13 Things Playing the Piano Has Taught Me About Life

Tonight I sat down at the piano and just…played.

Not for fame. Not for Facebook likes or YouTube views. Not for a Sunday School worship service or ladies quartet special at my church, which I’ve been playing for for about eight years now.

Not for anyone…but me.

Mind you, I do not get this luxury very often. Between juggling lesson plans, grades, FFA activities, parent teacher conferences, professional development days, an hour commute, dirty laundry, bills, and the dishes from last night’s dinner this doesn’t really leave me with much “play time” to my crazy days anymore.

But something amazing happened tonight. As I sat down at the bench, slid open the fallboard, and my fingertips started dancing on ivory and ebony, I was taken back. Back to the days of do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. To the days of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” To the days of learning the power of hold and release of the sostenuto pedal and how to correctly place my hands. To the days of memorizing the treble clef scale by the acronyms “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” and “F-A-C-E.” To the days where I first learned to play piano at twelve years old.

And it got me thinking about all the things I’ve learned from one childhood hobby that became one of the greatest blessings and saving graces in my entire life so far.

I’m sure if I thought about it even harder I could come up with way more than just thirteen, but this is what I scribbled down on a notebook so far…

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1 – Success takes time and effort.

Every now and then we get a guest speaker at church who leads a sermon if our regular pastor has to be gone. Usually, this person is one of our missionaries that only visits once a year with their beautiful wife and twelve children. (Kidding…but only about the twelve kids part, not the beautiful wife, just to clarify.) As if all the fancy brochures, PowerPoint presentations, and polaroids of their family camping on the beaches of Puerto Rico, feeding the malnourished children in Africa, or holding a baby kangaroo on an Australian safari isn’t enough icing on the cake, lo and behold, one of them just so happens to be a piano playing and singing prodigy. So, essentially what happens is I get a day off to sit back for a change and listen to someone else play – and it’s so show stopping and jaw dropping that I sink down in the pew utterly mortified in my own ability and solemnly swear I’ll never touch the keyboard again for as long as I live.

Because there’s no way on earth I’ll ever be that good.

Seriously. It’s like Keeping Up With the Modern-Day Beethovens and Mozarts. But then I have to stop and think of where they began and how they got to where they are today and remind myself that I have just as much potential, if I want it bad enough. I know it’s cliche, but whoever first said that practice makes perfect really knew what he or she was talking about. Because afterall, the only way to ever master anything in life is through trial and error, failure and triumph, and a dedication to keep on keepin’ on through it all.

Oh yeah, and also by not comparing yourself to others all the time.

2 – Never underestimate the power of “The Rest”.

This may sound redundant, as I have blogged on this before…but…there’s something to be said about pausing in life, if even for half a beat. We often fear the pause because it challenges us to give up all control and just be still in the moment we are in, but if we follow through it refreshes us just long enough to land that next note perfectly.

3 – Sometimes you’re the melody, sometimes you’re the harmony.

You will have Your Days. You know, where it’s your turn to be in the spotlight and carry the main tune that everyone recognizes. Like on your high school or college graduation. Your birthday. When you land that big promotion or win that award. Walking down the aisle on your wedding day. Announcing your pregnancy or gender reveal to family and friends with all things silly string, glitter, and colored balloons.

But sometimes, it’s your turn to be in the background while someone else takes the main lead. You will find yourself doing a lot of behind the scenes work or playing the accenting chords that are less noticed, but yet are still very necessary to the overall song.

Just remember your solo is coming some day.

4 – Be bold.

Until just about a year ago I utterly AVOIDED playing any songs in the hymnal that had two sharps, five flats, or several arpeggios. (For those of you are musically challenged and secretly trying to Google search this right now…this is code for songs and notes that are VERY. VERY. HARD.) I was afraid of failing and messing up in front of the people who loved me the most – which is ridiculous for the sole fact that they are the people who love me the most. So, I skipped them. Found easier songs. Stuck to the familiar.

But here’s the problem…for all those years I sure missed out on a lot of beautiful songs because I wasn’t willing to take that risk.

Never again.

5 – Just keep going.

Ugh, nothing cooks my grits or embarrasses me more than missing a chord or hitting the wrong key and it suspending loud through the sound system for all to hear.

Happens. All. The. Time. Take for example, last Sunday, when I completely skipped an ENTIRE line of “Victory in Jesus.”

Now, a younger twelve year old version of myself would have stopped immediately, apologized to the entire congregation, and made everyone restart the entire verse over again until I got it right. No, perfect.

But here’s what happened instead because I have since lived and learned.

I just laughed it off and kept playing.

And you know what? Nobody noticed, because everyone was focused on worshipping Him – as it should be – and not criticizing me. I think I could use a bit of this wisdom in other areas of my life as well.

6. Just listen…

Sometimes I play in the dark with the lights completely off. Or I close my eyes. This is partially because I get bored when I’m home alone and find funny piano challenges on the Internet, but it’s mainly because I can’t look at my hands to be sure I’m playing everything right. I can’t see the notes or read the words to sing. I can only listen…and feel…and then something amazing happens. The music just flows from my heart and guides me through the rest of the song.

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7. You’re never too old/too young to learn.

I read an article the other day about an 83 year old man who started taking piano lessons for the first time ever in his life after his wife passed away, with no former musical interests or experiences. I also read that Mozart began composing music when he was just three years old.

So…to answer your question about whether or not you should take a chance and do all the things you’ve always wanted to do because of your age – um, yeah. You should totally do them, regardless of what statistics show or society thinks. Life’s too short to sell yourself short.

8. Raise your voice.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good accompaniment without vocals every now and then, with nothing but instrumentals. But I am going to counteract my former statement from above in  Number 6 for a second just to say that when nothing makes sense, when you’re not sure where to go or what to do, when you stand for something you believe in with your entire being, when you are in the deepest dumps or are on the highest mountains – raise your voice. Not in chaos. Not in disrespect. Not in burning flags, vandalizing private property, or name calling.

But in song. In harmony. I think you’ll find that more people will hear you that way.

9. Use your talents for the greater good.

I’ll never forget the day my piano teacher came to me and said that she was moving away and getting married. I was not only scared of losing a great friend, but I was also terrified…because that meant that I was now the new pianist for our church. I was in junior high and was anything and everything short of an expert, especially compared to her. I had really only been playing for about four years and pretty much only knew how to play “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace.”

But the opportunity to use a God-given talent for the purpose of honoring and glorifying Him in song by showing leadership in my church turned out to yield one of the greatest blessings in my life, and before I knew it I was learning new hymns left and right.

10. Rhythm counts.

I don’t think there’s anything more annoying than a metronome…and yes, I have watched Peppa Pig before…

Life ticks away, one beat at a time. You never slow it down, and you can’t exactly speed it up either. But what you can do is learn to pace yourself in order to get some flow…some rhythm. When things get crazy and every day blurs into the next, learn to slow yourself down so you don’t skip over any notes. If every day is a drag and you’re constantly bored, learn to pick up the pace so you don’t miss a beat and get left behind. (Also, we should probably do a Freaky Friday thing and swap lives so maybe I can get some of my sanity I had before I became a teacher…just kidding and I am ordering my metronome off Amazon right now as we speak…)

11. You can always find your way back to “The Middle C”.

Ah, the Middle C. I call it Home Key. The center key of the piano, where every beginner player learns to read notes and translate chords from. It’s the starting point for almost every song, and quite arguably the most recognizable key of them all. But sometimes we have to leave the Middle C….branch out a little and hit those really high or really low octaves if we want to really make some music and find our full potential.

This sort of translates into becoming of age. Leaving home. Finding your own place in this big old world. Sure, it’s always scary at first…but you know why they call it the Middle C??

Because no matter what, you can always find your way back to where you started – because it’s the center of everything.

12. Collaborate.

I love me a good piano solo. I’m talking Adele or some classic Stevie Wonder. Absolutely beautiful. But…

Have you ever heard a violin duet with a piano? An organ? A guitar? An entire choir  or orchestra?

That, my friends, is what you call music. Everyone – of different walks of life, of different experiences, of different styles – harmonizing together in one song.

13. Remember you’re not the only key on the keyboard.

88 keys.

52 white, 36 black, all different sounds.

1 instrument.

Infinite potential.

If I could rephrase this to say anything else worth saying at all, I would tell you this.

There are 7.4 billion people

With all different nationalities, races, beliefs, etc…

In this 1 world

And I believe that there is still hope for us, if we can figure out how to make it happen together.

**Insert mic drop.**

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The Silence.

I love noise.

Music cranked. People talking and laughing. Fixer Upper turned all the way up on my T.V. Piano hymns on a Sunday morning. Rain falling on a tin roof. Wind blowing through trees. Crickets singing on a river bank at dusk. Cows mooing when it’s time to move the electric fence. And of course, my all-time favorite sound ever…the grumble of my coffee pot in the morning.

Oh yes, Folgers in my cup all the way.

But to be completely honest…these past few weeks have been odd. Unusual.

Quiet.

Even when I’m surrounded by 26 obnoxious high school students, blasting 90’s pop Pandora on my hour commute home, or listening to my husband snore so loud to the point I’m convinced there’s a bulldozer in my bed, I still feel this strange quietness creeping in all around me like a slow and steady fog.

It’s the perfect concoction of fear topped with a pinch of anxiety wrapped up in desperation and served with a side of loneliness. There’s probably a much fancier name for this out there, but I refer to it as The Silence.

And the crazier thing is when all the noise in my life stops for even just a split second and I pause long enough to dust off the Bible and lift my hands to God in prayer about all the impossible decisions I’m facing, the bills that keep multiplying, the unimaginable hardships I keep watching my loved ones go through, the growing to-do list I can never seem to get ahead of, and how overwhelmed I feel about it all…The Silence grows even louder and I don’t know what to think, do, feel, or even say.

Kind of makes it hard to write a successful blog, ya know? #WritersBlockLevel1000

I hate silence. Partially because I don’t have kids yet so I take it for granted, partially because it creeps me out and makes me feel like a serial killer is gonna pop out from behind my shower curtain any second, but mostly because it forces me to do something I’m not very good at doing in life. Being mindful. Being present.

Being still.

And I most certainly don’t like it when during the most desperate times of my life – when I need God’s guidance the most – it’s all that I seem to get in return.

Ah, He sure loves to test our patience, doesn’t He?

But here’s the thing I’m finally learning to realize. The Silence never lasts forever. Eventually the story unfolds and life goes on, even when it seems impossible. At some point, all the things we stress and obsess about seem to work themselves out in time.

But we have to respect that it’s only in His time and not our own.

And if we just listen to The Silence He often sends us when we demand a right-now answer…with all of our heart…with all of our mind…and giving Him all of our unceasing faith…we begin to see the bigger picture. And suddenly, all the impossible times don’t seem so impossible anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know how it is. It’s so much easier to cram our lives with so much noise to distract us and drown out the stillness we sometimes so desperately need more than anything else in that given moment. It’s hard to feel the pain if you just keep moving, right?

But friends, we need to pause. We need to be still. We need to reflect. We need to ask for help – no, pray for help. And be consistent in patiently waiting for it.

We need The Silence.

And who knows…it just might become the most beautiful sound we’ve ever heard.

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