In spite of deeply-rooted introvert tendencies, having family together this week showed me that life really is better (and a heck of a lot more fun) when it’s done with other people.
Parents, two brothers, and me- we’re only together about twice a year, and this time I got to spend quality time with each person.
Mum and I made soup together, baked cheesecake together, did dishes together (how did I manage to forget that washing up with someone else is much more fun than taking turns?). Dad and I watched dog-training videos on Youtube and films on TV (everything from 1960s war movies to the Hobbit).
I don’t play video games, but I sat beside my brothers as they played while I knit a hat. Even though we weren’t doing the same thing, our proximity allowed us to talk in ways that we don’t get to during the year.
Brother # 1 and I talked about setting up electric guitars and helping people not to screw up sound systems and how to practice playing our instruments deliberately and effectively (hint: slowly). Brother #2 and I talked about chopping wood and training labrador puppies and new carpentry projects.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour.” Ecclesiastes 4:9
On Monday the three of us siblings plus a friend did something I haven’t attempted in 15 years: indoor wall climbing. Brother #1 found us a warehouse full of climbing walls! I was excited until Brother #2 let slip the fact that it was free climbing, i.e. we wouldn’t be attached to any ropes.
I had visions of plunging to my death.
After squeezing our feet into toe-numbing climbing shoes and chalking up our hands we stood around trying to look as if we knew what we were doing.
I felt no more confident after our 5 minute “so you’re a newbie” tutorial by one of the staff. I grabbed two of the easy grips and dragged myself up the first couple of steps. A 7 year old girl flitted her way up past me, sprite-like, as I clung helplessly to my grips (less than a metre above the thick, padded ground).
And then Brother #2 spoke up. Far from being annoying, he graciously called out tips to help me navigate the course and reach the top of the wall.
From there he alternated between demonstrating techniques and calling them out when we were on the wall: “let your arms hang straight, so that your legs take the weight”, “swivel on your toe so that you’re facing the opposite way”, “shift your weight over your leading leg and push up with your leg muscles- takes less energy than pulling yourself up with your arms”.
With his help and encouragement I stayed longer and went higher than I would have gone otherwise.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb
This week I also picked up a long-laid-down hobby when I came into the possession of a violin after a 10 year hiatus. Not one to choose a realistic or vaguely achievable goal, I plumped for a big, hairy, audacious goal instead: 10,000 hours, a.k.a. the magic number of deliberate practice resulting in the mastery of anything.
I gleefully plucked my way through the first 1.5 hours of pizzicato practice before hitting my first road block. I was ready to bow! Confident! I picked up the bow, tightened the screw, and held it aloft, ready to create some beautiful music.
As I drew the bow across the first string whatever I unleashed sounded about as melodious as a grumpy cat. Hmm… I reasoned that the first draw of the bow always sounded awful (kind of like the way the first pancake that comes out of the pan is always a write-off).
Unfortunately for me (and for my beloved family) the next hour of deliberate practice sounded equally painful. In the room below me I could hear my brothers increase the volume of the TV. I needed help.
I did what any self-respecting (i.e. amateur) musician would do and clicked onto Youtube.
I got acquainted with two violin teachers, Alison and Kevin, and got listening to their basic lessons, bow in hand. I have to admit that Kevin’s videos freaked me out more than a little, but the content and the practice take-aways from both teachers were sublime.
Face set and timer set, I picked up the bow and braced myself. After flexing my right hand a couple of times I lowered bow to string. While it was no Paganini, it sounded a lot less awful than the first few attempts. The volume of the TV in the room below remained constant.
Thank God for community, real life and online!
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
P.S. At my current rate of 30 minutes of practice per day I will be 82 by the time I reach 10,000 hours. I hope you’ll still be around to hear me- I’ll be playing beautifully by then!
Edited to add that I can’t add. I won’t be 82, I’ll be a couple of days away from my 84th birthday. I still hope you’ll be there 🙂