Week 10: Playing the guitar

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

I learned how to play the guitar shortly after my father did. I was about 14 and the guitar was one of his new obsessions. He bought a number of guitars to learn on but really splurged on a beautiful (and surprisingly great-sounding) Ibanez acoustic. This, more or less, became my guitar and my emblem of my Teenage Years. We learned that guitar lessons were probably not worth it and it was just as easy to teach yourself chords as it was to watch a really fat man play them. As my knowledge progressed, the guitar became my constant companion. I started playing in the worship band at my church youth group. I would squirrel myself away in my bedroom until the wee hours of the night, playing guitar, figuring out new chords, trying to write super-dramatic songs. I mean, what’s more “teenage” than that?

I brought my guitar with me when I came to college and continued to play it throughout my freshman year. It was also a great source of solace during my sophomore year, which is like the Middle School year for college students (confusing, depressing, awkward).

But then, one night late in my sophomore year, I met this boy named Guion. He visited me in my room and picked up my guitar and started to play it. I was stunned. “I… never had any idea it could sound like that,” I stammered. This kid was a genius. And I suddenly felt very inadequate about my pseudo-musical abilities. We started dating and I started getting involved in other things, like internships and writing. My once beloved guitar gathered a lot of dust in my dorm room closet.

As a disclaimer, this should not sound like Guion is somehow at fault or responsible for my abandonment of my guitar. Rather, it should be seen as a criticism of my own lack of self-esteem. There’s always going to be someone out there who is better than one at any given skill. This does not mean, however, that one should abandon said skill. I wish someone (i.e., myself) had told me that in college. But I had moved onto other things. When I started my senior year, I left my guitar at home and effectively bequeathed it to my little brother (who has, let it be known, now surpassed me in my musical abilities).

Guion has always encouraged me to play the guitar; he hates that I gave it up. But as the years passed and my calluses disappeared, I was too discouraged to pick it up again. After all, I’d forgotten practically everything I had known. So, this week’s challenge was a return to the past, to my former self, and to the guitar. I am still grossly self-conscious about it and I can’t strum to save my life, but it’s coming back gradually. As I type this, the tips of my left-hand fingers sting a little bit. And that’s a good sign.

Unlike some of my other challenges, I hope to keep this week’s challenge incorporated into my day-to-day life. I won’t presume to ever play in front of anyone, but I was never trying to be a musician anyway. Rather, I liked having this therapeutic channel that was wholly separate from reading or writing. It would be nice to have that again.

Next week, I will be wearing a dress every day. Here’s to hoping for warm, spring-like weather!

Week 2: Daily yoga

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Grace gives us a partners' yoga training session on the porch last spring.

“Ugh. Yoga.” This is generally my internal reaction when my mom and sisters want to go to yoga class. I am the only woman in my family who can’t touch her toes or jump right into a split. I haven’t the slightest amount of flexibility. Not to mention the fact that I am uncommonly bony and weak, so I look enormously stupid when I do yoga. I’m always the girl in class that the instructor will come up to, interrupting her instruction, and bend down and whisper, “No, dear, you need to be doing it like THIS,” and then she presses my body into some painful, unnatural shape. I hate going to yoga class.

So, there you have it. I’m maybe one of the only women in America today who doesn’t gush about yoga. Not that I don’t think it has immense benefits–I have just never enjoyed it. Because I’m bad at it. And my sister is a licensed yoga instructor! She’s a beast. I love watching her practice yoga; it really is a beautiful thing. Talking with Grace about yoga has really made me see how positive and affirming it can be–I just don’t really believe that it will ever be positive or affirming for me. I’d rather run an 8K than take an hour-long yoga class.

I committed to this challenge because I’m trying to conquer my general fear of yoga. I don’t know if it worked. I’ll confess that I kind of broke this challenge and I only did yoga for four days instead of all seven. So…

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Yoga is a lot harder to do in the morning, at least for me. My body is so stiff! But I think it actually feels better in the morning. My head is clearer, my meditation is much more focused.
  • I still feel bad about my body when I’m practicing yoga. I feel bony and ugly. I don’t think I’ll ever get over this.
  • I like the meditative part of yoga. My mind does feel restful and clear.
  • I like how conscious I am of my balance and posture after I’ve practiced yoga for a while.
  • I may never get any better at yoga, but I’m not opposed to practicing it on my own, in the comfort of my home, without anyone–even Guion–watching.

Whew. Honesty is a bit exhausting. Thankfully, next week’s set of challenges is going to be a whole lot easier and sillier: a week of red lipstick! Bring it on.