That was the goal I set when I started violin lessons in September: be able to play Silent Night by Christmas. The Christmas season arrived and Silent Night was there, still shaky, but hopeful. I had to make good on my promise; I had to play it for an audience, worse, the audience would be my friends and family.
My playing skills come and go. One day Silent Night sounds good and the next, not even close. I thought about making excuses for myself and backing out. I’m not ready. I’ll play it next year. I have this rule. When in doubt about a decision, do the thing that requires the most growth.
The problem in all growth is our self-image. I am not a musician. Even saying “I play the violin” is a stretch. I say “I take violin lessons.” Our self-image tells us who we think we are. When we step outside our self-image, we are uncomfortable. That is what keeps us from growing. We want to be comfortable. We do not think in these terms but we want our self-image to be change before we take that first uncomfortable step. Unfortunately, it rarely works that way.
A week before Christmas I told my friends I would play for them. That way I was committed. I arrived with my instrument.
Nothing I could tell myself calmed my nerves. No amount of deep breathing slowed my heart beat. As I picked up the instrument and stood before my friends, I did not get suddenly calm; no great moment of insight rescued me.
Thinking the song in my head, as my music teacher advised, I bowed the first note, then the second and the third. I wish I could say I got lost in the performance; I didn’t. I heard every flat note and every time the bow scratched a bit. I flubbed a phrase but pushed on. Finally. the last note came and my friends applauded. I took a deep breath and resisted apologizing for my mistakes.
That was the first of three Christmas occasions when I played Silent Night for friends and family. Each time, I was as nervous. Each time, I was glad I did it and glad it was over. I feel a little more like a musician now. I can say with a little greater sense of reality: “I play the violin.”
Plain and Simple Advice
We make our road by walking. What new road will you walk down this year?