Monday, August 18, 2008

Maybe we should've let the elephants keep their ivory...

I almost didn't include this one in the blog, but I realized that I write a lot better when I know people are going to read it. Even if it is just the one or two that actually do.

Warning: This one's a little dramatic. Not for the frequent eye rollers.

Hangnails are on the bottom 15 list. Also is the feeling of when you slaughter a brilliant piece of music in front of a lot of people. Tonight my ward had a closing social/talent show. I wanted to be involved, but didn't really know what I would do. I put on the list "probably Piano something-or-other" which meant by default Rachmanninoff's Prelude in C# minor.

I started taking piano lessons when I was probably about 5. My mom was a piano teacher, and insisted that I continue with them until I graduated from High School. I've taken lessons on and off again since then. But this piece, I've known for years now. I love it. There are moments in it where only the soft pedal is down, and I'm barely touching the keys, and there are parts where I'm pounding on the piano until my forearms ache with the amount of force I exert. I play it best when I'm angry, and I almost always feel better after I've finished. It's therapeutic for me.

I went to the front, gave a little intro, and sat down at the bench. A hundred pairs of eyes were staring at me, and I felt the blood rush to my face before I had even begun. The first few notes were perfect. The mood was set, and there was so much potential for me to communicate the kind of emotion that I believe Rachmanninoff intended. And then the first wrong note came. And the second. And the third. Pretty soon I was stumbling and confused. I felt like I had just had a lobotomy and that my occipital lobe (responsible for memorization in muscle memory) no longer was a part of me. My fingers shook and hesitated, and everything went all wrong.

After stumbling a bit but trying to keep going, I skipped to the next section, which is one that rarely gives me trouble. But my frustration due to messing up in the first place distracted me, and I found myself stumbling again. I just wanted to cry, or die, (or something else that rhymes with "I") but I had to keep going. I thought for a minute that I could salvage it... that it could get better. I thought that I could perform the rest of the piece with the greatness that I knew I was capable of, and hopefully the crowd would forget about the first part of the piece. But I stumbled again.

This horrible pattern continued: skipping to a new section in the song, skipping over these beautiful notes that Rachmanninoff crafted together so well, skipping over elements of music that have such power to move and to communicate. I interrupted the awkward pauses when I was trying to continue with comments like "Um... sorry everyone, this wasn't planned" or just saying "Sorry" again and again. I knew my teacher would cringe if she had heard me. You never say sorry, or anything during a performance. You just keep going and hope that nobody noticed the mistake. But everyone noticed. It was choppy and crude and ruined.

I reluctantly let out the last few chords, after what seemed like an eternity of utter humiliation, and I returned to my seat. Despite the loving applause from the audience -- people who are my friends and don't really care if I make mistakes -- it was all I could do to hold back my tears. My eyes were brimming each time anybody talked to me, even long after the show was all over. They came to me, complimenting me, telling me I was so brave to get up there and keep going, telling me I played wonderfully. I knew they had good intentions, but I couldn't help but think that everyone just felt so sorry for me and felt like they had to say something to make me feel better. But they made me feel so much worse.

It's like when I was young and I played on the playground during recess, and I'd get hurt somehow (inevitable for a young rambunctious child). Sure I'd be in pain, but I could hold all the tears in, just as long as no one would notice me or put me on the spot. But pretty soon someone would "kindly" ask me if I was okay, and the attention and embarrassment would start the water works. I hated that feeling. So pathetic, so ashamed, such a little girl. So on my bottom 15 list.

I felt so much pain when I wasn't able to share Rachmanninoff's incredible piece with others just because of my own self consciousness or shyness. It hurt, because no one knew that I knew this piece. It was my piece. And I wanted to play it. A piece that I love so much, and I killed it. Call it damaging my pride, or damaging the ear, call it whatever you want... but I call it tragedy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Tale of the Timid Explorer

Lately I've had some experiences which have shown my character, or lack of, and it's been really revealing. The past week or so, I've been hoping and praying for experiences where I can better serve other people and stop being so self absorbed. I'm in a relationship and I feel like I've been focusing on him, or me, or "us", while leaving friends and acquaintances and people I could possibly be nourishing a friendship with, behind. Not that spending a lot of time with someone as kind and fun and uplifting as Taylor is a bad thing in any way. I just think that sometimes it's selfish of me.

So, I've been praying for these opportunities to best know how to help people and show my love for everyone. And it's been amazing how I've watched these chances come, watched myself chicken out, and watched the opportunities for increased happiness in at least two lives, pass us by. Amazingly tragic.

Usually it's been strangers: the woman who seems to need just a conversation or a compliment or a smile while we're baking in the August sun, waiting for the bus, or that man carrying a little too much while I'm riding my bike past him. How hard would it be for me to take out my ear buds and start that conversation or hop off my bike and give him a hand? Apparently too hard for my small heart. I just keep listening to Keane, willfully preventing myself from blessing a life, and being blessed in return.

Many things have entered my mind in these situations. The Dianey Angel and Dianey Devil have left permanent impressions on my shoulders, and are tiring of the debates. 'You shouldn't reach out. They'll think you're weird.' 'They'll probably never see you again, so even if they think you're weird for stopping to help, it really can't hurt.' 'But they'll think you're so weird!' 'It doesn't matter. It's worth it. Why do you care what this stranger thinks of you?' 'They'll be offended by your random attempts of friendliness!' 'More likely you'll cause them to smile a huge smile, and you know it'll make your day too!' 'But... they'll think you're so weird!' 'You already said that.' 'But..."

I'm confused by my hesitation, because I love people. I love knowing their complexities and exploring them to find out who they really are. It's even what I have chosen to study in school. I'd like to argue that every man, woman and child is an island: an undiscovered, beautiful island with treasures and traps and surprises-- good and bad. How exciting to be the explorer, knowing the secret short cuts and the reasons/history of why this island is shaped and functioning the way it is! How exciting to be the explorer that is trusted with a rare trust, where they are willing to open up to you and show you their own wonders!

So why do I continue to cut myself off from them? Why does it scare me to talk to them? Why does it scare me that I actually might learn something or feel something or gain a new friend and enjoy it?

I truly hope that I can and will change my response when these opportunities come my way. I hope that I can be brave, listen to the wise advice of the Dianey Angel, and simply be able to treat people like people. Like great people. People who long to be understood and loved. People who need me. Besides, I need to be needed anyway.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words...

I was just going through some old pictures and found this one of my dad and my brother John E. I don't really know what was going on, but it made me laugh for probably 4 minutes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thin Girl's Lament

Yesterday I thoroughly enjoyed breakfast at Kneaders, where they're known for their all-you-can-eat French toast, and for good reason. They start you off with two thick slabs, and the option of a sweet yet buttery syrup or the whippiest whipped cream and fresh strawberries. The aroma alone is enough for the tongue to swell and saliva to rush to the mouth with anticipation. This French toast puts the French to shame.

You start by generously spilling the sweet smooth syrup until the toast is glazed and you can see your reflection in the new pond you've created. Next, your spoon applies the whipped cream, which starts to go runny when coming in contact with the nice warm toast and syrup combination. Finally the strawberries complete the masterpiece, with a juicy, tender bounce. Your fork holds it all together while your knife slides back and forth, gently tearing at the thick, beautiful bread. As the first piece enters your impatient mouth, it surpasses your expectations. Your jaw becomes confused, chomping quickly with excitement, and ignoring signals from the brain, screaming to calm down and savor every moment. Soon however, you have no choice, as the thickness slows you down and your stomach seems to be brimming long before you are ready to be done.

They start you off with two pieces. Lamentably, I was only able to eat one. I took the other home in a box, which I ate for breakfast today. It wasn't quite as incredible as when it was fresh, but it's sure nice to take a break from Western Family's Honey&Nut Toasted Oats™(a poor person's Cheerios). Sometimes I wish "all-you-can- eat" meant "all-you-want-to-eat". I have the potential of selfishly cleaning them out of all their French Toast... until everyone else would have to go to France if they wanted an even somewhat comparable experience.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

¡Me gustan las montaƱas!

I've lived in Utah my entire life, and I've never ventured up the side of Mt. Timpanogos. On Saturday, I finally went with some friends on a very difficult but amazing hike.

Taylor's such a stud!

"The hills are alive... with the sound of music..."

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

At the top. My hair does funny things in the wind.

Getting pretty psyched to slide down a majorly steep glacier.

I'm pretty proud of the fact that I slid down that thing on just my rear end.

Little streams and waterfalls that went across the path.

It was so incredible to be up in the mountains, away from the world, and to have the fulfillment of actually reaching the highest peak of a mountain. Muscles I didn't know I had are pretty sore now, and it'll be a little while until I do it again, but I'm really glad I did it. I am often so amazed by the beauty of this earth and how much joy we can feel by what we see and feel and experience while we're here. It makes me feel so grateful and so extremely happy.