I’m writing this today not because I have an answer, not because I have some inspirational story about how I’ve arrived past all my struggles. I’m writing this today because I’m grieving. Grieving what should have been. Grieving what could have been. Grieving the brokenness in this world. Grieving that it’s so hard to make wholeness, beauty, and art out of the brokenness.
I struggle a great deal with confidence. I have gifts in so many areas; music in general and piano specifically, drawing and sketching, storytelling and imagination, thought streams which could become good writing if I knew how to write, creative culinary ideas, and so on.
The lament is that I was never given the ability or opportunity as a student in my younger family years to develop or believe in those gifts.
Part of it was because my parents were just too busy with 7 kids, 2 grandparents, and a laundry list of other church/ministerial activities to have time to focus in on me and find out what my gifts were and help me invest in them well. Part of it was that I am the youngest of 7 kids and there always seemed to be a sibling in my family who had the same gift as me, only better, leaving me feeling overshadowed and (unfortunately quite literally by some) constantly compared to those others in what was, despite good motives, a very unhealthy way. Part of it was that the injury I had in my right arm kept me from continuing to pursue my greatest love, the piano, through lessons with my incredible concert pianist teacher, which meant that I was virtually in a stupid limbo for years and years, making only teency weency progressions here and there in my passion for piano playing.
It has left me now, as a married adult having just had a baby, floundering to figure out how to maintain my own exclusive identity amidst the chaos of caring for and raising a family. I believe in self-care. I believe self-care is crucial for a mother/wife. I believe that if I don’t dive deep into certain aspects of my self independently from my family, then in 20 years when I resurface after raising children I’m going to discover that I have no identity left.
I could have been more. If I had actually been helped to take a writing class in my homeschooling years and actually finish it and understand it, I could have been more than just a meandering blogger; instead I believe I could be making more of a difference (at least in some people’s worlds) through what I write and how I write.
If my parents had been able to pursue an answer to the pain in my wrist and chase healing as far as possible, I could have continued my piano lessons and delved into the beauty of feeling my fingers fly across the keys, experiencing on a daily basis the joy that being a pianist brings me. Nothing would be off limits to me in the composition world of piano music.
If I could have been taught the techniques of using different kinds of pencils and shading and proportions I could be far better at sketching and drawing. If my arm wasn’t so badly injured I would be able to still spend hours on a picture, like I used to.
If I had been allowed to engage in sports, or dance, or something of the sort, I wouldn’t feel so lost and frustrated when I approach the world of fitness.
I know it may sound like I’m just complaining and making excuses, but that isn’t why I’m writing. I’m writing because I believe in the power of healthy grief, the power of being able to recognize what you’re feeling and why.
When I see others succeeding in something I know I could have succeeded in, I sometimes struggle with jealousy, and even anger. I’m not excusing it. I’m confessing it.
See, my entire life I have struggled with the concept that I cannot measure up. I’ll never be as good a musician as _________. I’ll never be as good a writer as _________. I’ll never be as good a cook as _________. I’ll never be as good an artist as _________. I’ll never be as good a runner as __________. I’ll never be as intelligent a thinker/logician as _________. I’ve been compared to others, had others held up as standards I must try to reach, and been passed over in preference to others abilities. I wasn’t invested in by my parents because they didn’t have time to notice. My physical health and well being was put on the back burner because it just wasn’t fiscally possible at the time to keep searching for answers to the throbbing pain I feel in my arm on a daily basis, which keeps me from practicing the piano, sketching those cartoons I love to sketch, and writing in my journals more than a small entry at a time.
There are times when these wounds feel very open and sore and I have to re-process them. Re-learn what forgiveness, compassion, healing, and boundaries are. Re-learn what trust in my Savior looks like.
I often feel as though every gift I had, every hobby I could pursue, every art I could create has been permanently stunted because of the absolute lack of confidence and pride I was taught to know and display as a kid. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about ego or arrogance, I’m talking about the purity in seeing something good and experience joy and excitement over it. That kind of pride. God looked at His creation and took pride in it – He said it was good. I was made to be an imitator of God. I was made to create. To take pride in my creations.
But lately it has seemed as though every creation I take my hand to ends up an unfinished muddled mess, because I just don’t know how, and I feel intimidated and afraid to learn.
While all of this is a reality for me, I don’t ever want to see my grief and then leave it in a despairing state. No, I haven’t found an answer. I haven’t discovered THE WAY for me to invest in myself. I haven’t figured out how to become something more in these arenas of artistry besides little tiny bits of trying here and there which may, or may not be, successful.
But I do know that Jesus loves me. He loves me right where I am. He takes pride in me, even when I don’t take pride in myself. I do know that Jesus hurts with me. When I suppress tears from the hammering pain in my arm, He knows my hurts. When I feel frustration and anger when I can’t finish a favorite piece on the piano because my fingers physically can’t move freely past the lump of scar tissue in my hand, He feels the nails in His hands and feet, the nails designed to right all the wrongs. When I feel jealousy and anger at seeing others succeed where I feel I should have succeeded, He feels the injustice of sin’s curse, and He grieves with me at my own inability to transcend the broken streaks of sinful covetousness. When my heart feels full of ideas, imagination, and conviction, but my head feels so frustrated, unable to think of the right way to communicate them with words and writing, He sees my heart and loves it even so.
Life isn’t over yet, and I’m grieving, not despairing. I feel robbed of many things, but I don’t concede to being a victim. In reality while outer circumstances have occurred to put me in some ways at a disadvantage, any lack of pursuit of the things I love comes down to my own choices now as an adult, whether because of other priorities or even simple laziness.
I may not be able to sit at a piano and learn a Bach Fugue in 4 hours like I did when I was 12 years old, but I can pick up a new more advanced music theory book and work through it. I may not be able to draw for hours at a time without lingering pain, but I can study an art book and try little techniques here and there for 5 or 10 minutes apiece. I may not be able to run 5 miles, or bend over backwards on a yoga mat, but I can still get up at 5 am and go to the gym and swim some laps past my aching wrist, do some stretches, and mentally prepare myself for the day by getting my heart pumping. I may never be a proper poet or writer, following the rules of the trade, but I can do my best to open up my heart on a piece of paper and readers can take it or leave it. I may not be able to sing as a soloist with a beautiful voice because my vocal chords have been damaged with tension and oxygen deprivation, but I can join my church choir and sing an alto part to lend my help to our music director who seriously lacks altos, or trained sight-readers.
And there’s always youtube. There’s endless amounts of tutorials on this and that on youtube.
So I’m sharing with you now, that I’m on a journey. A journey to discover confidence in what I CAN do, in what I can LEARN to do, in who I am. A journey to heal from circumstances on choices in the past that have crippled me in these areas of artistic pursuit. A journey to never give up despite the pain, despite the timidity, despite the pride afraid of failure, despite the ego that says I have to be the best if I’m going to do it at all. A journey to accept the circumstances God has given me and do the best I can with that.
I don’t know entirely what that looks like. But today I spent 20 minutes learning the first page of one of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words on piano, in between keeping my daughter happy with her toys and pacifier. And I still blog, because even though I may feel intimidated by the realms of better bloggers, better writers, better communicators, I can claim my own space to relay my reality to anybody who’s listening. I listen to music all the time, allowing my heart to get wrapped up in the beauty and emotion of the harmonies and melodies. I read more books, investing in the love that I have for imagination, metaphor, storytelling, and history.
I grieve. But I also move on. And then I grieve again when something strikes a fresh sadness to that old wound. And then I move on again, and as the years go by I slowly discover who I am, who I am meant to be, and I discover that it’s okay to love who I am, and it’s okay to be confident. To stand by my beliefs, to stand by my gifts, to stand by what by the grace of God I’ve made of my gifts, broken and inadequate though they be.
I look forward to the day when I can teach my children to discover their passions, to pursue excellence, to laugh and find joy in the mundane, and to be confident in the talent God has given them. I look forward to watching my little ones give something their best, smiling at them, and telling them how proud I am of them. I look forward to teaching them by example that one must take care of oneself, that hobbies and artistic pursuits are important, that educating oneself and being educated in how to pursue their passions is a beautiful part of life. I look forward to letting them see me struggle along, learning one measure at a time of a new piano piece, doing the best with what I have, and showing them how important it is to become a person who loves.
And I look forward to my true homeland, where all will most truly be made well. The masses in my arms will be gone, the nerves made whole, the scar tissue wiped away, and I’ll be able to play till my heart’s content, to study small sections of music to the most minute detail, to speak and write with eloquence, to create beautiful sketches of the faces I love; to revel in my true Father’s presence and feel His love for and pride in me, finally in that renewed place able to truly believe it in confidence and contentment.