Don’t Rain On My Parade – Playing Piano In The Zone

Don’t tell me not to fly, I simply got to  /  If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you
Who told you you’re allowed to rain on my parade

I love that song written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, the words just light up the world and all it’s possibilities for me.  Don’t rain on my parade. I used to let people do it a lot;  didn’t know I had any control.  They didn’t completely stop me doing what I wanted to do, but they took the pleasure out of it, and the times I landed on my face were all the more painful for it.  I told you so.

Of course it’s not just the bullies on the outside who do the damage.  Mostly it’s the ones on the inside.  The enemy within, and I’ve had a whole army of them to disarm.   Imagine an army of Harry Potter’s Dementors living right inside your head.  Times when they’ve been the most powerful and destructive have been when I’ve really applied myself to something meaningful in my quest to claim my life – and am succeeding.

I’ve realized lately that those times have been the ones when I’ve been addicted to something. In one period of my life I was addicted to food, just couldn’t stop myself eating, couldn’t stay away from the fridge.  For years I didn’t know what hunger was because I was always full.  It was terrifying, the almost vengeful power of a deep longing that consumed me.  Food would satiate it while I was eating, and then I’d be flooded with relief.  But as soon as the food was finished the panic and longing would overwhelm me again.  Thank god those days are over.  No more addictions, no more Harry Potter Dementors living in my head.

And very few bullies and spoilers in my life.  Now when they try I (metaphorically) show them three fingers and say read between the lines.  I’m really giving them the middle finger, but I’ve got plausible deniability.  And I can’t tell a lie.  That one isn’t mine, it’s a Charlie Sheen line from Two and a Half Men.  Poor guy, living in his own hell, addicted to crack cocaine, in rabid denial.   Glad I don’t have his demons.   Glad I never tried crack.

Yesterday I spent the day playing the piano, altering a new dress I bought, and listening to Barbara Streisand, Billy Joel, Bette Midler and Johan Sebastian Bach.  Letting myself be. Playing piano always releases something I can’t even describe.  My whole body comes alive and life makes perfect sense.  My vision for life looks clear, and my imagination roams wild.   I see life as the big, grand thing that it actually is when there aren’t any spoilers and bullies around.   Sometimes thoughts pass on by, sometimes I get real insight into things I’ve been wrestling with.  It’s a kind of meditation, I guess but with masses of energy being generated.

Alive in the zone.  Timeless.  It’s a place where nobody can rain on my parade.  Feels pretty damn good.


Being Perfectly Imperfect

A couple of months ago I thought I was on a clear path towards claiming my life back.  Thought I’d successfully stepped out of history.  For the first time in years I had people in my life who accepted me and who could relate to me.  My blog was getting more and more traffic, I was writing every day, getting good strokes for my article writing, wrestling with a thriller film script and gathering ideas to write the novel, gathering ideas for a book on my experiences with bankruptcy and what I’d learned, playing piano, singing, recording my blogs.

My life was a happening place.  Next to the Paypal button I wrote “This blog is about overcoming obstacles and making dreams come true.  Mine are to establish myself as a script, novel and blog writer, and a vocalist, and to be financially independent again.  If you’d like to help me achieve my goals, a thousand thanks.  Click the Paypal button, and choose your own amount.  For more info, click here.”

That click would take people to the first time I gave myself permission to put Paypal on my blog.  After a year’s debate about it.  Nobody could accuse me of not deliberating before making decisions.  My blog had a purpose, at least in my eyes.

Right from the start I wanted it to illustrate one person’s journey in a real way from crisis in the material world to understanding that the real crisis was within, to dealing with it, to stepping out of it into a life lived differently, from a perspective of better emotional fluency, better understanding of my rights, and dealing with the world differently.   I wanted my journey with singing to reflect the same thing.  I decided to illustrate starting with the reality.  This is how I sing.  I hoped that it would get better with practice!

I hoped I was en route to some kind of success that would be meaningful to me.  In letting myself be completely honest with my starting place, I was really saying to myself “everybody has to start somewhere and it’s okay”.

Something derailed me from everything, and I can’t put my finger on it.  All I can say is that it feels as if I’ve totally lost my way.  My creativity is burned out, I’m not singing, not recording, not even writing my blog every day.  Haven’t touched my script in months.  The workload for the script-writing course is overwhelming.  It requires creativity and – I don’t have any.   It looks as if this journey I’ve taken for the past eight years has got absolutely nowhere.  I haven’t got a clue what the purpose of my life is.

The only thing that makes life have any sense at all is when I’m playing the piano.   Then the world, with all its challenges that I’m not particularly good at meeting, fades away.   Yesterday I was playing Bach and then Mozart, and I’m up to learning Grade VII music which I play pretty badly, but a year ago I was about a bad Grade IV, so I guess it’s progress.   When I’m playing I don’t think about success in the world, I couldn’t give a damn about it, I just have this intense sense of fulfillment at playing, even if it’s just scales and exercises.

I thought yesterday that at least I’ve broken down the most significant barrier in my life – that of learning how to learn on the piano.  It held me hostage until a couple of years ago.  All my life I wanted to play piano.  All my life I could only get so far and no further.  As my heart was singing and my fingers flying, my life kind of passed before me, and I wondered if this would be the only success I’d be able to achieve – that I broke the back of my learning problem with the one thing I was the most passionate about as a child.

How to stop time

Lazy Sunday.   Yesterday I sat down at the piano, intending to let myself play for a couple of hours.   M fingers were stiff, and my brain dull.   The music seemed a million miles away.  I didn’t have that sense of open plains inside myself that I usually do with the piano.   I had a kind of panic telling me I didn’t have time to do this, I should be working on trying to earn money, or promoting my blog or writing my script.

But frankly I didn’t feel like it.   I let the panic be and carried on playing.   After a couple of hours I was loose enough for the pleasure to awaken in  body and mind.    And then nothing mattered.   Thoughts drifted through, but I didn’t pay any attention to them.   My heart relaxed.  I let go.

I played all day, had supper, watched some TV and played on until midnight.

The world receded, and time stopped.

Doing what’s important first

I let myself play piano first thing this morning, when I was fresh and not wiped out from computer-boggle-eye-marketing-crap.

Well that tells you how much I’m enjoying it.

I felt panicky as I sat down at the piano.  Torn.  Want to play.  Scared that if I do I’ll end up with no money because I SHOULD BE DOING SOMETHING TO EARN MONEY EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF THE DAY.

Fuck it, I said, I’m playing the piano.

At first my brain wouldn’t engage.  Couldn’t concentrate.  Fingers clumsy.  Couldn’t play Bach pieces that aren’t even complicated stuff for Bach.  So I stopped and let myself play baby Bach pieces.  Everything settled down, my concentration warmed up.  Went back to the more difficult pieces.   Slow down, Jennifer, you have to learn them first before you can play them.  Play as slowly as you have to.  Relax, tomorrow you can play again, and the day after that.

Slowly things got better, the world around me faded into absolute nothingness.  All the stress, all my fear, the past and future – none of it was relevant.  Deep breath.  This feels so natural, this makes me believe that the world is an okay place, that I’m okay and safe.

My refuge, my haven, but it’s more than that.  It’s my world.  This is what my body, brain, heart and soul love to do.  I love to do the work; it’s hard to tear myself away.  As I was playing I let that awareness wash over me.  The relief.

Breathe deeply, let go.  The more I let go the easier it was to concentrate.

Then a man and his son came to fix the broken alarm.  I froze.  I said will I disturb you?  Worried.

They said no.  Usually my concentration disappears completely when I’m playing in front of other people.  This time I said fuckit I want to play.  So I did, then realized I don’t have to apologize to them for disturbing them.  Should be the other way round in fact.  You wouldn’t believe all the pop-ups – all fears, of course – “what if they don’t like the music, what if it irritates them, what if I’m playing too loud, what if I make a mistake”.  Well, I just let them be and after a while I got engrossed in the music.  It’s much more interesting than my pop-up messages which are by comparison UTTERLY TRIVIAL.

It’s so bloody hard for me to believe I have rights.  My default is that I don’t have any at all.  I get so mousy sometimes, am I bothering you?   I’d much rather bother people so much with my playing that they come yelling at me to stop and I slam the door in their face, or laugh and keep on playing.  Rather not have that whole situation, but I’m just saying, mousy is the worst of all options.  Nobody’s going to hurt you, Jennifer, if you play the piano.

While I was playing, I thought about what I’m doing, how I’ve never really let myself engage fully in the piano again after Italy.  I’ve come back to it, committed to never give up again, and that isn’t hard, it’s natural now.  But I’ve never said fine, this is what I’m going to do with most of my time.  Because I’m not a genius?  Because there’s no point?  Because I know I can’t compete with anybody at a professional level?

But how does any of that compare to how I feel when I’m playing? How does it compare to what a nightmare monster place the world and my life becomes when I’m not?  It doesn’t.  It’s easy to say do the thing you love and success will come to you – until you’ve only got money for food and rent for another six weeks, when you’re 55 with no career and you’re not earning.  Is it only the massively talented people who have the right to do what they want?  What a ridiculous idea.

But don’t I have to make money?  Well, I’m back to I don’t know what the solution is.  I just know that I haven’t finished playing today.  And I see that playing first thing in the morning lets me remember who I am and why I’m alive.  Not talking about material success. Talking about the success that is your soul expressing itself, no matter how “talented” you are or aren’t, or what level you’re at.  I guess I’ve got a belief tucked inside nicely that says other people deserve to do what they love, but I don’t because I’m not talented enough.  Hallo mother stuff!

I remember when I was in Italy and I was thinking about living in Ireland because I could get the dole – which would let me practice as much as I wanted to – and I told my sister on the phone (she was here in SA).  She said “well you can’t live off the dole if you come back here.”  The unspoken words were you lazy bitch.  Why should you get something for nothing.  But I didn’t want it for nothing, and I was willing to work exceptionally hard for it.  I didn’t want the dole so I could go and hang out at the local pool room.

My sister didn’t have to say it, I already believed her.

Thing is, I want it all, even though I am 55 and not a genius.  I want to do what makes sense to me and be financially independent.  Ah, to heck with all the debate.  I’ll do work on the minisites today.  But I’m also going to finish my practicing, and I’m going to do some work on my thriller script.  I’ll do my part in the money thing, but I’ll also keep in mind that I’m a co-creator in my life, I don’t have to try and control everything.  I do have to stake my claim.  Let go and let God.   Hey God, time to step up.

Maybe it all boils down to management – not so much of time, but of energy.  I’ve got a certain amount, and I must parcel it out, so that I do money work but it doesn’t stop me doing all the other, more important, stuff.

I’m not willing to get to the end of my life and know that I didn’t let myself do what made the most sense to me, because I needed money.  I’m not willing to get to the end of today and know that I didn’t listen to this most important part of me.   There won’t have been a point to my life, then.

That’s all she wrote.