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.
I grew up surrounded by books, my parents were avid readers and encouraged us all to read widely. When I was twelve, my parents purchased a set of encyclopaedias. I still recall vividly the visit by the sales rep with a few demonstration books, as we poured over the pages with such enthusiasm and anticipation. An anticipation of a world opening up to us, and those encyclopaedias were still in the bookcase, where they’d always been when I left home for the last time. Although I always remember reading, especially lazy afternoons, lying in the garden, my overwhelming passion for reading was ignited at 14, when I read for the first time ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. No other school curriculum book, or for that matter any other book I’d read prior to that, had that same hold as this gorgeous book. For the first time in my memory, I could see the book coming alive for me in pictures, in my mind. And that has been my guide to this day.
I’ve now a home and family of my own and like my childhood, books are everywhere. There have only ever been two rules regarding books, don’t scribble on them and don’t damage them in any way. They’re grown up now and I no longer have to remind them. I’m guessing like most people I have my favourites, genres and authors, and I tend to return to them over and over. However joining and belonging to a book club has opened me up to new and exciting authors and books. I have one personal rule, if a book doesn’t grab me, I won’t finish it. My time is too precious and passion for reading is too important to waste on a book, I find unworthy. The greatest of books, take me on a journey, to a new place and time. They’ve been my life line many, many times and have lifted me for the darkest hours and the darkest times in my life. I owe them everything and to me there is a sacredness in reading, a very personal journey and great privilege in being able to read. There was a time when reading only belonged to an elite few, and I wonder at how small their world and lives must have been.
Right now I’m re-reading for umpteenth time Pride and Prejudice, and before you all start saying, ‘oh she loves her romances’. The only thing Jane Austen went dewy eyed and gaga over was real estate, Pemberley and to a lesser extent Rosings. Any marriages that take place are swiftly pushed off the page to make way for Austen’s social satire, wicked wit and the glorious grotesques that grace the pages of this wonderful book. Lady Catherine de Bourgh (of the piano “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”) one of her more unassuming proclamations, Mr. Collins, the loquacious and laughable parson. But then I can laugh, because I don’t have to live with him, if I did have to live with him I think I would probably have punctured my own ear drums. The delightful Mr. & Mrs. Bennett, solo or in tandem and to a lesser extent the hapless and bitchy Caroline Bingley.
There are however two proposals which get more time than one or two sentences, the painful and cringe worthy fumblings and mumblings of Mr. Collins trying to woo Elizabeth Bennett and the first attempt at a proposal by Mr. Darcy….
(Cue romantic background Baroque/Classical music)
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
………..He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness then of pride. His sense of her inferiority – of its being a degradation – of the family obstacles which judgement had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, …………… (music skids to a halt)
Yikes….you haven’t done this much, have you Mr. Darcy.
And just for good measure, he adds.
“……….Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They are natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”
If you want to know where the pride in Pride and Prejudice comes from, he was shocked and stunned when she says no.
Jane Austen wasn’t a romantic, she was by all accounts a practical, acid tongued and occasionally coarse woman. I think I like her. Marriage for her was a contract, one of very few options for a gentlewoman of little means. And this is very evident in her writing, Pride and Prejudice is a comedy of manners and Austen is at her greatest when she’s holding up a magnifying glass to the arrogance, vanity, stupidity and pride of many of the great characters in this wonderful and delicious book.
I tend to use my kindle a lot these days, apart from the obvious advantage of being able to store 1000’s of books in one place, it’s less likely than a mighty tome, to leave me concussed when I fall asleep reading at night. However I often return to books, there is something magical about the act of turning a page in a book, a physical and emotional response and interaction, and an empathy with the characters and story that I don’t get in using a kindle. There is a progression and immersion in books, that make you believe you’re living the story, that’s missing with an e-reader. My kindle is a moment in time, disconnected and static.
E-readers do have a purpose but I don’t believe they will ever replace the book. And thank god for that, I say.
Something strange has recently started happening to me. I’ve had several episodes in the couple of months and most recently yesterday morning, which kind of unnerved me being currently on my own.
The thing is I keep being woken suddenly with a loud doorbell ringing and when I get to the door there is no one there. The ring is very loud and to me it seems louder than our usual doorbell. I wondered whether it has something to do with the medication I’m on so I decided to check it out on the internet.
Of course, there were lots of sites with people warning about using Seroquel, but for me it’s made me feel so much better and there really wasn’t any conclusive information on these sounds in my sleep. But I did find some interesting sites. Has anyone heard of phantom doorbell syndrome, I hadn’t and to be honest it still hasn’t given me much by way of answers, however fascinating it is.
It does however seem to be very common, and theories include communication from a deceased loved one, an inner alarm clock to sleep apnea. Has anyone any experience of this or any knowledge, I’d love some feedback. I’ve mentioned it to my doctors and they have no explanation.
Any thoughts, anyone.
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read”.~Groucho Marx.
Why do we laugh, what do we laugh at and why do people laugh at different things.
Science first, laughter triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthens our immune system, boosts energy, diminish pain, and protects us from the damaging effects of stress. Simply put, laughter is good for us.
Humour and laughter are a big part of social interaction, people who make us laugh are more attractive and enjoyable to spend time with. Laughing creates a bond and a connection with others. It strengthens relationships, enhances teamwork and helps to defuse conflict.
Sigmund Freud outlined a theory that humour and the use of jokes is a conscious nod to the subconscious. Taboo subjects become more socially acceptable if delivered as a joke. Parapaxes or Freudian Slips, another form of unconscious leakage, although at times embarrassing, can also be incredibly funny.
Why do people laugh at different things. As we age, our response to humour evolves. Children and teens often find toilet humour and slapstick hilarious, while as adults we may still enjoy this type of humour, experience opens us up to more adult humour. Intellect is as important aspect of understanding jokes and their nuances and this develops as we grow and learn.
Society and community plays a big part in what we laugh at. The type of humour we appreciate is often the same as our parents. The great Tommy Cooper was our families great favourite as was Fawlty Towers, Monty Python and The Goons and to this day I still love all of them. Of course personality and personal tastes are big factor.
Another theory is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, as we strive for self actualization, our humour develops and matures. One of Maslow’s 15 characteristics is an unusual sense of humour. As we move through the stages toward self actualization our sense of humour embodies our emotional and psychological attainment. Fascinating stuff, I must read more.
I probably laugh at pretty well anything, however I’m not a fan of crude and offensive misogynistic type humour. I don’t find it at all clever. But I do love the absurd, the ridiculous, black humour, gallows humour, the humour we find in the darkest places of our minds and the darkest times of our lives. The way I see it, if you can find something to laugh when times are dark and lonely, then there’ll always be hope and a reason to get up in the morning.
Some of the best comedy series of all time MASH, Frazier, Modern Family and Fawlty Towers to name a few, all share a magnifying glass look at the absurdity of life. And for most part it’s real, we can relate to it. I don’t know about you, but my family are definitely more Modern Family than The Waltons. Whether it’s spiritual or emotional strength in times of crisis (the Korean War in Mash), arrogance and pride, family life or even marriage, life is funny and it’s best to have a sense of humour for the journey. As Daphne says to Niles, “You’d eat a worm if I gave a french name”.
So favourite comedians, I’m a bit of a Marxist-Groucho not Karl. What am I saying, I’m a lot of a Marxist, the funniest man of all, who can forget, the mirror scene or Why a Duck. Who else likes Groucho, hands up. Love me a bit of Duck Soup, an anarchical, maniacal feast. His timing perfection, his sense of the ridiculous and to my mind he’s a great accidental philosopher.
For me humour has been a god send, a safety valve and an indicator that I’ve come through my dark tunnel. I find myself more able to laugh and enjoy the company of wonderful people. Laughter got me through many a day and got me up in the morning.
Laughter has certainly been the best medicine for me.
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”
It’s a year now since my dear friend Liz passed away and the grief is every bit as raw today as a year ago. The year has been tough, at times unbearable, and I’ve missed her gentle strength and loving support. My 50th came and went and she should of been there. Sharing my daughters debs photos, she would of loved the dress. But most of all, all those times I saw her in shops or walking down the road, it should of been her.
What do I wish for, I wish she was still with me. I wish for piano lessons and coffees that never will be. I wish my youngest son had been born with good health. I wish that life was fair and I wish that this earth of ours was a great utopian world. I wish…I wish…
Sounds a bit like a Miss Universe speech, doesn’t it, complete with fluffy bunnies and cute puppy dogs. But who wishes for death, or babies born to a lifetime of ill-health.
But whats wrong with wishing and dreaming, with wishing and dreaming our life finds some direction, without direction we wander aimlessly through life. How do we walk that fine line, of dreaming and wishing and yet accepting what is meant for us and letting go of the rest. Do tears bring that peace, that allowance, that acceptance. I’m beginning to realize that accepting that moment, shedding tears, then moving on is the best I can do, gentle waves of grief.
And that’s how I grieve for Liz, playing the piano often gives me that space, the tears blind me to keys in front of me. I’ll know when my grieving is lessening, simply playing the piano as my tears lessen.
Should we ever let go of even the most unrealistic of dreams, wouldn’t our life become mundane then. Who knows what is around the corner, we must take every opportunity to embrace the wonderful, expected or unexpected that life gives. I simply can’t let go of my dreams and now I’m back where I started.
Till we meet again, Liz.
“The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man.”
Joseph Campbell Author of The Power of Myth
January 1st has so many expectations, all those new year resolutions, a new year, a new start. Saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new. As a child growing up in Australia, we always celebrated big time, going to parties, holding parties, counting down the seconds with a glass of something in one hand and our friends and family by our side. The laughter and the excitement, in anticipation of the year ahead. I’m living in Ireland now and I was determined to continue ringing in the new year the same way and that held up well up to and including the millennium. My dearly loved Dad died that year, a relatively young man and suddenly, and the new year to end all new years for me became a year of great loss. I haven’t stayed up to greet the new year since, choosing instead to curl up in bed with a good book and my own company. Some I’ve smiled through, on hearing the distant fireworks, some I’ve cried through, or yelled “Will you all just shut up, some of us are trying to sleep”,and occasionally I’ve even slept soundly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the new year grinch. We all have to start somewhere and I like the idea of new beginnings. For me it is a year of hope and possibility. I don’t make new years resolutions anymore, well from now on. Do they ever work out I wonder. My last attempt was about six years ago, I was going to get fit and exercise. I bought the DVD, I bounded out of bed, I put the sweats on and started. Four routines but just start with one or two it said. One or two is for losers I decided, I did four. You’ll burn 1,000 calories it said, 1,000 calories my ass, that’s only if you include the ‘trying to drag yourself up off the floor at the end’ section. Day 2 and 2 sessions unenthusiastically, day 3 I watched 1 session, day 4 I smashed the DVD. So endeth my last serious resolution.
Last night I cried, for the year I was leaving behind, for the pain and sadness that has dogged me, a final purge and I cried for a very special lady. I have good memories of 2013, and learnt a lot, it’s not all been bad. Most importantly, I learnt that I’m not a horribly behaved person with no restraint or goodness. I’ve learnt that I should no more despise myself for my bipolar than I would for the restrictions a broken leg would place on me. That gave me a huge release, I’m kinder to myself, I stronger and more compassionate. I feared seeing a Psychiatrist and the possible looming mental illness, I was terrified in fact, but the very thing I feared most has also been my saviour. But I’ve had regrets, I’ve said and done things, I desperately wish I could back.
Today I’m blogging for the first time in ages, I have tried and I’ve several unfinished drafts, about depression and bipolar, about love and loss, but each time I got stuck. I’d got so wrapped up in writing something brilliant I forgot why I really blog and who I do it for. I do it for me, I do it because writing is the best way I have of expressing myself and it doesn’t matter who likes it, it only matters that I do.
So here’s to a year of magic, hope, possibility, and my 50th birthday, I’m excited and grateful and at peace with myself.
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.