every summer i break one of my two little baby toes. every single summer. last summer alone i logged tons of miles on my $2 old navy flipflops as a result. i even talked about it on this blog. what did i learn? in particular, what did i learn THIS time as opposed to all the other times? i learned to either 1. slow down a little 2. watch where i’m going a tad bit more 3. never go barefoot. the thing is, i’m pretty sure it will happen again. i’m still learning.
i haven’t fallen off my bike in quite some time (and hope not to cause these days it will hurt much more than it used to) but i can relate in countless ways to our chicken marsala monday in the melange this week. i can distinctly remember taking off the training wheels and teaching the children to ride their two-wheelers, running down the sidewalk next to them. for that matter, i can totally -and (yougetthis) viscerally- remember teaching them how to drive.
we’ve been watching the olympics. athletes of inordinate ability who had to start somewhere – and, for sure, who fell in the process. not afraid of failing, but keeping on keeping on. being an ace anything is far off. do any of us ever really get there?
as an adult (ugh, i guess 58 qualifies me if for no other reason than sheer number) there are a lot of things i still want to learn. a few years ago i wanted to throw pots. i spent more than i bargained on for clay and lessons and studio time and more clay and ended up with the most wonderful tea light holder. (ok, i also threw a cereal-size-bowl and a few other assorted incredibly-shrinking-bowls as i struggled to center them and not have the clay collapse on the wheel.) let’s just say i was not gifted at this. but it did (and still does) make me laugh. and i know that i will someday try it again and i will add to my assortment of teenytinyclayobjects in which i can store paperclips.
when we see my amazing son and his boyfriend, we seem to be developing this tradition of bowling together. now, even though i live in wisconsin – and it is practically a law to be a good bowler here – i am pretty bad at bowling. every now and then i do something (like pick up a spare or get a strike) and am shocked, but most of the time i am aghast at how the ball creates splits in the pins and i find myself leaning while watching it careen (generous term) down the alley. the thing i must say, though, is that each time i do a little better. and the reallybadscores will, if i dedicate any time at all to practice, perhaps improve. mostly, i laugh. and i wish i could bring that to ANY thing i am learning – be it a new sport, an artform, a study of some philosophy or political issue, or – a big one – relationship. we fall. we get up, brush ourselves off, ask for grace and try again.
even though there are so many venues of crashing, the recording studio is a prime place to watch yourself fall down. you’ve written music, lyrics. you’ve practiced and practiced – there’s muscle memory in each measure. you’re ready, water and coffee by your side. (for me, not so much water once in the studio as it ….toomuchinformationalert…makes throat noises i can’t avoid.) and then you start. there’s so much riding on the line. and some days? some days you can’t get through a track. something is amiss; something is wrong. the first track of my first album was recorded in a studio in evanston. ken, my producer, was a stranger to me and i drove down with a posse of friends. i felt a little nervous, but mostly felt confident i was prepared. hours later, i had recorded the solo piano track for galena (the album released from the heart) and ken gave me a cassette tape (how funny is that?!) to listen to. i put it in the cassette deck of my old chrysler blue minivan and turned it on. and was appalled. rigid playing met my ears. it sounded nothing like me or my playing, or my piece of music, for that matter. all that confidence translated to a coldness, an unemotional-ness instead of a good track. i called ken (who i barely knew then, but now the same brilliant producer who has produced 14 of my 15 albums) and he suggested that, “maybe you should just write the music and have someone else play it on the recording FOR you.” what???!!! uhhh, i didn’t even know what to answer that would sound in the least bit polite.
and so i painfully listened to the recording again and sat back down at home on my bench. and i realized i needed to be ready -at any moment- to fall. THAT is what would make the piece sound like me and sound like, well, music. the rawness, the every-moment-ness, the vulnerability to mistakes and moving beyond them. that is what would make it shine as a learning. preparation is wise, flexibility is a must, a sense of humor is required, confidence is irrelevant, perseverance is utmost.
and falling down is a gift.
falling down is an essential part of learning ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood