Fantasyland

Prompt: You wake up tomorrow morning to find all your plans have been cancelled for the next seven days and $10,000 on your dresser. Tell us about your week.

First of all, I don’t think $10,000 will go very far. But here’s what I would do.

Book a flight to New York.

Book a room at the Marriott Marquis.

See Hamilton.

See the Fiddler on the Roof Revival.

Visit the Sephora on 5th Avenue and buy whatever lip gloss I wanted, regardless of price.

See Something Rotten.

See Les Miserables.

Spend a day at the New York Public Library.

See Wicked.

See Waitress.

Go to a taping of Ask Me Another in Brooklyn.

Visit all of these shops.

Pretty much a dream week.

I Ate An Elephant.

Last night was the final show for “Suessical: The Musical.” It was a hit–Friday and Saturday night we played to packed houses. And as an orchestra, we rocked.

I’m still a bit awestruck that I survived this past month. When I offered to step in for the original pianist, there was a part of me that didn’t really think anyone would take me seriously. I mean, I can play hymns and the occasional Primo part on a four-hand accompaniment (as long as I have six weeks’ notice), but carry a show? With a month to learn it? No way anyone would trust me with that.

Then yesterday morning, I thought of other accomplishments in my life that I never really thought I could do: serve a mission for my church, successfully complete grad school, publish a book. Now I can add play a musical.

All of these were proverbial “eating an elephant” situations. And it worked every time.

I don’t know if my tendency to doubt myself is a bit of an act, something we all do occasionally, in a feeble attempt to keep me a bit humble. But after this month, I’ve realized that in the face of difficult tasks, I need to cool it with the self-doubt, take a deep breath, and tackle whatever is in front of me, one bite at a time.

Next up: everything I neglected for the past month. No problem.

Kindness Begins With Me.

Let me be clear tonight: I have zero desire to write anything.

I am weeks behind on my next book, I should be practicing the piano, I should be exercising, I should be going to bed, I should be grading, I should be updating tomorrow’s lesson plans, and yes, I should be writing.

My mind is swimming and maybe if I write a little bit of nonsense, it will help me stay afloat. So I write to this prompt:

Is there anything you wish had been different about your childhood?

Answer: yes.

On a superficial level, I wish I had gotten the Millennium Falcon for my 6th birthday, instead of a Landspeeder.

On a less superficial level, I wish I had been kinder.

Such as being grateful for the Landspeeder (and Luke, Leia, Vader, Han and Chewie).

Such as encouraging my sisters to practice the piano, instead of hogging it, boxing them out.

I wish I had been kinder.

Such as cuddling with my parents a bit more often.

I wish I had been more grateful, more fun to be around, more forgiving. I wish I had relished naps and the lack of responsibility I enjoyed, instead of craving and chasing adulthood.

I wish I had been kinder.

I think about this wish for my childhood, this wish to have been kinder, and even as an adult, I can travel back in my memories to times I wish I had been kinder. This month, as I’m under a ridiculous amount of stress and carry worries of mine, my friends, and my family’s, it would be easy to not be kind. Some might even forgive me for not being kind, given the circumstances.

But if I wish I had been kinder in my childhood, I don’t want to look back on February 2016 and hold that same wish. For all its stress, I want to look back on February 2016 as a month in which I achieved what I thought would be impossible, as a month in which I built memories with my friends, as a month in which I chose to be kind.

I hope I can be kind.

Beyond My Abilities

It’s musical time again, and this year is a little different. Due to a series of unfortunate events, I have a bigger role in the orchestra this year.

I’m happy to help out–and honestly, glad I can–but the enormity of what I had agreed to hit me last Friday. On Saturday, I was suffocating, so I did some math. I figured out that if I spent 10 minutes per page of music I needed to learn, it would take me 25 hours to get through the whole show once.  So every hour I am home, I sit at my piano for 10 minutes and work on one page.

It’s the kind of thing I’ve told my piano students to do before, when they are stuck on a few measures of a song. Focus in on the measures that are tripping you up, I tell them, and you’ll learn the song faster than just playing through the song a million times.

Turns out I was right.

I’m amazed at what I’ve been able to learn in such a short time. Part of it is the concentrated focus on “just one page at a time,” and I know part of it is Divine Intervention. The show opens in less than a month, and I’m trying to make up a lot of ground. Last Friday at rehearsal, I panicked, thinking I had grossly overestimated my abilities and that I really was not that good at piano.

As of right now, I’ve clocked 6 hours and 20 minutes of practice time since Saturday afternoon. I’m a long ways from show-ready, but mentally, now I know this is something I can do. It won’t be a disaster. It won’t be perfect, but it won’t fall apart.

Which is what good accompanists do in the first place.