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Scales and Arpeggios and Facials -Oh my!

Positively Speaking

All that was needed was a little distance, a little perspective. Well, and I had to start taking piano again and commit to regular facial cleansing.

Digging deeper into one’s life is always an option. Of course, so is remaining shallow and superficial. Bliss can include ignorance, but stupidity is almost always to be avoided.

I like digging deep.  Self reflection, hearing and seeing other people’s real stories, asking questions about how I might improve what’s best for me, as a person trying to contribute good and goodness and kindness to the world, is the passionate core of my life.

As the New Year rolls in, two daily practices I’m adding in are going to create depth and meaning to my life this year and underscore my ability for self reflection.

It all started the summer my cousin had Henry Mancini’s ‘Baby Elephant Walk’ and a piece of paper with capital letters written on it, from which she could play a whole song, sitting on the music holder of Grandad’s Steinway baby grand. Classically trained, by a teacher who believed playing scales was a waste of time, popular music was not in my repertoire. Lead sheets (the piece of paper with capital letters) were gibberish to me. I could play excellently in any key. I knew nothing about the structure of the compositions I would play. It was like being fully conversant in a language, but unable to read it.

With all my heart I wanted to be able to play popular music and read a lead sheet. I wanted desperately to know the ‘what’ of my playing.

For decades I would tell one pianist after another of my desire. Usually, my remarks brought a blank stare with a vague smile. How could an accomplished pianist and vocalist not be musically literate? I knew the keys, but had to deliberately count out sharps and flats assigned to each. They were not commited to memory.

Married to a well educated and competent keyboardist, I would ask him to teach me what I didn’t know. His very loving comment-- that would be sarcasm-- was “If I teach you music theory, you won’t need me.”. I composed many many songs singing the melodies and harmonies and rhythms I heard in my head, into his ear, after which he would scribe them on paper. (Side comment- abuse does not always include physical violence and yes, it took a few years, but I finally woke up and demanded to be treated differently).

I bought myself a workbook, but never got past intervals, I couldn’t learn it away from the piano, from a book.

After the divorce (he left when I set limits with how I was being treated), I hired a tutor, a grad student in the music department. I would take the bus all the way in from the Island to the local university as often as I could as a single mother. It still wasn’t working. I couldn’t get it.

Three weeks ago, I got my miracle. A friend, a brilliant pianist way out of my league, sat next to me and had me play scales and arpeggios. BINGO! It all made sense. Moving my fingers together along the keys saying ‘3” every time I play both third fingers at the same time, still physically hurts my head, but I’m getting it. The missing piece has dropped in. There are few experiences as exhilarating as the acquisition of knowledge for which you have longed. I am whole, at last. Goodness I have sought remains unrequited no longer.

Where do facials fit in? I was trained to be fat from the fifth grade on. Placed on my first 800 calorie diet that year, (Mom had issues with me developing boobs), I dieted my way right up to FAT.  It wasn’t until I looked at pictures of myself from adolescence ,as an adult, that I realized I had not been fat as a child or teen or college student and there was no need for dieting. I was in fact, at 5’11, a respectable size ten. do you get off 150 pounds of dead weight?  Portion control and exercise and choosing the right food combos got off the first thirty five. But a lot was left. Facing hip surgery that couldn’t happen until my BMI was a healthy number, this was not a cosmetic effort.

The answer came when a friend asked me to try a new facial care product line she was selling. I realized, by the third day, I paid absolutely no attention to my skin. I was the queen of freshening make up from the day before. Beginning to take care of the skin on my face, on a daily basis, changed my entire relationship with my whole body. It was no longer an entity I endured, but rather the definition of myself I now treated with care and nurture. BINGO!

Many huge resolutions have been made in the last few days. Ask yourself this. What is the smallest change I could make that would bring the biggest difference to my life? Gift yourself with that. It could bring huge results.

Happy New Year!
Love, Deborah