The Observations and Obsessions of a Superego's Sidekick

Posts tagged “adult learning

It’s Never Too Late To Learn An Instrument.

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I took up playing the piano at the age of 42, however my desire to learn piano goes back to my teens.  My siblings and I were allowed one extra-curricular activity and my first choice was ballet.  But I had a friend that I visited regularly and she played, so I got to have a little experience.  Nothing major, a few chords, chopsticks, you know the easy stuff.  But that desire remained and when we purchased a keyboard for the kids, I was probably the most enthusiastic beyond the initial novelty.  However keyboards are very different to pianos in that the dynamics of the piece are difficult to create with a keyboard, but it didn’t stop me and about a year later I started lessons and a year after that I got my own piano.

A big investment, but by that time I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and my passion for learning was strong.  That I suppose is a major advantage to learning anything new as an adult.  Often that dream extends all the way back to our childhood and it has become ingrained in our imagination.  And when the raising of our children becomes a little less hectic and we suddenly have more time for ourselves, these dreams come flooding back.  I’ve learnt to read music, simply because it’s an integral part of piano and of classical music study and performance and for the better part of the last eight years I’ve played classical music.  I have recently however started expanding my repertoire to pieces this side of the 1950’s.  And I’m currently learning The Cave by Mumford and Sons.  Who knows, one day I might get a chance to jam with a six-fingered banjo player.  Whether your instrument requires you to read music or not, I really think it is very helpful in getting a basic understanding at least, to help with the shaping of a piece.

But this does raise the question for me, can it be too late to start learning, especially with regard to developing any great proficiency.  My daughter started her piano lessons around the same time as me.  It always seemed to be much easier for her, than for me, despite the fact that I practiced ten times more than she.  Her fingers were so much more agile than mine.  I’m in no doubt that children and adults learn in totally different ways and perhaps that explains her ability to grasp what was in front of her faster.  Children almost intuitively learn and they’re not afraid to make mistakes.  Speaking for myself, I always beat myself up if I did something wrong, complete with headbanging the piano.  I’d over think the piece, apply reasoning and thinking strategies and the music became very wooden.

My friend and piano teacher passed away June 2013, and at that time I decided to no longer take lessons, to go it alone basically.  Sadly, I stopped playing for quite some time, it reminded me too much of Liz and didn’t help with everything else that was going on for me.  I’m back playing  again now, but still find myself thinking, I must talk to Liz about shaping this piece.  I still can’t believe she’s gone.

My daughter no longer plays, she simply lost interest and didn’t bothering practicing and finally stopped going to lessons altogether.  I guess making the decision later in life to learn is a big plus.  I still struggle with playing and learning new pieces, but I love playing.  And despite the fact that my fingers are not exactly long (I can barely span an octave), I muddle through, and I also take great delight in the fact that my favourite piano maestro Daniel Barenboim plays so beautifully with equally tiny hands.

Apart from the childhood dream fulfilled, there are many other benefits to taking up an instrument post childhood. It helps to reduce stress, and strengthens the brain, and yes there has actually been studies done in the area of brain power/learning music which show that the longer a person plays the stronger their non-verbal and visuospatial memory, as well as their ability to adapt to new information.  The reason for this and what appears to be unique to playing an instrument, is that it requires a wide array of brain regions and cognitive functions to work together simultaneously, in both right and left hemispheres of the brain.  Add to that playing and listening to music is one the greatest and simplest pleasures imaginable.

I think that the two most important decisions to make, are that you are prepared to practice consistently and that you choose the right instrument for you.  Not everyone can play anything, I have first hand knowledge of that.  I once considered the flute, but after trying one, I decided that I’d give it a miss.  If I was making any sounds from it, they were only ones dogs could hear.  Not forgetting my eldest son, who definitely has many other wonderful abilities, but persisted in torturing me throughout his primary education with the most appalling tin whistle playing ever,  which he eventually gave up to play the violin.  Oh dear god it was terrible, even worse than the tin whistle, think cats being tortured.  He now plays the guitar, much better, but he won’t be winning any awards any time soon.  When you think of a mothers’ love, it’s never stronger nor put to the test more than when they’re playing an instrument.  Make sure to try a few out, get the right one, it is after all a big investment and a lifetime commitment.  So if your tossing up whether to start, go for it, you won’t regret it.

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Food for Thought

I’ve never really got cookery shows, those of a competitive nature such Masterchef or any number of cookery shows by master chefs.   Now I can sit and salivate over a beautiful dish put in front of me but seeing the same on television, well that’s just cruel.   Now I have a wonderful friend who just adores them and for her its food porn.  Her Masterchef is my crime thriller television and she’s the same with recipe books.  She just loves poring over a good cookery book, like I would a medieval or tudor history book.

Recently though Sky Living have started running five series of My Kitchen Rules Australia back to back and I am hooked, BIG TIME.  And yet I’m not really sure what it is that’s drawn me in, is it the food perhaps the personalities and as the series move from one to the next those personalities are getting bigger and nastier.  I just don’t know.  And of course the two tastiest dishes would have to be the judges, Manu Fieldel(right) and Pete Evans.

Pete Evans Manu Fiedel

So am I wrong ladies.

So  it is certainly not a chore.  Or perhaps its the images of my childhood, having grown up in Australia, the first series included a couple from Shorncliffe in Queensland, a place close to my heart and where my grandmother lived and it brought back memories of Sunday evenings just me, my father and grandmother sitting down to her mock chicken, a favourite of mine.  If you’re wondering mock chicken is grated raw potato mixed with egg and seasoning and shallow fried and by the way it tastes (nothing) like chicken but boy was it good to this child.

So I get food, its about the memories it conjures up, of happy times with friends and loved ones.  I now live in Ireland but the smell of ripe fruit takes me right back to my childhood.  So what is it about cookery shows, has anyone any ideas or thoughts.   I’d love to hear them.  What is the great attraction?

The one thing watching MKR AUS has done is made me more adventurous in the kitchen.  After cooking family meals for the past 25 years, one gets a little jaded.  Cooking meals that no one turns up to or everyone turns up (including boyfriend, girlfriend and or other unexpected guests) and I’m forced to utter the immortal words, no its fine I’m not hungry (grrrr).   But I’ve tried experimenting with flavours and combining and trying something different and I’m enjoying it.

I searched my kindle recently for a book on flavours and all it could give me was anything and everything on the Hay diet.  Maybe I need a different approach.

I think I might be developing a new interest,  only time will tell.

Bon Appétit!


The journey of a lifetime.

As I look back over my 49 years, I can see clearly many peaks, I can also see troughs but as my thinking changes these are becoming ever so hazy. But you have to all the same appreciate those troughs for what they are because the peaks are ever so more delicious because of them.

This weekend brought to an end a journey, both emotional and physical, but I suppose it really started 4 1/2 years ago. A wonderful time for me, a time of exploration, trust building, a growing and deepening self-respect, in essence an opportunity to change my default setting and of seeing, really seeing new possibilities and opportunities and grabbing them with both hands.

Redundancy a year and a half ago rocked me, but made me rethink and build new dreams and the skills I learnt 4 years ago allowed to embrace them. I’ve come to the end of the formal part of my advanced diploma study in Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy but my journey continues. I feel so alive, and fulfilled and I’ve met wonderful people and we’ve supported and grown together.

Changing my default wasn’t easy and I still go back to the anxious, negative me from time to time, but now I don’t stay there so long. In fact I hit rock bottom four months ago, but I got help from my doctor and my friends old and new, and that has made this weekend all the sweeter. If you ever get a chance to look at ‘This is Water’ by David Foster Wallace on youtube, prepare to be inspired.

I think what I’ve learnt is that crap happens, you can’t ignore it, it’s part of life, embrace it, it has a lot to teach us, but don’t wallow in it, because there is only really one way to go from there, all the way up.

This is my story, my truth, my awareness and it really works for me.

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New Blog

I’ve started a second blog about the trials and tribulations of a hapless amateur astronomer, drop by and take a look.  Tata.

http://stargazingducks.wordpress.com/

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What If….A Perfectionist Threw Caution to the Wind

Two or three months back I was thinking 2012 should have been my year, the year of the Dragon, my Chinese astrological sign.  My year for wonderful things to happen.  Dragon the fearsome, loyal, kind and hard working, the traits that could lead me to greatness.

In the last two weeks of 2011 I was made redundant from my job of 8 years.   If you’d asked me to sit down and think about what defined me, my job would probably not have made it to my list.  But losing it undermined my very core.  For me it was about security in a world in recession, an income, getting out and meeting people, and in holding down that job, a belief, that what I did, I did very, very well.

At first I embraced the opportunity for change but when the shock was replaced with the reality, my optimism seemed to die.  I reeled through the emotions like a woman possessed.  Fear, frustration,  helplessness and a loss of control over my own destiny, anger, so much anger, mainly towards my employer, someone I’d once counted as a friend and a sense of  betrayal.  My demon was the  alter-ego who has dogged me most of my life.  She  ridicules me, second guesses my intuition, stamps all over my dreams, she takes me by the hand and leads me down the path of the worst imaginings my mind can create, and devours my confidence.  And she always shows up when there’s a flicker of weakness.  “What’s the point in trying, you know you’re going to fail”, my perfectionist/procrastinating nature chimes in.

If only I had been left to my own devices, I could have coped.  Lunarcy the everyday and my alter-ego Lunarcy the superhero, righter of wrongs and with the ability to take flight and soar, working together we could have been amazing, we could of risen to the challenge, but my demon was in her element.

The turning point,  my 48th birthday, end of April, all I wanted to do was sleep through it.  Friends though had other plans, a surprise party (the surprise bit I spectacularly messed up – no point being a perfectionist if you don’t do something spectacularly).  I went begrudgingly, annoyed with them for forcing me to acknowledge the event.  Sometime during the night though something wonderful happened to me.  Something shifted in me, what it was, who knows, I still don’t. Maybe it was just being in that room with people who just wanted me to be happy. I wonder do they know how important that night was to me, how much strength I gained from their presence, thoughtfulness and warm friendship, and how it helped to turn my life around.

I now have a direction, I won’t say plan, for me now, plans imply something set in stone.  A direction allows me to move forward and allow for change.  I’m going back to learning, am I scared, hell yes, but I won’t allow that to derail me.  I want  to explore an area that intrigues and energizes me.  Psychology and Hypnosis, the mind, infinitely creative and destructive.  The power to conquer and defy our past or to bring us to our knees.  A text delivered a selection of books to me, “some summer reading” he said.  Light summer reading  it ain’t.  I laugh, but I’ll enjoy them so much more than some soppy novel.

I still struggle with this desire to be nothing less than perfect, but the dream is strong, and hopefully enough to push me out of my comfort zone.

I know now that losing my job wasn’t the beginning of the end for me.  I was never going to jump, I had to be pushed and glorious new starts often include pain, fear and doubt.  Perhaps 2012 will be my year to shine after all.

Where do I see myself in October/November and beyond, will it be with my hand shooting up to answer yet another question, teeth grinding behind at the Noddy Know All in the front row, or standing behind the toilets smoking trying to look cool but in reality just terrified by life.  I’m hoping closer to the know all, but without the ‘me being annoying’ bit.

For now I’m reading my books, swotting as it were.  A challenge presents itself, deliciously tantalizing and I’m poised and ready.  I sit relaxed, a smile comes to my face, and a sense of excitement and the beginning of my path to fulfilment, as the words swirl into my brain, like fingers massaging the little grey cells long dormant, I think ……..

“I wonder does he have any copies of these books in English”.