While waiting for one of my students from work to finish with a trumpet lesson, I visited the Marshall District Library and found a thought-provoking book in the music section: Practicing Sucks, But It Doesn’t Have To!
Subtitled, “Surviving Music Lessons,” this helpful volume by Phyllis Sdoia-Satz and Barry Satz commanded my attention not just because the word “sucks” was in the title and a scowling piano student cartooned on the cover, but due to the important concept contained within. It occurred to me that among the many wrong things I have done in life, one right that stands out is my willingness to do the hard things that need to be done. Like practicing piano.
This may be genetic, if there is such a thing as a self-discipline gene. Most likely, it’s learned through example. There were many things I admired about my grandmother, but perhaps her most attractive quality was her ability to go through life, uncomplainingly taking care of business, no matter how difficult it might be.
My grandfather was difficult to get along with. But you wouldn’t have known it to watch my grandmother interact with him. I never witnessed her pouting, kvetching over his latest scheme, plotting revenge or visibly carrying on over him. Granted, the ability to read her mind might have painted a different picture, but outwardly, my grandmother always appeared unruffled when there was clearly no reason to be so steadfast. It was unnerving.
As we reminisced over family stories on my grandmother’s 90th birthday, I asked if she had it to do over again, would she have married Grandpa. “Hell no!” I about fell out of my seat. Who would have known? Obviously not me, or I wouldn’t have asked the question.
What a gift to give yourself and others: the ability to uncomplainingly make yourself do the thing you need to do, when you need to do it, whether or not you want to do it. My father was of similar ilk. He never whined about his extensive daily responsibilities or lot in life. He never negatively compared his lot in life to that of other people. He was too busy living to stop and take the time to complain.
I want to be like that all of the time. I absolutely hate crybabies and weenies; the person who carries on worse over a sliver in his finger than does the person who lost a leg to cancer. And the only thing I hate worse than crybabies and weenies are the times I have been one, acting as though it were the end of the world when it clearly wasn’t. Even if it temporarily felt that way.
Fortunately, during adulthood, I can pretty much count on one hand the number of times I have allowed myself to totally wallow in alleged pain and hopelessness. When I caught myself doing that, I eventually came to my senses and was able to laugh at my level of patheticism. Usually due to the help of other people who refused to buy into my crap.
I can’t remember exactly what the issue was, but one time, I tried via email to make my husband feel guilty about something I was upset about. His swift response was not just face-slapping, but eye-opening. “I’m not coming to your pity party.” His honest deflection of the hooey I hurled his way caught me so off guard it actually made me laugh – well, as soon as I got over myself. “Like you were invited,” I replied, humorously letting him know he was right.
It may be foolishly prideful, but just like I never wanted my parents to have to remind me about practicing piano back when I was taking lessons, I prefer to practice bucking up versus forcing other adults (or my children!) to call me on my being a crybaby or weenie.
While practice doesn’t always make perfect, it makes life easier. The best use of limited personal energy is to simply wade in and get busy tackling life’s challenges versus looking for wriggle room, waiting for things to get easier or throwing a hissy fit. Practice dealing with life on life’s terms. It works.