My Brain, My Banjo and Me

It’s all about perspective — I told my son last night that I was going outside to work on sucking less at playing my banjo (aka practice) and he looked at me and said, “Mom you play that thing better than everyone in this house – including Dad and he’s a musician. You don’t have the right to say you suck at something when you are better than all of us. Just sayin.” — Man I love that kid.

I’m a horrible perfectionist. I used to think a perfectionist did everything perfectly or at least near perfect. It took me years to learn that being a perfectionist is a demand rather than an outcome. The self-inflicted demand is more often than not the root of a stink weed of a memory and/or fear of abandonment.

I don’t like doing things I can’t do well and if I can’t do it well enough to suit myself, the old me just didn’t keep trying. I didn’t see the reward in trying again. While riding horses last year, I learned that I’d have great days of riding as well as days of great humility. Some days Cowboy did exactly what I asked and other days he just wanted to jack with me.

Learning the banjo is no different. Some days I nail it, some days my picks trip up the strings and my fingers can’t remember their assigned places. On days like that, I have learned to take a deep breath, relax my shoulders and try again.

For those of you who’ve been around all year you know that my word for the year is “breathe.” Oxygen does wonders for a negative brain.  As simple-minded as it may sound breathing in the good and breathing out the negative works wonders.

I gave up horseback riding so that I can afford banjo lessons. While I miss riding, I do love the banjo. Playing is a different skill set entirely and yet the lessons are the same. Sit tall, be confident, keep it fun and BREATHE.

Let’s Talk About it: Guarding Your Heart

“I’m tired of trusting men I should be able to trust.”

I actually said that to a friend last week. I hate being lied to and yet, I allow it in certain people over and over again until I just can’t stand it anymore and I blow up. I continue at times to open my heart because it feels like I should. My friend proved to be a wonderful ear and full of wisdom. “Guard your heart.”

He didn’t say build a wall around it so that I’ll never get hurt again. It simply said to guard it. That’s a different animal completely.

It’s not that I don’t trust men. Somewhere along the line, I stopped trusting my gut. While wandering through the world completely unafraid is  naive and dangerous, fearing everything and everyone is not a viable solution. I need to learn how to listen to my gut and trust it again.

I’ve had many jobs in my life; waitress, machine shop worker, female telecom technician to name a few. I’ve worked with great men and not so great men. Basically, I’ve been felt up every way but Tuesday. While a lot of things may have changed for women since my Mother’s generation, a lot of things haven’t. When I was younger, I just considered it the price I had to pay. When I got older, I got wiser.

I had the miss-fortunate experience of working in a Not For Profit organization that was less than scrupulous. Short version, the laws that are in place to protect women do not apply to non profits and I found myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually raped by a man I should have been able to trust. He blamed me for his actions and for a while, I believed him. That will mess a woman up.

I responded to said circumstance by crumbling into myself and giving up on ever trusting men again. Fortunately for me I meet some of the most wonderful, trustworthy and patient people who grab me from my own emotional pit and pull me back into the land of the living. I don’t believe him anymore and while this is not been an easy climb, it’s a worthwhile climb.

I tend to shake sometimes and act like I have PTSD. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. I don’t know. I do know I’m willing to shake until I stop shaking. I’m willing to be neurotic and I’m willing to set boundaries when I need to. I’m willing to walk through whatever it is I need to walk through in order to trust myself again.

Yes, I do make men prove I can trust them today. I set strange boundaries like you can’t be my friend on Facebook unless your wife knows I exist and do not touch me without my permission.

I’m also learning to stop being responsible for other people’s choices.

My misplaced sense of personal responsibility is what caused last week’s lament.

Yes, there are people I should be able to trust and yet because of their own brokenness I can’t. That’s not my fault. I can learn how to guard my heart.

I don’t have answers right now on how to guard our hearts, I’m afraid I’m still learning. I do however want to introduce you to one of the people I get learn from in this area. His name is Michael Hyatt. I’ve seen him with his wife and daughters. He’s a good man.

THREE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD GUARD YOUR HEART – By Michael Hyatt

THE FOUR DISCIPLINES OF THE HEART – By Michael Hyatt

You can read these two articles if you want: Also I’d love to hear from you. Has anyone ever hurt your heart so badly you thought you’d never recover? How did you over come it? How do you guard your heart?

Perfectionism is self hatred in disguise.

I would rather be naked than let you see me learn the banjo. That says a lot. I don’t do naked well. (Think Bob the tomato). Learning something new while people watch is apparently worse.

I call it being an introvert.

My husband calls it being a perfectionist.

Either way, I don’t like people seeing me or hearing me try something new until I master it.

The problem with that?

Life isn’t meant to be lived in a vacuum.

Truth is, I’ll let my husband see me naked, but I won’t let him sit out on the porch while I practice my banjo. For some reason I feel more vulnerable playing the banjo than I do in the nude.

Refusing to let my husband (he’s a professional musician on weekends) hear me play robs him of the joy of music.

I knew my anxiety level had reached an all time high when not only did I not want my husband to hear me play the banjo, I couldn’t play for my teacher either.

When we first started out with lessons — in May, I’d get so nervous that I made my instructor nervous.

That’s rough.

My husband finally offered me his great wisdom.

“This isn’t the Opry, it’s our back porch. Now lighten up and have fun already.”

I’ve been having a lot of fun since he said that. When I get frustrated (like I am tonight) I remind myself that I started playing the banjo on May 25 2012 and I missed three lessons in June because of traveling. So really, I’ve only been playing for four weeks. In those four weeks, I have learned chords, how to tune a banjo, how to read tabs, four basic rolls and now I’m learning slides.

My husband does not think less of me because I haven’t mastered this yet.

My instructor (who has been playing guitar for 40 and banjo for 3 years) does not think less of me because I’m not as good as he is.

Fact: I sing in the chorus of the second longest running presentation of Handel’s Messiah in the US. Have since 2000. I cannot read a lick of music. I’ve memorized the entire piece. That takes talent.

Learning how to create music brings me joy and will help me become a better songwriter.

Hating myself because I have the unrealistic expectation of mastering something over night (like slides) is ridiculous.

This isn’t the Opry.

It’s my back porch.

I hereby give myself permission to not be great while I learn with the knowledge that every time I try, I will get better.

What new thing are you trying to learn right now?

Are you willing to be kind to yourself while you learn?