Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lessons of 2016 #2: Don't Stop on the Dissonant Notes

"Hey, Mom," my son David called to me today, "Could you come listen to this piano piece I'm playing?"  I complied, proud of him for going ahead and learning new pieces, even when I don't find the time to give him an official lesson for weeks or even months.  Despite my good intentions, piano lessons for my boys repeatedly fall to the bottom of my to-do list...and then fall off the list entirely!
David started playing the piece, then stopped in the middle.  "Is this right? It doesn't sound good," he said, playing a C with his left hand and a D and F with his right.
"Keep playing," I urged him.  "Those notes are dissonant; but if you go on to the very next set of notes, you'll hear them resolve."  And sure enough, he then played a C and E with his right hand, which sounded beautiful with the C in his left hand.
His mistake--that pause on dissonant notes to question whether they can possibly be right--is one that I very clearly remember making when I was a child, learning to play the piano.  I'm sure that 30 or so years ago, when I asked my mom the question of whether the notes were correct, she encouraged me to keep playing to hear the resolution, just like I did with David today; but instead, sometimes I would linger on the dissonance, camping on it to make sure I got it right, repeating the notes that sounded so sour in the ear rather than moving smoothly on to the sweet ones.  "Is this really right?  Surely I'm doing something wrong!" I must have wondered.
I walked away from the conversation with David, leaving a (hopefully!) smarter musician in my wake, and having my own thoughts stirred by what we had talked about.  Oh, not really about notes on the piano, but rather about experiences in life.
You see, just as a piano piece has moments of dissonance that challenge the ears and leave them longing for something more pleasant to come along, life has moments of dissonance that challenge our whole beings and leave us longing for something more pleasant, something easier, something that doesn't make us wonder, "Am I doing this right?  Because this feels really hard!"
I've had some moments like that recently.  It's not that anything very terrible has happened; and in so many ways, I am living the dream of how I wanted my life to be.  Compared with what many other people face, the dissonance in my life is NOTHING.
And yet, it feels hard.  And sometimes my face is probably just as wrinkled up in a grimace as dear little Benjamin's is in the photo below as he played with Sheva and Sofia today!  ;-)
The dissonance, so to speak, in my life comes from temporary things like three of my kids being sick with a stomach bug during the past few days, and Josiah's participation in a speech and debate tournament last week which added a number of challenges to our family's schedule, and the 10 (adorable, I might add) puppies we have in our house that require care from us until they're ready to move on to their permanent homes.
But what's more, there is still a fair amount of lingering dissonance that comes from the adjustment to having a new baby; having six children means having a lot of needs that arise and necessitate time and attention from me.  My overarching fatigue adds to the dissonance, no surprise there!
There's a clashing sound in my head from my tasks that rush past in a never-ending flood of items on my to-do list; the discouragement that beckons to me every single day is a harsh dissonance in my internal song.
Sometimes I chide myself; after all, I am supremely blessed and shouldn't complain about a thing!  I'm not dealing with a serious illness, neither am I watching one of my children suffer in that way.  I have a loving, supportive husband who is my favorite person in all the world (the dissonance comes from the fact that we find it hard to carve out plentiful time for just the two of us).  We have a pleasant home and all the material comforts we could ever need.  Our children are an amazing blessing...and the list goes on.  With so many good things in my life, why should I hear any dissonance?
And yet, I do.  We all do.  And that doesn't mean I don't feel humbled and grateful for all the blessings I've been given, because I certainly do!  But even still, from time to time (and truthfully, every day), I land on the dissonant notes and think, "Is this right? I think I did something wrong! Surely the song isn't supposed to sound like this!"
I was reminded today, by my son's question during his piano practice, that it's so important to refrain from stopping on the dissonant notes.  Of course I understand the need to, from time to time, pause to analyze what notes are being played to ensure that they truly are the correct notes.  But then the next time the piece is played, keep moving!  Trust that the notes that don't sound lovely are preparing the ear to fully appreciate the beauty that is coming.
And how do I apply this to my life?  Simply this: when the music of my life grates in my ear and makes me wonder if I'm messing everything up, don't pause for too long.  Keep moving.  Understand that one phase of life--in my case these days, an energy-demanding, caring-for-many-needs, constantly-fighting-against-being-overwhelmed, having-a-to-do-list-the-length-of-the-Nile phase of life--is just that: a phase!  When a morning comes along that challenges me so much that I think I'll surely notice more gray hair on my head the next time I get close to a mirror, remember that the afternoon is coming, and it may be so peaceful (nap time and quiet time help a lot with this!) that I'll find myself able to accomplish more tasks than I could have imagined in the interruption-laden morning.  When a period of sickness strikes, remember that wellness will return--and how joyful we will be then as we consciously appreciate our good health!  When a week or month shows up with a crazy busy schedule, remember that months of relaxation and free(r) time are up ahead.
Life won't always be this way.  The hardships I struggle against now will someday fade into the background; and yes, I realize that new hardships will come to replace them.  But new joys will come as well.  The dissonance will resolve.

For now, the key is this: don't stop on the dissonant notes!!  :)

For Lessons of 2016 #1, click here.

1 comment:

sally said...

Wow! You are so right. I am feeling the dissonance this week too, and I don't have 6 children, 10 puppies, and a GI virus taking a toll on the household. In comparison, I should have no dissonance, but somehow, it has come. Thanks for the reminder to stay the course and wait for the rotation of the earth (maybe a few times, or quite a few times!) and harmony will be restored.