Finding Middle C

Every six months I like to treat myself to something nice.  Sometimes it is a new dress, sometimes an apple peeler and slicer, or this time it was a Casio keyboard.  I grew up with a piano in the house and I truly believe that a house is not a home without a piano.  However, as someone who has lived in six different rentals in the last five years, well… a piano isn’t the most practical possession to own.  So I’ve gone without…. Until this week.

I brought my keyboard home and even managed to carry it into the house by myself, which is something I could not have done with a real piano.  I set it up immediately (which doesn’t mean much since I really just took it out of the box and plugged it in), pulled out the two song books that it came with, and began to play.  Well, “play” may be a slight over exaggeration of terms, but I feel like I should back track first to give you a full picture of the situation.

I took piano lessons once, for three months.  I had been taking flute lessons for a few years and I wanted to become more musically diverse and, since my sisters already played the piano, it seemed to make sense that I should try it as well.  Nine lessons in three months and I left there with a basic knowledge of piano playing; “basic” in the way that one might say they have a “basic” understanding of neurosurgery because they have a brain, which is to say that I actually understand very little. I can read the treble clef with no problem but the bass clef is still a little tricky.  I did the best I could with the little knowledge I had and that has lead to a very limited range of notes that I recognize and very sloppy technique.  That never stopped me from sitting down and attempting to play for hours at a time.  There was just something comforting about pushing a key and having music come out.  Even now, I still believe that some notes are inherently happy and that, even when played in a particularly sad piece of music, they represent hope and the feeling that all is not lost.  I also believe that three simple notes can bring a person to tears, after all, Taps is played using only three notes and it makes me cry every time I hear it.

When I was growing up, I would wander into the living room to play a quick song or experiment with a few notes and, within seconds, I would feel more relieved than I was before I sat down at the piano. I can’t explain it; it was just a different kind of magic.  After setting up my keyboard, I was thrilled to discover that that magic has not been lost.  I let my fingers walk up and down the keys and even attempted to play a song or two before I quickly found myself playing the one and only song that I ever memorized, a version of Mendelssohn’s “Song Without Words”.  I don’t know why this is the only song that ever stuck with me; perhaps it is the way the notes seem to flow together as if they were made for each other.  Perhaps the answer can be found in the title itself, as I often find that I play the “Song Without Words” when I, myself, feel as though I am without words.  Regardless of why, it is imprinted on my memory.

As my fingers began to play the familiar notes they also played some extra ones that didn’t quite belong.  I stopped, began again, and the same thing happened.  I moved my chair closer, I moved my chair further away, I shifted the stand up, and then I shifted the stand down, but still I was making mistakes.  I became rather frustrated so I put my hands on the keys, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath.  That’s when I noticed the problem: Middle C was out of place!  To be fair, I guess Middle C was exactly where it should be in relation to the other notes, but it was not where it should be in relation to me.  It never occurred to me how different a keyboard with 76 keys could be from a piano with 88 keys.  Everything felt all wrong.  I couldn’t find a position that felt natural or made sense.  Why was this such a big deal?  How could 12 keys really make that big of a difference?  I walked away from the keyboard frustrated, which was the exact opposite effect that I was going for.

I’ve found myself going back to the keyboard every day and every day I get just a little more comfortable with this new Middle C.  I still feel a little off kilter and I have even thought of adding an extension of sorts to the end of the keyboard, just to even things out a bit.  But mostly, what I have found is that I just need a little time to get acquainted with this new position.  I need to teach my body, my eyes, and ultimately my sense of self that this is my new Middle C.  I became more and more relaxed at the keyboard and I found myself walking away with that same feeling of relief that I once had.  As I walked away from the keyboard I noticed that there was a thought gently fluttering around inside my head.  Each time that I would try to grasp it, it would flit away and I knew that I simply had to give it time to take root.  And take root it did.

As I was sitting at work one day, on the verge of an emotional breakdown, the thought finally occurred to me.  My work-life was stressful, school was proving to be quite a handful, a friend whom I value greatly and whom I hold quite close was feeling rather distant as of late, I was in the trenches of trying to plan three large events at once, and my family was further out of my reach than I would have liked.  Everything seemed to be happening all at once, I was feeling out of control, and my life was out of balance, and that’s when it hit me: I needed to find my Middle C.  I needed to find the thing that would help to put my life back into balance and back into perspective.

Perhaps you know what your Middle C is.  Perhaps your Middle C has been the same for your entire life, but I feel as though mine has not.  Most times, my Middle C is God.  God is who grounds me and reminds me to put one issue to the left, one issue to the right, and so on and so forth until I am back in balance and I can play my life like the song which He intended it to be. However, sometimes I don’t have to go that high up the ladder.  Sometimes my Middle C is my family and the easy way that we interact with one another with a language that is native to our village of five.  Other times my Middle C is my friends who remind me to laugh, be carefree, and take a break from the real world.  Sometimes, I am my own Middle C.  An afternoon spent with a cup of coffee and a good book is enough to bring me back from my ledge and onto solid ground.  Finding Middle C isn’t about starting over, it is about having a home base to go back to to start from.  Middle C is the beginning of my life, the beginning of my day, the beginning of my song.  Middle C is who I am as a person and what I value as a child of God; it is the center of the universe and is filled with light and beauty and love and everything else surrounds it.  It may take a little time to get reacquainted, but once you find your Middle C you can begin again, you can play the song that you were meant to play, and the music will be beautiful.

Advertisements

Studying People on Study Sunday

I know myself well enough by now to know that studying at home is never going to be productive.  For starters, I am constantly thinking of one of three things:

1.  Man, there is a lot of stuff that I really should get done around here.  Maybe I’ll just clean for a little bit and then go back to studying.  I never go back to studying.

2.  I’m kind of, sort of, not really hungry but maybe I’ll make a snack. Oh, actually, maybe I’ll just make a drink.  Two in the afternoon on a Sunday isn’t too early for a drink, is it?  Nah!!! I never go back to studying.

3.  Huh, I wonder what my bed is doing right now?  It is probably up there, all alone, looking super comfortable and cozy.  I should just go up there for a minute to say hello.  After all, I haven’t visited with my bed since this morning and I don’t want it to feel neglected.  I never go back to studying.

So I know that I have to force myself to leave my house if I ever plan on getting any real studying done.  I also know that I can’t take my computer with me because I will constantly be wondering what is going on in the world of Facebook.  I will, all of a sudden, feel a need to look at all 897 pictures of the girl who my “friend” stated talking to just to make sure that she doesn’t look cuter, funnier, or smarter than me.  I know that those last two things would be difficult to determine based on looking at a picture, but now you should be able to understand why I have to look so closely at each one.

Once I leave my house and go to a public spot, sans computer, the distractions don’t simply disappear.  I have this horrible habit of listening to everything around me.  I do it all the time!

At a restaurant with friends: I’m listening, telling stories, sharing the mozzarella sticks, but the whole time I am listening to at least three conversations around us.

In a quite library:  things will be going well enough until someone sits six tables away from me and is wearing a wrist watch.  I can hear the damn ticking!  I’m not joking!  And as soon as I hear it, there is no hope of ever tuning it out.

The thing that really drives me crazy though is when women feel the need to speak with really hard “s” and “t” sounds.  These same women usually carry on, ad  nauseam, about something that they, alone, think is of high importance.  Usually it has something to do with their amazing four-year-old and how much smarter they are than every other four-year-old in the world.  Sometimes it is about the unfair service they received at their country club.  Or how they ordered a Shriaz but were served a Syrah, and yes, there is a difference.  I will often find myself unknowingly clenching my fists as I fight the urge to turn around and yell, “Shut the hell up!!  Seriously, just shut up!  Oh, and next time why don’t you order a bottle of Malbec?  I’m sure they won’t be able to screw that up!!!”

I’ve discovered that the best way for me to get any studying done is to sit at a table in a bookstore right next to the children’s section.  Oddly enough, the constant squeals, crys, and various noises that tiny humans insist on making are far less distracting to me, thus they are more easily tuned out.  So, I was quite pleased today when my studying was only distracted twice in three hours.

The first time involved a family of four.  There was a mother, father, three-year-old boy and a twelve month old boy.  The mother asked the father to watch the kids so she could go to the bathroom.  Daddy sat down at the Lego table and became totally focused on playing Legos with the three-year-old.  Meanwhile, the baby was left to entertain himself, which he did quite effectively.  He had a toy that he would throw on the ground and then he would wobble after it like a drunk trying to pick up their shoe that fell off.  He would reach his toy, pick it up, throw it again, and chase after it.  The entire time the baby was getting  closer and closer to me and further and further away from his father, who didn’t turn around once.

At this point I should mention that kids, for whatever reason, always seem to like me.  While adults, even complete strangers, always seem to trust me with their children.  So I was not surprised in the least when I saw that this little boy was making his way in my direction.  What I was surprised by was when he took a fast detour and went running to throw his toy over the railing and onto the unsuspecting people on the floor below.  Thankfully another mother stepped in, picked the baby up, and returned him to his father.  The father threw the baby in the air playfully and said, “I have two of you now.  I always forget that I have two of you!”  Oh dear Lord!  That child has been on this earth for, AT LEAST, twelve months now and you keep “forgetting” that you have him?!  I’ll admit, there was a part of me that didn’t intervene because I wanted the mother to come back and see how far away her baby was and how the father wasn’t watching at all.  But, alas, mommy came back and was none the wiser.

The forgetful little family left and I was able to focus on my studying again, instead of keeping a watchful eye one someone else’s spawn.  My next distraction came in the form of three high school kids: one boy, two girls.  One of the girls asked someone about a wheat allergy.  The guy answered her saying something about gluten. The girl then asked, “If they don’t eat wheat, are they a vegetarian?’  At this point I simply stopped working because I knew that I couldn’t NOT listen to his answer.  And boy, he did not disappoint when he said this:

“Yeah.  Well vegetarians don’t eat wheat but they also don’t eat cows or chickens.  See, they believe that all animals have a soul so they refuse to eat them.  But they do eat fish but that’s different.  It’s okay to eat fish because you’re not hurting their soul.”

I seriously snorted as I tried to contain my laughter.  Was this kid for real?  I thought my head was going to explode when I heard her say:

“Wow, you’re really smart about so many things.”

To which he replied,

“Yeah, I know a lot of really random facts about people and the world.”

It was at that point that I decided to call it a night.  I knew that, as long as they were still talking, I would never be able to get any more work done.  All in all though I am pleased with the three hours that I did get it.  Hooray for me!

Study Sunday? More Like, Anything But Study Sunday

Seriously?  Why am I so bad at this? In high school I was such an amazing student in the beginning.  And then I was a mediocre student in high school at the end.  Either way though, I certainly was not a bad student.  Even when I started university (no one I know actually says university but I think it sounds far more sophisticated than college) I was an “A” and “B” student.  But now, now I simply don’t care anymore.  I have one lousy year left and it is taking absolutely everything in me to make it happen.

In my defense, I’m not actually taking any classes right now.  However, I am supposed to be studying for a Business Finance class so that I can test out of it, thus avoiding the cost of the class and the six weeks that it would take to actually complete said class.  So I do feel like I have a little leeway to not fully be committed to Study Sundays yet.

Today, in an effort to avoid studying I did the following things:

1. Slept, a lot!  Seriously, I slept until noon.  I usually reserve that for my traumatic high school years and when I am nursing a serious hangover.

2. Went grocery shopping, which was part necessity, part avoidance.

3. I played around on Pinterest for probably about two hours.

4. I actually cooked myself dinner; I haven’t done that in a few months.

5. I watched the movie Goon. I will be honest, it wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be but I really did enjoy it.  And, who can ever argue with a movie that has Seann William Scott in it?  Not me!

6. Then I ate the delicious dinner that I made.  Again, that was both a matter of necessity and avoidance.

7.  My friend P. showed up so I decided to feed him too.

8.  We watched the movie 21 Jump Street together, which I found to also be funny.

And now?  Well, I could just call it a day and go to bed.  But why stop there?  P.’s already here and I have a bottle of  Blue Diamond Syrah.  Oh…. and I have the movie Vow for us to watch, so that should be a good, depressing way to end the night.  Here we go!