Life is Good

Life is good, and I can thank a friend for reminding me of this. I can get pretty stressed and down-hearted at times. But thank goodness for friends who can empathize just the right amount and then refuse to let me wallow.

The other day, I was lamenting to a friend about my problems and how difficult my life seems to be. I asked “Does it ever get simpler and easier or does it keep getting harder and more complicated?”

I suppose I was going on a bit. Because she reminded me of a previous conversation of ours, one in which we had shaken our heads over adolescence and its angst. We had shared our bemusement over the exclamation by a middle-class American teen from a stable family, who attended a good school and yet was able to say, with appropriate amounts of drama,  “Nobody’s life is harder than mine!”

My friend reminded me how I had raised a skeptical eyebrow and said, “Really? What about a homeless, starving child in the streets of Calcutta who has scurvy?”

I don’t aim to say that middle-class American teens don’t have real problems that should be taken seriously, or that I don’t have real problems. But I needed that nudge to realign my perspective.

Yes, I spend a lot of time chasing paperwork for my mom – because I still have a mom. She’s still alive and loves me and can tell me so. That’s perspective on the daily details.

On the bigger picture, I’m fighting off a mid-life crisis in which I ponder the disappointments of things I thought I would have had or done and now I’m realizing time is running out and I’ll probably never have or do them. But the list of things I have received and experienced is so long, and many of them were blessing I never anticipated. So maybe the disappointments left room for the unexpected blessings.

Stress and disappointments are parts of my life, but only part, not the whole thing. I’ve heard you should count your blessing, but when I really put an effort into, I’m not sure I can. The numbers might not go high enough. I wrote in my last post that I’m experiencing a lot of endings in the season of my life. But for something to end, it has to have happened in the first place. I’m trying to hold onto an attitude of thankfulness for a good thing that happened more than disappointment over it not being eternal.

Nothing goes on forever. Not the good times, but also not the problems. As one of my aunt’s used to say, “Trouble don’t last.” In this holiday season, I’m realizing my life is pretty good. More good than bad.

The Day the Music Changed

I’m in a period of transition. There seem to be a lot of endings in my life right now, including an emotional one today. When you have a baby, you have years full of firsts – first tooth, first step, first day of school. Then, after a while, you start to realize there are lasts coming along.

This afternoon saw my 14-year-old son’s last piano lesson with the teacher who has guided him through half a lifetime of musical growth. The phrase “piano lessons” doesn’t convey what a gift our household has received from his weekly sessions with a wonderful mentor. I remember his very first time at the piano, with his little legs swinging from the bench, feet far from reaching the floor, as he learned to pick out a short tune on a few of the black keys only. Week by week, his knowledge and love of music grew, until he was composing his own pieces.

A few months ago, my son told me he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do in life, but he knew it had to involve music. I know little about music, but he’s getting deep into music theory and explaining things to me that have been over my head. He saved his money and bought software that will allow him to work with composing and mixing on the computer. Last summer, when he was out of school, it wasn’t unusual for him to spend four or five hours in a day on his music.

Today, he told me that music has filled a gap in his life. He said he knows he’s never been good at carrying on conversations (he has auditory processing difficulties, so conversation is often difficult for him), but he can use music as a second language to express himself. I know it’s helped him through some rough patches and helped his confidence.

But with this growth has come an interest in expanding his skill set. One of his cousins gifted him a used guitar a while back, and he wants to learn to play that now. Neither time nor money will permit two sets of concurrent music lessons. So he’s switching to guitar for now. He promises me he’ll still play piano at home.

I sat in on his last lesson. He’s progressed from a small, round-faced child plunking out the 15-second song a key at a time to a deep-voiced young man with a newly noticeable shadow on his upper lip, who towers over both his teacher and me. He agreed to play Metamorphosis II by Philip Glass one last time for his teacher before he left. It was beautiful.

Wedging in Holiday Traditions – Christmas Tree Edition

As my kids get older, the calendar only gets more challenging. We still want the same family holiday traditions, but it takes more planning. For instance, we always buy a Christmas tree from the nearby Optimist Club lot. It’s a mere five-minute drive from  our house. Easy peasy, right? Until we start looking at schedules.

We definitely wanted to get it done this past weekend, so we’d have time to enjoy the tree before it came back down. We couldn’t go Friday evening, because my husband had to work late. I was scheduled to work all day Saturday. Then my daughter had a thing Saturday evening. Sunday, I’d promised to buy some supplies for my mom and take them over in the afternoon. And there was a meeting I needed to attend in the evening. Meantime, my son had a collaborative homework project he had to schedule with some other kids.

I looked up the hours for the Christmas tree lot and discovered it opened at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday. There it was – our time slot. Arrive at 10:00, 15 minutes to look over the selections and make a choice, whole thing decorated by noon, and we had time to get our other stuff done. My daughter even dialed up an internet Christmas music station for us so we could listen to carols as we hung the ornaments.