When I was 10, I was living with my mom and step-dad in Florida. Along with us was my younger step-sister whose mom sent a clarinet with her so that ‘she’d have something to do’ which is what her mom always did all the time. My step-sister, Amanda, was not doing very well with learning. I offered to help because when I was even younger than that my dad had put me through music classes at my request so I knew how to read music while Amanda did not.
I don’t remember how long it was before Amanda gave up, but I remember the moment she did. I was sitting beside her, showing and pointing out the notes she was to be playing and what was next along with the duration of it. Once again she messed up and I was trying to be patient while saying to her “No, it’s a c” and, in her anger, she tossed me the Clarinet and declared in a fairly snotty voice “Fine, if you think it’s so easy, you do it!” So I shrugged, took it and played it perfectly the first time through.
In a huff she stomped out of the room while snarling that I should just keep the damn thing.
I played that clarinet for 10 years through school and a little beyond, had even entertained the idea of trying to go professional with it, but ultimately didn’t.
What I learned
For 9 of those 10 years, I practiced almost daily on that instrument. I had my music books of course, a few pieces that my mom bought me and that Amanda came with along with the clarinet. Over and over I’d play that instrument, getting frustrated at myself if I got it wrong.
By the time I was 12 I was a solid player, by 14 I was the top of our class in middle school. When I hit 16 I was still one of the best and had every reason to be in the top band, but apparently personality wise I was quite more abrasive than I am now. Note to any teenagers that might read this, turning a teacher in a favorite subject of yours is a sure fire way to get them to sabotage and hold you back. By 18 I had lost most of my interest even though I still played.
By twenty I was done and now I only pull it out occasionally. Yet, when I do, it takes very little time for my lower lip, my hands, even my breath and posture, to remember the skills I learned during those younger years. Why? Because as my step-dad likes to say: practice makes permanent.
There are several other skills in my life that lends to that same concept:
- Writing / Journaling
Breaking it Down
I want to take a minute to look at each of those above to show how they are significant in my life and the benefits I received from them.
Meditation: When I was 16, I had a concert and afterwards we, as a collective band, was supposed to take our chairs from the stage all the way back into the room. When I got to that point I found all the chairs in the hallway and my band teacher happened to come up behind me then ordered me to fix the problem…
So I did, getting angrier and angrier with each chair I had to drag into the room, muttering under my breath until near the end I was throwing the chairs into position. He started yelling at me, which I yelled back then stomped to where my parents were waiting to yell at me for making them wait for me. Despite all my explanations they wouldn’t listen and I got angrier until I was saying some hateful things specifically to my step-dad.
And that was just the latest of all my anger out bursts, one of the mildest too I should add. I was firmly heading in the direction of being a road rage offender. My soul sister then suggested that I look into meditation.
I did and at first it was a true struggle to quiet my mind, to breathe and remain in stillness. I’d sit on my bed every night before going to sleep, after saying goodnight, and do a mantra “I will not let my anger control me”. Over and over and over again. Gradually I started to see a change in how I reacted to what used to anger me. I’d take in a deep breath, repeat the mantra in my head, then I’d be good. I’d go on. Sometimes it would work, other times it wouldn’t.
In seeing my own personal improvements though kept me continuing forward until I was 19 when I joined the military. Silly me thought it wasn’t necessary any more, then through the years various events would trigger my anger that would grow into rage. When the mantra wouldn’t work, I began to meditate again. Every night to put my mind at ease, to gain access to the depths of calm within myself. It worked with more than my anger too. It helped against my inner insecurities too and when I got upset about anything. It also helped me get through the initial diagnosis of migraines at that time. Three massive ones a week takes a lot out of you so by meditating on the nights I could, I was able to find my inner strength.
Now, at 37, I find meditation is as natural as breathing to me. Before I used to have to count to go into the mental space of silence in my head. Now I just have to breathe deep three times to make it happen. It’s a permanent part of me, because I practiced the act of it on a daily basis.
Finances: I find it to be a real shame that schools do not advocate or teach the fundamentals of finances to a greater depth beyond balancing a checkbook. It’s possible, when my daughter hits high school, that may change, but as she’s one year away I’m not holding my breath. But hey, I’m open to being surprised by the universe.
When I was a teenager I benefited by my mom sitting me down to explain the concepts of a budget and the effort to first build then hold to it. That summer, my dad sat me down to explain the ideas of investment and taxes. What a mutual fund is, a stock option, markets. What a 1040 is compared to a 1040ez, what to do with your W2 and other fun stuff like that. I hated it, thought it was boring in both aspects of the subject. As an adult, I’m grateful they taught it to me.
That doesn’t mean I like doing my finances, which is why when my ex-husband offered to do the day to day finances for us and I’d handle the taxes. I thought it was a good deal because he went through a serious financial mishap when he was younger and learned his lesson. So I trusted him, which, as many may know, is the point of marriage – to trust. For the first 8 years he did an awesome job and I can’t lay the blame of the last part completely at his feet.
We lived in Okinawa Japan for three years, 2005 to 2008, and unfortunately the extent of our bills was utilities, insurance, the internet and not much else. Housing was taken care of by the military, the cars were bought at a flat rate so no payments there. The rest of our funds were disposable cash. And we treated it like that. By the time we returned to the States, the habit was firmly entrenched and the first month back hit us hard in the realization that we’re back to the world of bills.
That’s when he faltered and I didn’t understand the full gravity of it happening. Since he didn’t ask for help or spoke up, I didn’t think it was that big of a problem even as we moved up to Ohio. I began to get an inkling of it when he pushed for me to go get a job to help with the finances. I reluctantly agreed because student loans started coming in for re-payment and the kids were starting school.
When he left me, I was faced with the full extent of the problem and the lessons my mother taught me about budgeting came full force back in my mind. I’m of the firm belief that I survive the first year of the divorce because of those lessons. Now, three years later, it’s become an obsessive trait of mine to check the finances. Why? Because now it’s permanent in my daily life.
Writing/Journal writing: At 14 I was highly encouraged to work on my creative writing by a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Farrell, anyone who knew her will remember her by the fact that her room had pigs from floor to ceiling – no, I’m not joking. She was brutal on grading all my papers to the point that when I started to feel targeted I asked her why. She told me she saw a lot of potential in my writing and wanted me to pursue it.
Pursue it I did, in fact it’s still a goal of mine to get published one day.
I started writing daily, and to this day I write daily even if it’s not on a story that will sell, but on fiction that is for me alone, I’m still writing. Which leads to my journals. At 15 I had started to want to go back to live with my dad for a myriad of reasons, one being that my mom and I didn’t always get a long. Sometimes we’d even fight, but not more than any mother/daughter relationship did. I also wanted to leave because of my interactions with my younger step-siblings.
That’s a topic for another day, but a friend suggested to me that to help me make my decision as to what I wanted I should keep a journal while I was visiting my dad. I did and it helped me realize the best place for me at the time was with my mom.
With that said, I wasn’t really good after that in keeping a daily journal. I tried to multiple of times but frankly I got to the point where I would give up and say, well, next time I try will be better. While I was in japan, shortly before the birth of my son, I decided to try again but I didn’t write dates, I just wrote in it. Because of that activity I started to realize and accept I had post-partum depression due to my eldest, that I had had it for a number of years but never realized for a myriad of reasons.
The more I wrote, the better I understood, the better I could see it through my life then I began to work through it with my favorite permanent practice – meditation. When I reached Texas, I started to write in the dates for significant dates and times, like my birthday or a holiday, or the day I graduated college. Gradually I put in the dates daily.
When the divorce started, I put my journal down to deal with the practical, then after the official divorce was finished, i.e. paperwork, I picked up my journal and started back up in it. I did so because I started to see that something was going on in my head. In a way it was a bit of torture of emotional roadblocks that I was determined to work through.
I remember very distinctly one night, when I was emotionally at my lowest, I had picked up my pen and began writing furiously. It scratched over the paper with a blur of noise until it came out like a water balloon being popped. I admitted to myself that I hated my ex-husband.
The moment I did, the writers block I had cracked then shattered. In a period of three weeks after that I wrote close to 200,000 words – yeah, it was that bad. I’ve reconciled my hate and put that aside, thanks to my meditation and my journaling, but the benefit of this permanent activity demonstrates how I was able to get through that process faster than if I hadn’t been used to the idea of a journal.
Why am I explaining all this? Because it’s recently been suggested to me that I should give daily blogging a try. Since I’m already used to writing my thoughts, my ideas out on paper, how much of a shift will it be to do so on my computer in the form of a blog?
So I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll do it for two reasons. The first being that I want to stop living in the shadows all the time. I hide a lot of what I feel, what I think, from people who are close to me. I do so for many reasons. One being that most don’t want to hear it. Each person gets in their own world, their own situation, they don’t want to be burdened by mine, just as I probably don’t want to be burdened by theirs. The only exception to that is friendship.
I’m more open with my friends, sometimes with my family as well, but I still hide some of who I am, some of what I think. Leading to the second, which is that I spent years since I was 19 not verbally telling many of my faith structure. Mostly because I have been burned, lost friends over it, had to deal with arguments and being condemned. The fear that it could happen again keeps me quiet.
Honestly, now that I’m 37, I’m finding I don’t care. If someone would rather not be friends with me because of my faith structure, then it’s their loss. I’m not going to shun someone because they are Catholic, why should they shun me because I’m Wiccan? If they choose to, that’s on them, not me.
The third reason is a bit more complicated and perhaps, as I start to understand it, I’ll share it. The biggest hurdle for me however is the idea that sometimes my daily life is incredibly dull. I’m sure not everyone wants to hear about how my dog decided my tennis shoe is a chew toy (it’s not, I checked), but then it’s not always about what happened in the day is it. It’s about sharing who I am.
I apologize for the length of this post and if you made it this far, kuddos to you. I promise I’ll try not to be this long winded all the time.