

Today, I want to be thankful for the things we usually wouldn’t want to acknowledge, because it’s been a rough few years, and I think the next few are likely to be challenging, and finding the calm among the storms fills me with hope.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Perspective Is Everything

There is rarely a day that goes by when I don’t stop and think about how lucky I am to teach music for a living.  Logistically, it’s great.  I work from home a lot.  I make my own schedule.  I decide how much I want to work and assess how much I think I should get paid.  I have countless opportunities to upgrade my training, and amazing colleagues to draw inspiration from.

And then I have that conversation with the parent of a teenager that always makes me feel sort of lost.  The conversation that begins with “my child doesn’t feel motivated.  They keep expressing that they don’t want to play violin anymore.  They want to play hockey. (or baseball or football or insert whatever here)”

Fair enough.  We all want to listen to our children.  And as a teacher, I’d rather teach students who love music and unquestionably practice and achieve and have great attitudes.

But that’s not really the point.

Realistically, the chance that any of my students will become virtuosos or even “professional” musicians is probably between 1-10%.

But that’s not really the point either.

Of course a teenage boy or girl loses motivation when things start to get challenging.  That’s pretty much the definition of a teenager’s behavior.  Lacking motivation.  But it’s sort of biological. And of course they’d rather play hockey.  Because once the game is over, they get to go to McDonald’s and go home and watch tv the rest of the night.  They’re not responsible for anything past what happens on the ice.  It’s an instant gratification scenario.

And in this ever increasing world of instant gratification, the study of music requires daily, focused work.  Like no other aspect of a teenager’s life.  And that feels foreign.  And so they balk.

So why bother at all?  Why send your child to me?

Because adult life is competitive and does require hard work in order to achieve. Because they need to learn that skill somewhere.  Because music has been proven to improve memory and math skills in children.  Because music is soothing and a natural stress reliever.

Because it’s improves just about every other aspect of their lives.

And on top of all that, it feels great to create something beautiful that not many other people can.  It builds confidence.  Music is fun and inspirational when you put in the effort.  But you only get out of it what you’re willing to put into it.

On the other hand, sometimes, just sometimes, people really get it.

I took on this voice student in her late teens last year.  She has Asperger’s syndrome, and a few other challenges.  One being short term memory loss.  I mean, she literally resets ALL the time.  And maybe, just maybe, she’ll remember after the 100th repetition.

Anyway, her mom asked me last year if I would also teach her violin and I agreed.  And she has been working on the same 4-5 pieces for an entire year.  A year.

And they still come to every lesson positive.  Smiling. Thankful that they have this in their lives. And she slowly improves all the time.

Next year, she will moving on to University, and I asked if they were planning to continue with lessons.  They said absolutely.

There is no pretense or expectation of a violin career.  She does it because it improves her life by the development of skills.  Her memory has improved so much that she no longer needs to take open book tests at school.  She tests like every other student in her school.  Thanks to the study of music.

It was a proud moment for me to have had such a profound impact on someone’s life.  And not because she won a competition.  Not because she got the highest mark on a exam.  Because she listened to the lesson and heard me.

And she gets it.

Once in a while, true success comes from the most unexpected place.  So the next time I hear the parent of a teenager tell me they have lost their motivation, I will know exactly what to tell them.

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