Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Change in Perspective


I was recently asked/called to play the piano in church. I told them I'm not good enough. But I'd try. After all, I took ten grueling years of piano lessons from the time I was six until I was sixteen. Then I took a nearly twelve year sabbatical, when I had not a piano anywhere near me. Sure, I'd mess around when I'd visit home but I wasn't much good. I remembered several songs that I'd played a lot when I was younger (mostly new age--don't ask me but I'm still reminded of them everytime I get a massage and David Lanz is playing in the background), but give me some sheet music and I stunk. In fact, my Aunt Sally once said to my mom (unbeknownst to her that I could listen to their ongoing conversation in the kitchen AND play the piano at the same time), "That's what happens when you stop practicing."

Then last winter I decided I wanted a piano. Eric and I did a little shopping and picked up a "previously owned" upright. It was great. I bought some sheet music of Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera and Billy Joel and Evanescence. I played almost every night for fun. I'd even play Harry Potter music while Eric and Bianca were reading for bedtime, book four of the Harry Potter series (don't ask me which one that is, I couldn't tell you). I was actually playing because I loved it, which was the first time this had happened to me. When I was a kid and my mom was giving me lessons, I fought her every step of the way. Which is probably why I turned out to be the worst of all my brothers and sisters at playing. But that's okay. It wasn't something I really cared about--at all.

Well, a couple months ago, the doorbell rang while I was playing "Piano Man" by Billy Joel. At the doorstep stood my neighbor Geoff Short who was 2nd counselor in the bishopric at my ward/church. He needed to borrow some butter. No problem. I had butter. But two weeks later, I was so kindly asked to play the piano for the Relief Society in church.

I've been doing it for a little while now and I practice every night for the preceding week. It doesn't matter if I have the songs perfect at home, I go to church and I mess up all the way through. I'm terrible. I feel like everyone is laughing at me. They all pat my back in encouragement as I leave, whispering they're just glad it's not them, but I wish it weren't me either.

Now I spend all my time practicing church hymns instead of playing stuff I want to play. I bought this piano so that I could enjoy myself, not so that I'd be stuck playing in church. I'm not good. I've accepted that. But now it's not fun anymore.

I laugh when people tell me I shouldn't waste a talent like that. As if everyone who learns to play the piano has a "talent" for it. Since when has something that you work and work at been a talent? If I'm not mistaken, isn't a talent supposed to be something that comes naturally to someone? I know people--have a couple friends even--who have a talent for playing the piano. Who can play by ear. That's talent. What I'm doing is merely reading notes off a page. I don't feel the music. I don't hear it oustide what the clunky notes are actually saying to me. Which isn't much more than that I'm not good at this.

I'll never tell them I won't play anymore. I'm hoping that my music is so bad they finally find someone else who will do it. Really, it won't hurt my feelings. Anything to get out of playing hymns every night.


My mood? Totally disappointed and depressed. I know the way things work with callings--you have them for a while, you learn from them, then you move on to something else that will stretch you.

But why do I feel so hollow? Maybe I started enjoying the hymns I was playing. Maybe I liked hiding behind the piano--I didn't have to teach anything, or stretch too much. I was completely comfortable there.

I'm trying to look at the upside of this: The constant practicing has helped me improve, a lot. But now what? Do I go back to playing Billy Joel? There's not as much satisfaction now as there was before. Maybe I'll run to the store and pick up some new music. I still LOVE playing the Pride & Prejudice music. There are actually some hymns that I grew to love, that I play for pure enjoyment. And the plus side is that I can actually play them quite well now. Eric leaned over to me after I told him I was released and said, "I'm going to miss the hymns playing in our house." I think I'm going to too.


Crystal said...

It's neat when that happens. I'm glad you ended it positively instead of being so uncomfortable throughout. Why don't you still play hymns at home? I've having a similar experience with my current calling. It's interesting reflecting back on how I felt in the beginning versus now.

Crystal said...

I'm having..not I've having. Why can't we edit on blogger? Argh.

rachel said...

I bet you that you will always look back and love this calling you've had. I also can't wait to hear what's next in store for you :)

Eric said...

Ahhh, the hymns of the Restoration. You did become very good with the hymns. Who knows, maybe next time you'll be called to Organist.

Christie Gardiner said...

I remember when you got that calling! Look how you've grown! You will be amazing at anything you do!

Amber Gardiner said...

You succeed at everything you try, it just takes a little time! You're great and it's always nice to have a piano playing in the house, DON'T STOP!

Duston said...

I purchased a little while back some books for Mitzi that I think you may enjoy. If you would like to borrow them to see if you like them just let us know. They are advanced arrangements of the primary songs and Hymns. I think you would love the arrangements – it takes the music of the church to the next level!

Jeana said...

Thanks Duston,
If you don't mind lending it, that would be great. Thanks.

Susannah said...

I feel like that has happened to me over and over again. I finally was loving teaching Sunday School to the youth, and then they made me YW Pres. So not fair! I can't wait to hear what your new calling is. Also, I think it's great for the girls to see you playing. That will help them want to learn.

wishbonesandfunnybones said...

Hi Jeana,I saw your blog on Duston's blog. I have to say, I think you are an amazing pianist. We were lucky to have your talent. You will be missed in RS, but I hear you are taking the Primary class that sits in front of mine. Hooray! Can't wait to see you there! Stacy