Tag Archives: perseverance

J: Journey…

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for writers and creatives working on large projects, such as writing a book. This is series is part of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge where we write our way through the alphabet to a theme. Today, we’ve reached the Letter J and I’ve chosen a quote which focuses on the journey. No doubt, you probably know it, but it’s always good to be reminded:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

Over the last few years, the word “journey” has been seriously over-used and has lost a lot of its magic. However, just because the word is tired, doesn’t mean that the nature of a journey has changed what with its changes of scenery, challenges, ups and downs and inherent movement from a beginning, through the middle and to the end. Of course, this progression could well be chopped and changed around when it comes to writing about it. However, one of the important things about a journey is that it needs to be lived.

DSC_8348

I’m always intrigued whenever I see these snail markings squiggling through the local rock pools. Well, it actually looks like the limpets in the photograph have made that journey.  

The quote from Lao Tzu is one of my all time favourites, and I often remind myself that the hardest part about achieving anything is usually getting started and taking that first step. Somehow, it seems to get easier once you’re actually moving, gain momentum and are on your way.

This quote is also a reminder not to let the enormity of what lies ahead, defeat you. Just get started putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there eventually.

Keep Going!

Obviously, to reach your destination you also need to keep going long after you’ve taken that initial step. After all, we’re talking about a journey of a thousand miles. That’s a long journey. It’s not a journey of one step and you’re already there to reach out and grab hold of your prize.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can get out of that one simple sentence?!!

Very great wisdom indeed!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Sailing Up the Ranks.

Twenty years from now you will be more disppointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain

If you’ve been following Beyond the Flow, you’re probably aware that our son sails and is a member of our local sailing club. Mr started out with the Sea Scouts, but my Dad sails and is very encouraging, along with my husband who’s out there in a support role every Saturday. I also love sailing when I get a chance.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t look at our son and pick he was going to become a sailor. He’s always been a very active kid and not the type to sit still and I’m not the type to bother learning knots etc. However, he took to sailing like a duck to water. He really loves it and I’ve even seen him get frustrated when he’s stuck on land and there’s a great sailing wind.

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child but take courage: it can be delightful.”
―George Bernard Shaw

However, sailing became a lot more challenging when he went up the ranks and got his own boat, a Flying Eleven. Indeed, in those early months, there were times where sailing became quite soul destroying. His boat has capsized, been towed in and then there have been the vagueries of the weather. Like just about every junior sailor, he’s also come in and threatened to quit. Indeed, there was one very memorable Saturday, when my husband also threatened to quit. So, you can well imagine the size of that seismic burst! Trust me! I had to pull a rabbit out of my hat that afternoon.

However, as the season’s continued, there’s been progress. Firstly, he didn’t capsize. Then, he won a race. Recently, the juniors also went out and skippered a member’s boat with assistance, and the boat he was on came first. Again, while I’m cautious about getting over-excited, you have to applaud a first!

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

Louisa May Alcott

When it comes to my kids taking on sports or any activity, while it would be great to have them win, I am also looking for character-building stuff. That they grow and develop into considerate, compassionate human beings. At an Olympic level, we saw this at the Winter Olympics when Australian aerial Skier, David Morris, kept his cool despite the judges making a bad call. These sort of characteristics are important, as is helping to bring others up through the ranks. Encouraging them through the enormous frustrations you’ve worked through yourself. Then, they’ll not only learn the ropes, but also overcome the mental demons which threaten to sink their hopes before they even get started.

“The goal is not to sail the boat, but rather to help the boat sail herself.”
– John Rousmaniere

So, I was pretty stoked when I popped into the sailing club on Saturday and found out that Mr had been out helping another Junior. It was his first day out with his new boat and Mr had gone out with him instead. While Mr was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to see him sailing his boat, I was very proud to see that the club had recognized his progress. That he had reached a point, where he could start passing on his experience, knowledge and his encouragement to someone else.  Personally, I think it’s very helpful to have someone with you who is just a few steps ahead. After all, they still remember the frustrations, the pitfalls and how to get around them. They keenly feel that sense of defeat turning itself round into progress and victory. Victory against yourself, and those demons of self-doubt in your own head. After all, they’re the biggest enemies most of us will ever have to face.

“I can’t control the wind but I can adjust the sail.”
― Ricky Skaggs

It’s these sort of struggles which build perseverance and resilience. Or, as my Dad used to say, “put hair on your chest”.  These are qualities not gained through repeated wins, but through repeated knock backs and defeat combined with the ability to get back on the horse and have another go. This a very different experience to bolting straight to the finish line. From always coming first and wearing the victory crown. It means being the loser many times over but never giving up. Indeed,  it could well involve training or working harder, smarter and pushing yourself beyond the brink, not even to take out the coveted gold, but at the same time you’ve achieved something intangible. Indeed, your gold medal’s on the inside.

Now, I am trying to picture our son reading this in 20 years time when he’s nudging 35 and wondering if he even remembers what it was like to start out. Whether he has forgotten all about the capsizing, muddy sails and paddling out of the mud and only remembers the thrill of the wind…the exhilaration of sailing. Even for me, it is something far beyond words and yet Rod Stewart captured it well:

 

Have you ever been sailing and have you caught the bug?

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

Celebration….50,000 Views!

It’s party time. This week, Beyond the Flow finally clocked up 50,000 views. Wow! So, we’re going  Celebrate with a photographic retrospective.

I’m so excited about reaching this milestone…especially when it took around 2 years to finally reach the 10,000 mark. There was quite a lot of soul searching back then, but what they say about persistence and hard work paying off, is all true. Moreover, it’s not worth selling your soul to get numbers over content. My bottom line is connecting with people and hopefully they find something through my journey crawling over deep and dark crevices in the mountain, celebrating at the summit and then fighting my way along through to the next summit. It’s no wonder I love watching clouds and immersing myself in nature. You can’t seize the day without a bit of balance.

Blogging is very much about reciprocation. Communcation. Conversation. So, it hasn’t just been about me, but I hope it’s equally been about you. Not as some cheap marketing or political cliche,  but through sharing each others’ journeys.

The Family

In this way, blogging is very different from writing a book and sticking it out there…especially in the more traditional sense where your book was published by a publisher and reader and writer rarely ever met. That is, beyond fleeting book signings or, at best, author talks.

So, I would like to thank everyone who’s made my blog our meeting place where we’ve poured each other more than a cup of words and made this big planet with all if differences, divides and troubles, shrink and become touchingly intimate.

The Dogs at the Beach.

Sydney

Give Them Cake.

While I wouldn’t say that the blog is a perfect mirror image of our lives, it has captured so many important moments…the highs and lows, the celebrations and disappointments.

That is life with its ups and downs…a never-ending game of Snakes and Ladders…as much as we might not like it at times!

Tea & Coffee

So, the journey continues…asking more questions, some with answers, more without but having that sense of belonging and being part of something beyond myself, where I live and that we can somehow transcend humanity’s shadows.

Love & Blessings to you all!

Rowena

Snailing Up the Mountain.

O snail

Climb Mount Fuji,

But slowly, slowly!

-Issa

Yesterday, I felt the entire universe quake when I discovered  this incredible Haiku. Of course, I am not alone in my response. This Haiku is widely known in Haiku circles. However, that doesn’t stop me from feeling that Issa wrote it just for me. That despite living long before my time, he knew me so intimately that he actually heard the silent cry in my heart.

Ever since I developed a muscle-wasting auto-immune disease ten years ago, I’ve felt the need to climb a mountain. After all, isn’t this what everybody does after they face a serious setback? Of course! Naturally, I never felt this compulsion when I was capable. That said, I have climbed Australia’s tallest peak, the Mount Kosciuszko which at  2,228 m barely scratches Everest’s knees.It’s not what I consider a serious challenge, even though I couldn’t do it now.

Given my disability and other interests, I put my mountain climbing dreams long ago and instead, turned my energies towards a more achievable challenge…skiing down the mountain, which I achieved in 2013.

Anyway, tonight over dinner I decided to share the snail Haiku with the rest of the family. Indeed I couldn’t wait. When something hits you straight between the eyes like that, it’s hard to concede that anyone could interpret it any differently. Surely, they would be equally blown away and appreciate how slow and steady can get you over the mountain…be it physical, psychological or spiritual.

However I’d forgotten that the kids had studied Japan at school and might have their own perspectives.

My daughter, who has a long history of asking difficult and lateral questions, didn’t disappoint.After I’d finished reading the Haiku, she asked:

“How does the snail climb up Mt Fuji if there’s snow? It wouldn’t stick.”

Of course, this necessitated yet another Google search. I sweart hat site could well be re-named “The Dumb Parents’ Salvation”.

In the past, kids’ questions like this were admired, considered rhetorical and left unanswered. Parents were let off the hook, although there could well have been the “Go ask your Father/Mother” to pass the buck. After all, nobody likes to be outsmarted by their ten year old kid even, if we do appreciate their intelligence!

However, you can’t get away with that any more. If you don’t know the answer,  you’re expected to find out, even if that means exploring the very frontiers of human understanding to get the answer…the intellectual equivalent of landing on Mars.

While I realised that my daughter’s question focused on a more literal than symbolic interpretation of Issa’ s Haiku, I still decided to follow through on her question. How could a snail climb to the top of Mt Fuji? I’d never even considered how a human could do it, let alone a snail, so I really did need some help.

That’s when I stumbled across a fabulous and very human account of climbing Mt Fuji and I thought that anyone who appreciates the Haiku, would also appreciate their journey: Climbing Mt Fuji

That’s helped me formulate a sort of answer to my daughter’s question. That the snail would need to climb Mt Fuji during the Summer months but given the huge number of human climbers, it could very well hitch a lift to the summit…even if that’s cheating. I also made a mental note to warn the snail to be careful. With that many climbers about, it would be all too easy to get stepped on.

If you are interested in Haiku, you might want to check out my previous posts:

My First Haiku

Haiku & Mash

Haiku for Four Seasons

Roses Aren’t Blue

Do you have a favourite Haiku? If so please share it and likewise, if you have climbed Mt Fuji, I’d love to hear how it went.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

Done: 20,002 Views!

After watching the number of views sit at 19,999 for an absolute eternity this morning, it finally skipped ahead to 20,002 view!

Wow! I’m now a “Happy Little Vegemite”!

That, by the way, is how some of us Australians express absolute bliss!

You probably have to be Australian to get this. After all, how could axle grease ever be the supreme expression of bliss? We're a weird mob!

You probably have to be Australian to get this. After all, how could axle grease ever be the supreme expression of bliss? We’re a weird mob!

Many, many thanks for your support and encouragement.

You’ve made my day!

xx Rowena

Feeding Life Lessons to My Kids.

This being the second week of the school holidays, I’d personally like to turn all the life lessons I have ever read into some kind of breakfast cereal and shovel it into my kids quick smart whether they’re hungry or not. This is what parents did back in the Victorian era and it seems like a much better idea than being glued to electronics, especially when the outdoors is so incredibly beautiful, serene and finally sunny!!

Moses wasn't too happy with his peoples either.

Moses wasn’t too happy with his peoples either.

I know ramming the Ten Commandments down their throats might seem a bit “old school”, “traditional” and potentially a form of social control. However, perhaps deferring to a higher authority is what I need. After all, as soon as their father arrives home, the little mischief makers do exactly what they’ve been told and fall into line. Don’t you think calling on God’s almighty divine intervention snap them to attention even faster than: “Do you want me to go and call your father?”

While I absolutely adore: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran whose poetic language just flows like heavenly music, The Ten Commandments cut straight to the chase and pretty much cover all the bases. I also like the sense of hell fire and brimstone, which is infused in the “thou shalts” of the King James version as well.

Perhaps, I should start using a few “thou shalts” of my own around the house:

  1. Thou shalt listen to your mother.
  2. Thou shalt do your chores.
  3. Thou shalt wipe your own backside.
  4. Thou shalt not fight with each other or with your parents.
  5. Thou shalt not whinge, whine.
  6. Thou shalt accept: no means no!

You know I actually felt quite empowered by the “thou shalt”. I think I shalt add it to my arsenal.

Our kids do scouts and as everybody knows, the scouting motto is: “Be prepared” and a big part of it involves being able to pack for camp. This is, as it turns out, an incredible life lesson. Scout’s does a fabulous job preparing kids for this by providing a packing list for each and every camp, which even has a visual diagram. It is hammered into the Scouts that although they can have assistance, they must pack their bags themselves. Moreover, as I still have lingering chemo brain myself and have never been good at packing light anyway, I find the whole thing too stressful . Yes, I know. Even though it might be a very good life lesson for me as well, I’m avoiding these packing nightmares like the plague. I am now getting to the point of tough love too! You don’t pack it, you deal with it!!

As you might have gathered, I’m over it. Maxims like “flogging a dead horse” and “pushing shit uphill” definitely come to mind.

"Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything's going my way"-"Oklahoma".

“Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything’s going my way”-“Oklahoma”.

Anyway, while I’m waxing lyrically about life lessons for the kids, I need to consider a few for myself. It’s a sunny day in paradise and what with all the rain we’ve had, these are precious…particularly as we head towards Winter.

So without further ado, the kids and I are off to walk the dogs along the waterfront before the tide comes in. After all,

The tide waits for no (hu)man!

Edmund Burke

Stay tuned for part 2. How could I write just a few paragraphs on such an inspirational topic?

L is for Life Lessons in the A-Z Challenge. The letter L official marks our halfway point. Hurrah! Not that I’m wishing it was over but it is called a challenge for a reason. It’s challenging!

XX Rowena

Perseverance

When it comes to endurance, perseverance and overcoming hurdles, I’d never put learning the violin in the same category as marathon running but that’s all changed.

As much as I love my violin, it is also hard work, endurance, perseverance. Never giving up.

Just like new babies look so sweet but makes some truly dreadful sounds, my violin also has its own theme and variations of the “witching hour” something akin to a Tom cat howling at the moon while being grabbed by the throat.

Two years ago, I took up the violin by default. I’d had no dreams, aspirations or even vague thoughts of taking up an instrument midlife. I didn’t like music. Didn’t even listen to music. I was a writer, a photographer and music interfered with my thoughts. It was at best distracting but mostly annoying. Turn it down. Switch it off. Although much of my family is incredibly and even professionally musical, I was musically stunted…the runt…despite many, many years of piano lessons.

That said, despite my best effects, I can still play the first page of Moonlight Sonata and play it whenever I visited my parents on their Steinway grand piano (the piano of serious pianists!)

Anyway, my daughter has always shown a strong love of music and when she started school, the big moment of choosing an instrument finally came. I was all set for her to start off on the piano but she wanted to learn violin. Was quite insistant on the violin. I wondered if she felt some kind of special connection with it and decided, against my own council, to let her have a go.

When we arrived at her lesson, the teacher said I could sit in and it soon became apparent that I needed to be more than just a taxi driver. She needed hands on encouragement. We pulled Geoff’s grandfather’s violin out of the cupboard and I joined in on her lessons.   I didn’t know it at the time but Suzuki actually believed the mother should learn the violin first in order to encourage the child and I was unknowingly following in his footsteps.

I actually had some background with the violin. My brother had learned Suzuki violin for many years and had actually performed at the Opera House a number of times at annual concerts. I had learned for a couple of terms but had abandoned violin in disgust when I couldn’t hold the bow properly. So whilst I couldn’t remember much about playing the violin, I wasn’t a rank beginner and could actually help.

Miss and I practiced well together through term one but after not practicing during the holidays, she sounded terrible when we went back to lessons. She had a few colossal meltdowns and I decided to keep her spot warm until she was fit to return. I never doubted her love for the violin. She just needed a bit of a break.

Another term went by and by this stage, I had fallen in love with the violin, despite all its quirks and difficulties. I read that it took 10,000 hours of practice to become a concert violinist and worked out that it would take something like 28 years at one hour a day and I joked about making my concert debut at the Opera House using a walking frame.

Playing my violin at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay

Playing my violin at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay

Meanwhile, our musical school put together a violin ensemble and we performed at the end of year concert at Lizotte’s, a local rock n’ roll venue. January, I packed up my violin when we headed to Byron Bay and had Geoff photograph me playing outside the iconic Byron Bay Lighthouse. Well, I wasn’t actually playing. Just posing. I wanted the shot.

While I still had my heart set on my debut as a concert violinist, I first had to sit for my preliminary exam. This is the first and most basic exam and to be perfectly honest, you usually sit for your preliminary exam at the tender age of something like 5 maybe 6 years old…not 44! To further put the pressure on, I had scored an A in my preliminary piano exam when I was around that age and I couldn’t recall doing a lot of practice. Therefore, logic argued that I should easily score an A as a more mature violinist who had actually bothered to practice. That is practice for at least 30 minutes every day and not just under duress.

However, as I said, the violin’s middle name is perseverance. While preliminary should have been easy, a piece of cake and my “A” almost automatic, it was actually hard work. I really struggled to get a true and pure sound without even the faintest squeak creeping in. In a real act of contrariness, my violin would play two strings when I only wanted to play one but when I was trying to play two strings simultaneously for double stops, I would only play one. Infuriating!

We all know how easily love can turn to hate…

Yet, at the same time, my violin was teaching me so much more than just how to make music. It was teaching me how to stick at something I found difficult and to keep practicing and practising until I got it right, instead of simply giving up at the first sign of trouble. That was a huge leap forward for me. When I couldn’t do something in the past, I’d simply say it wasn’t me and give up. “I couldn’t do it” but now I had the example that if I really wanted to do something and if I put the hours in, I could probably do it or perhaps I could find around my hurdles.

Here I am skiing at Perisher.

Here I am skiing at Perisher.

I really put this into action on the ski slopes when I found the whole skiing experience quite overwhelming. I remember sitting on the chairlift which I really, really loved wondering why I was putting myself through the stress of learning how to ski when sitting on the chairlift was so much fun and so effortless. Yet, at the same time, I found the challenge invigorating and it was great to learn a new skill and improve. As I was tackling the mountain, I reflected on how perseverance and practice had worked for the violin and these principles would also apply to skiing. I had private lessons with my instructor and practiced inbetween and I really started to improve. I become a skier. I was immensely proud and when we arrived home, I was really chuffed to hear my son tell the Deputy Principal that Mummy had gone skiing even though she was afraid. That hopeful told him volumes.

Getting back to my violin, I was working towards my exam and the end of year concert when I developed pneumonia and spent 3 weeks in bed. No practice. My auto-immune disease had also flared up and I lacked the muscle strength to hold up my violin. The first day I returned to ensemble practice, I made a zillion mistakes and it sounded like cat claws traversing the strings. It was disgusting and soul destroying. I wondered whether it was all just too hard. That trying to learn the violin while battling a life-threatening illness was all too much. Was I pushing myself too hard? Should I just relax and fall into the easy chair and stop?

You know what it’s like when you’re down on the ground and you are facing that fork in the road. Should I keep fighting or just quietly let go of the dream?

I didn’t know.

My Dad mentioned something about it being good to have goals but what was the point if I couldn’t breathe?

He had a point.

I was still coughing and coughing and coughing…the pneumonia leaving a nasty legacy.

Still, I was slowly improving. Practicing again and as yet, we hadn’t received any notification of my exam date. That probably meant I had a good 3-4 weeks of practice up my sleeve.

I hadn’t given up yet.

Then the date arrived and I was scheduled to be at the AMEB offices in Sydney at 9.15am. I live about 2 hours away and I couldn’t see how I was going to get there. While this could have been a sign to withdraw, instead I wrote a letter asking for my exam to be moved to Gosford. Mentioned my health and disability issues and was given special consideration and my time moved to 2.55PM. After this kindness, I felt I had to front up…even if I failed!

I found an accompanist.

It was on.

My violin and I caught the train down to Sydney and I had lunch in the park watching the Ibis prey upon hapless office workers. As much as I love my trips to Sydney, I couldn’t relax.

I turned up to my exam half an hour early. There is a practice room but apparently this is only for tuning your instrument. I had left home early so I could warm up and I needed at least a thirty minute practice beforehand. My body doesn’t work well at the best of times.

A selfie of me playing my violin in the bus shelter, Sydney.

A selfie of me playing my violin in the bus shelter, Sydney.

My violin and I exited stage left. There we were on Clarence Street in the heart of Sydney looking for somewhere, anywhere, that I could practice my violin with even just a modicum of privacy. Office workers were rushing back and forwards and lanes of traffic crawled past. I investigated a few brick walls outside a couple of pubs but then spotted the bus shelter outside the AMEB building and set myself up. I know that any decent musician would have been too self-conscious to play but I was desperate. I had to get my fingers moving. My teacher had emphasised long, smooth bow strokes and I tried to picture her long, flowing blond hair moving slowly through the water like a mermaid. It seemed to work, even surprising myself. I was quite impressed and thought that at last I had finally “got it”.

Not on your life. I wasn’t overly nervous about the exam but at the same time, I knew I made many mistakes. I just wasn’t comfortable and that’s the hard thing about the violin. When you stiffen up, your bowing goes jerky. Your fingers don’t move properly and I was mixing up C and C sharp. I just wanted to escape.

I told my teacher that I thought I’d got a C but harboured fears that there was also scope for a D.

Fortunately, the results were due out after Christmas and so I could get through Christmas lunch and not feel I’d brought total disrepute on the family. I was always so proud of my goals and so determined to achieve them but what with the pneumonia and my auto-immune disease playing up, I figured that it was okay to fail. Walk away. Focus on my writing. Be a writer. After all, that’s who and what I really am. The violin was only second fiddle and certainly not worth dying for.

Well, the results didn’t wait until after Christmas. I received a very nice, very surprising early Christmas present…an A! I couldn’t believe it and re-read my teacher’s email several times before I believed it.

Perseverance did pay off after all!

I’m a violinist!

Beginner’s Bravado

There’s beginner’s luck but have you ever considered “Beginner’s Bravado”?

Beginner’s bravado is when the beginner’s enthusiasm gets way ahead of their abilities.  It sees toddlers climbing Mt Everest, even though they’re only just learning to walk. It can also make a beginner feel like a violinist, a maestro, when they still have dots stuck on their violin and can’t even play fourth finger let alone vibrato. Beginner’s Bravado helps you rise so far above your station, that you become airborne and much to even your own amazement, you might even fly!

­­­Ironically while you’re flying and soaring through the sky, someone with more experience and ability can be left behind scratching their head:

“How come she can fly? Who does she think she is? I’ve been trying to get off the ground for years, just waiting for the perfect conditions and she just takes off without any experience whatsoever. How unfair!”

As much as Beginner’s Bravado can get you off the ground, it can also land you in deep water. One minute, it’s all blue skies. Then, you get caught in a head wind and before you know it, you’re half way to New Zealand and you can’t get back.

That’s what happened to me, my violin and the end of year concert.

You see, because I thought I could play Edelweiss, I sheepishly asked my violin teacher whether I could perform at the end of year concert. I have played the piano at such concerts when I was a kid and it didn’t seem like such a big deal. My teacher was quite encouraging and then she had all sorts of ideas. She asked whether I wanted to perform by myself or in a group. Despite my prima donna tendencies, playing in a group sounded like the sensible option! She put together a medley of The Rose, Amazing Grace and Edelweiss and it all seemed fabulous. I was sold.

But…

I should just let you in on a little secret. I have only been playing the violin for nine months minus a day. Moreover, taking up the violin wasn’t a conscious choice or a matter of crossing off something from my bucket list. I had learnt the violin for a couple of terms as a kid and as far as I was concerned, that was it. I’d learnt the piano but I wasn’t really into music. Taking up the violin was all my daughter’s idea and I was just her taxi. I sat in on her lessons and helped her at home. We practiced together and slowly but surely, I fell in love with the violin but my daughter pulled out for awhile. She just couldn’t cope with all the screeching. She has sensitive ears. After a few prima donna meltdowns on her part, I decided to continue with the lessons without her, not really sure where it was all heading. I was hoping that if I continued and demonstrated that you really do improve with practice, that she would come back on board. I knew how much she actually loved the violin. Music is her thing…not mine!

So I guess you could say I picked up the violin on the rebound or even second-hand.

Back to the violin concert.

A few weeks later, my violin teacher was looking hesitant. She was concerned that we wouldn’t be ready in time. I heard her concerns but you know how it is when you are new at something and you think you know it but you don’t and me being me, I was quite dismissive. We still had a couple of months to go. How hard could it be? Once again, the beginner’s bravado had kicked in.  I reassured her that everything would be fine…just fine!! We could do it!!

I have now made a mental note to self that the next time someone with more experience has concerns, I will take them more seriously. There is a problem. It may not be a big one but I do need to take it seriously. There might be something I don’t know about which needs to be considered, not ignored.

At the same time I was being positive and encouraging, my violin was being quite difficult. I was practicing for at least 30 minutes to an hour per day and yet I still wasn’t improving. If anything, I sounded worse. I was constantly playing two strings at once and my violin was screeching like an out of tune cockatoo and was really sounding revolting. As time went by and the concert date was getting closer and closer, I was beginning to worry.

What if I wasn’t ready on time?

Meanwhile, I gained a new respect for the violin. Although I’d thought that playing on one string would be relatively easy, I have now realised that trying to play the violin is like trying to bake the perfect sponge cake. That just like sponge cakes, violins are very sensitive. The eggs need to be at room temperature and you must separate the yolks from the whites. You have to sift the flour 3 times to get the air into it and then add that essential pinch of salt. Then, once you finally get the mixture into the oven, you can’t open the door under any circumstances and have to tiptoe around the kitchen very carefully without any thumping or jumping.

It begs the question: “Who do you think you are? If you’re going to be that fussy, I’ll go with a packet mix instead!”

The same with the violin. If it’s going to be so impossible, maybe I should just go back to piano and pick up where I left off?

It could be easier perhaps for me to learn the piano but the violin speaks to me. The piano does not or at least not in the same way!

Besides, I’m not a quitter. I believe in the power of persistence even when the evidence is maybe even strongly stacked against me.

I practiced more and more and more.

They say practice makes perfect but what no one seems to tell you, is just how much practice it actually takes. It turns out that the magic figure is 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in your field. I then calculated that if I practice for 1 hour per day, it would take me 27 years to become a maestro. That means, I would be 70 years old and well and truly retired by the time I was ready for Carnegie Hall.

At two hours a day, success is almost achievable but that’s a serious commitment. I’d pretty much be living for my violin and I’m writer.

That said, I’d hate to think how much time I waste each day and if I could possibly consolidate some of those lost minutes, then perhaps I could fit my two hours in without too much trouble. Perhaps, I could take my violin to the medical centre and practice while I’m waiting for the doctor or my blood test. I could practice while I’m telling the kids to get ready for the umpteenth time. I already practice while I’m cooking, waiting for something on the stove and while I’m waiting for my cup of tea to cool down. After all, you have to seize the moment…especially when a moment is all you have!

In the meantime, it’s looking like a dawn performance on the steps of the Sydney Opera House and I’ll just have to hope that the security guard doesn’t call the Police!

The clock is ticking…

Yesterday, with just over 24 hours to go to the big concert, I pulled out my violin and panicked. Geoff and I had been away for the weekend at Jazz in the Vines in the Hunter Valley. This means I’d missed two days of violin practice. I wasn’t too concerned about this because I’d been practicing steadily and had felt I had finally cracked it. I was almost relaxed. However, when I started playing again yesterday, it sounded awful. It was playing two strings at once and the notes were ever so slightly out of tune but it very noticeable. It wasn’t good.

I didn’t panic but I was concerned. That’s when I realised just how sensitive violins really are. That they really don’t like being left home alone. My violin could have been playing something upbeat but instead it seems she was playing sad songs to herself all weekend. This meltdown was the violin equivalent of “where the hell have you been? Who were you with? You’ve been listening to other music! How dare you leave me behind!!”

I tell you, there is nothing quite like a jealous violin!

I even wondered whether my violin had been secretly siphoned out some of the wine (perhaps a bit of Merlot as we slept) because my bow was having trouble playing in a straight line and was sliding all over the place.

Fortunately, it turned out that my violin doesn’t hold a grudge because when I went to practice last night, it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t perfect but it was a vast improvement. I’d also had a nanna nap in the afternoon so perhaps that helped.

It’s now just four hours til the concert begins. I’m more excited than nervous. I really enjoy performing with the group and I really want to see how it all finally comes together. I have done my best to prepare and it all just boils down to that moment in time. How will it all come together? Will my violin be naughty or nice?

Wish me luck!

Wickedly Sweet…my cupcake awakening!

You want me! I know you want me! I know just how much you want me! Take me! I’m yours!

Those damn cupcakes were calling me. Whispering sweet nothings at me and I was quite powerless to resist. The temptation…all that temptation was all too much. I succumbed. Not just once but twice. A greedy little glutton without any willpower whatsoever, I had two cupcakes and I didn’t even care if someone else missed out. I needed my fix! I was a woman possessed!!

Eating two little cupcakes is hardly a crime but that all depends on the context.

You see, I was at a business lunch.  Just before lunch, I’d shot my mouth off to a colleague about all my great health goals and objectives. I’ve lost ten kilos this year. You can achieve a lot of things but losing weight is almost the Holy Grail. Then, as everybody knows, there’s the battle to keep it off…to somehow maintain the rage. That’s where I’m struggling at the moment.  So far, I’ve been able to sneak in a few treats and get away with it but I could always lose more. Also, horror of horrors, I could always put the weight back on!

Whatever else happens, I certainly don’t want to go backwards. I’ve even thrown out all my old fat clothes and have drawn a very determined line in the sand.

I am a new woman.

Yet, there I was stuffing my face full of cupcakes. With my all-important credibility and self-respect hanging around my ankles like a pair of saggy, baggy undies with broken elastic, I had well and truly shifted gears from winner to loser and I knew it. But did that stop me? No, I still went ahead and ate that second cupcake.

Why did I do it? Why was I so weak-willed…especially in such a public situation?

I don’t know. I’m not a bad person. I don’t smoke. I’m not an alcoholic and I don’t do illegal drugs. I’ve never shoplifted and I’ve certainly never left my kids in the car while I’ve gone to the casino. I don’t really pig out either but those little things I’d given up are sneaking back in. They’re only small but it’s a bit like joining up the dots. They all add up, creating something big and rather scary in the end.

But you’d think that when my health is so precarious, I could stop at one cupcake. I have such a huge incentive for staying on track. You’d think that I’d be able to give up cake, chocolate and sweets without a second thought. Eating junk food when you’re battling a health issue is so ridiculously stupid like smoking in front of your obstetrician when you’re pregnant. It’s a no brainer and yet, I persistently persist.  “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence!!”  I just wish I could harness this persistence for good instead of evil!

After all, I’ve had the wake up call. It’s now time to get out of bed. Burst out of my cocoon. Get moving! But who hasn’t pressed the snooze button, ignored the alarm and gone back to sleep? Who hasn’t heard the alarm beeping again and again and again but left it to the very last minute to get up?  I’m only human but this sort of thinking isn’t going to help. Instead, I need to find some seriously superhuman willpower… tough love even!

So if I know all of this why can’t I just go ahead and do it?

I would like to blame the devil or even the cupcakes for leading me astray but the bottom line is that it’s me. I am my own worst enemy. I am constantly shooting myself in the foot. Indeed, my feet are so riddled with bullet holes, they look like Swiss cheese. I could even eat them on toast.

This was a bit of a revelation because I certainly like to think of myself as a “good person” and my enemies as being external not an insider and certainly not myself!

We have a really horrible neighbour who is probably my only “enemy”. He is what I describe as a nasty piece of work, specialising in intimidation. I just see him and feel horrible. Yet, as much as he drives me crazy, I have to admit that I’ve done more to hurt myself than he has ever done. He isn’t the one making me self-destruct. That’s me. I am doing that to myself and bringing myself down. I can’t tell you how creepy and uncomfortable this makes me feel.  I don’t like it. I really don’t like it at all!  This new perspective could actually be the thing that changes me once and for all!

But how is this all going to change? How can I convert good intentions into lasting, meaningful results?

The first step, of course, is just to get started and so far, I’m cruising. You see, the morning after the cupcake incident, I caught a very nasty gastro bug from the kids and was sick for about four days. I was very, very ill and feverish and obviously couldn’t eat. As bad as it sounds, I couldn’t help thinking that this terrible bug might be just the thing to get me back on track. Yet, when it comes to developing more willpower, being too sick to eat doesn’t count! I need to work at it.  So in a sense I’m ahead but the reality is that I’m still just as behind as ever.

Lasting change is going to take some serious effort.I also need to plan. Be strategic. Identify my strengths and weaknesses and be prepared.

Alternatively, I could just say “no”. That would be a novel concept.

The trouble is that I’ve now spent most of my available time blogging instead of doing. This could be interpreted as a more sophisticated form of procrastination or perhaps a terminal case of paralysis through analysis. Yet, even though I’ve missed my walk and managed to do nothing, I’m looking on the bright side. I’ve been too busy typing to eat and surely all of  this typing and thinking have burnt off something?!!

Stay tuned… the battle plans are coming. In the meantime…

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

 Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu

Hmm… I wonder if blogging about it counts?

In the meantime, at least I now know who to watch out for.

It’s Me, Myself and I!

xx Rowena