one family's yearlong dare to live their dreams

Notes from a Month of Music & Joy

We are 30 days into Our Year of Living Bigger, and let me tell you: stuff is HAPPENING over here. Music is happening – or something sort of like music, though perhaps not yet. You see, I’ve had just three guitar lessons. But my fingers are sore in a way that feels surprisingly good, and even makes me a bit proud. I’m on my way.

Stuff is happening with our kids, too. Amelie at 5 is learning to read, and it’s magic to watch. Jade at 22 months is starting to express herself in something very much like English. And I do believe she is at the height of her Cuteness Powers.

Not that it’s been easy here in music land. I have lamented my lack of finger strength and my lack of finger length. I have expected more bend-ability from my lithe yogi fingers. And I have wondered where on Earth I will possibly find the time to practice guitar in a life that already feels like an overpacked grocery bag splitting apart at the flimsy paper handles.

Yet I’ve had my small successes – and yes, joys. I have released a few beautiful E chords and A chords and D chords into the ether, admiring them as they go. When my indefatigably enthusiastic teacher shouts “Goooood!” after a particularly successful note, I feel the way I imagine my five-year-old feels when I stick one of her adorably imperfect drawings up on the refrigerator. A person can get hooked on praise like that.

The music is coming and so is the joy, albeit in pieces. When Michael and I remember to honor one of the simplest tenets of our manifesto – “No whining” – we find that our household joy increases a thousandfold. I agree with Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project book and blog, that one of the key secrets to turning around a bad mood is “Act the way you want to feel.” If you want to feel joyful, she suggests, try going through the motions first, like an actor on a stage. Most of the time you end up convincing yourself with your own performance.

The ancient yoga sage Patanjali had a different way of talking about essentially the same thing: “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana” (Yoga Sutra 2.33). As a bonus, the Sanskrit phrase is so much fun to say. How can we possibly go wrong?

And yet we can, and we do. Parchment-paper wisdom can slip mysteriously out of reach. The urge to kvetch, useless as it is, can be tempting. So we are taking the joy piecemeal, when and where we can get it: in a Level 1 reading book, in a new word from the mouth of a babe. We are taking the music, too, one clear and dazzling note at a time. I have a hunch that it will all add up to something pretty great.

4 Responses to “Notes from a Month of Music & Joy”

  1. Bryce says:

    Hooray for black and blue fingertips! I’ve gotten endless joy from my guitar, and totally connect with the pain and satisfaction that you’re experiencing.

    I always found that a pleasing way to practice is to pick up the guitar (usually later at night when I would otherwise be zoning out on some tv) and look up a song that I already know the words to and enjoy singing ( – look for songs labeled “chords”. They also have a great app for mobile!). That way, you build up an instant collection of songs while you learn.

    Happy playing, Wendy!

    • Wendy says:

      Bryce, I can’t wait to check out that link and app. Thanks so much! I’m also finding a beautiful solace in my guitar time, and I can imagine that it will only get better as I start to play some actual songs. It’s an entirely new world to me, exotic and exciting. Glad to know that you’re part of it too. Rock on~ Wendy

  2. Rachel says:

    Hooray for joy and music! What a wonderful report on your first 30 days. And I agree, pratipaksha bhavana is great fun to say!

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