Don’t Forget to Feed Your Soul

13237612_10208770037384229_6420776503945183241_nMy husband took the boys to his softball game last week, and, for the first time in months, I had an entire evening to myself. I shuffled around the house for a bit, picking up toys and cracker crumbs and discarded pieces of clothing. I contemplated pouring a glass of wine or cracking open the novel I’d just renewed from the library for the third time. I considered giving myself a facial or doing something with the jagged stumps I call fingernails. I had so many things I could do, but none of them seemed right. As I walked to the front door to check the mail, I noticed delicate rays of light streaming through the blinds in our front room. The pale waves danced across the smooth black wood of my piano, giving it a heavenly glow.

My piano. 

Oh, how I love my piano. As a child, I cursed my mother for the lessons, the hours of practice, the recitals that had my introverted self shaking like a leaf. But as I grew older, it became more like a friend than a chore. It was something to pound on when I was angry, something to make me feel when my soul fell numb, something to pour my heart into when everything else in my life felt as if it were crashing down around me. In college, I found myself wandering through the halls of my dorm at midnight, blinking back tears from a breakup/bad grade/fight with a friend, until I landed at the ancient Steinway in the lobby and played until the night clerk told me it was time to go. To this day, I’m still amazed at how a few minutes of Mozart can cleanse my soul and provide strength for another day.

I have a beautiful piano now, a Kawai baby grand that sits in our front room collecting dust and deflecting the sticky fingers of my children. In between parenting and writing, it gets played once a month at best, and I’m lucky to get in a full song before I need to stop and break up a Lego-induced fight. I miss my hours in front of the piano, and if it could talk, it would probably say it misses me.

I could feel the day’s tension in my shoulders as I sat down and opened up my go-to book, Schirmer’s Thirty-Two Sonatinas and Rondos For the Piano. For a good hour I played Clementi and Kuhlau, Hadyn and Hofmann, finishing with the Mozart Sonata I performed in an eighth grade solo and ensemble competition. My fingers were cramping, but my shoulders were tense no more. A calm had possessed my body, a forgotten peace that almost brought me to tears. I pulled my achilles heel from the bench, Beethoven’s nineteen page Sonate Pathetique. I played it for my Senior Recital when I was seventeen; I love it more than anything, but it’s hard. My hands were shaking by page five, my arms heavy by the second movement, but I played on. It was far from perfect, but perfection was not the goal. Daylight was waning as I played my last note, but I no longer needed the light. I was finished, my soul fed and cleansed, as if I’d spent the last two hours laughing and having cocktails with a beloved old friend.

The door flung open as I closed the piano’s lid, and my fresh-faced children rushed in to disturb the peace with their boisterous chatter. They took a seat at the kitchen table and proceeded to stuff fistfuls of popcorn into their mouths.

“Did you have fun while we were gone?” my oldest asked in between chews.

“I did,” I replied.

“What did you do?” my youngest chimed in.

“I played the piano.” I stretched my aching fingers and stole a piece of popcorn.

My oldest’s mouth opened with awe. “The whole time?”

I smiled as serenity floated through my veins. “Yes. The whole time.”

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It’s a New Year!

breathe-in-peace-breathe-out-loveIt’s January 7th and I still haven’t made any New Years resolutions. In my defense, the last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. The kids were out of school and my husband was amazingly off work, so there was a lot of family time going on. Add the fact that my beloved Michigan State Spartans were in Dallas for eight days for The Cotton Bowl, and, as my Facebook friends can attest, I was busy bleeding green and white. (Sorry for the constant pictures, guys. But it was exciting!)10676186_10204969579615160_348258099944658504_n

Now that the dust has settled a bit, I finally have some time to reflect on the upcoming year. Year after year the most common New Years resolutions have to deal with diet and exercise, but I don’t think I want to go there. Sure, I could probably stand to lose a few pounds. I’d no doubt benefit from adding more weight training into my workout routine and fewer chocolate/peanut butter combinations into my diet. But when you consider the statistics, that each year an estimated 45 percent of Americans make at least one resolution in January yet by December only 8 percent are still committed, it seems like those kinds of resolutions tend to set us up for failure.

So I think I want to aim bigger this year, a little bit deeper…

Drum roll, please…

It probably makes me sound a bit like a crazy hippie, but this year I resolve to breathe more peace, radiate more love, and be the best me I can be. I know, I know, it sounds like I’ve been playing the bongos with Matthew McConaughey, but in this insanely busy technology-addicted world we live in, it is SO incredibly easy to lose sight of what matters most.

The philosopher Philip Arnold once wrote, “Love, peace, joy and harmony are the best vitamins in the universe.” So I’m putting my Centrum aside and trying this new vitamin cocktail for 2015. And maybe, just maybe, if I make a conscious effort to let more beautiful things into my life, all of that other stuff will fall into place. (But I’m not giving up chocolate and peanut butter.)

Happy 2015, everyone! Here’s to the best year yet.namaste