The Piano Incident

When I was eight, my mother wanted to show off my piano playing skills to her friend. She wanted me to play the grade 2 exam piece I had just learned. I did not feel entirely sure of it, so wanted to play the grade 1 exam piece I knew well. I insisted, and ended up weeping uncontrollably and humiliated for it.

In September 2009, having told this story to selected hearers with all the emotion of the shamed, weeping eight year old, ending with “She didn’t understand!” I suddenly realised, oh, right. She didn’t understand. She did not get the depth of my objection. It seemed all the pain of the memory left me, and I forgave my mother, or better, accepted her. She had done her best. She had not been superhuman.

On Saturday 25th, I saw it differently. The child was not particularly heroic- my mother wanted me to take a risk of getting the notes wrong, and I did not- but I knew my desire and insisted on it, and I felt my feelings and expressed them. These are things I have great difficulty with now. I remembered the piece I wanted to play. I still have it, though not the other one. It is by Thomas Dunhill, who wrote a great deal of educational piano music at different levels. It is grade 1, and I see the tricky bits- a chord staccato pianissimo? I have the muscle memory, though I have not played it for decades- I have to pull my hands in, as they were not full grown and I automatically stretch further than I would now, to play a sixth.

What if I could be like that child- knowing my desire and feelings, insisting, now?

On Friday night, I awoke in a panic. Normally waking in the night I am bored. I have taught myself to think of familiar, boring things, but I was thinking of the media anti-trans onslaught and of my recovery from M- after brief hatred, and making her words bless me, I hate the fact that I am thinking of her so much. On Saturday morning, I had a panic attack. Normally my anxiety is unconscious, but I felt it. I tried to hold it down: that is what causes the panic attack. If I am to be conscious, I will have to bear the anxiety. The alternative is numbing out.

Eye contact exercise. I am with someone I liked last week, and I wonder if I am merely a mirror to others’ feelings, echoing them to keep myself safe and invisible. My judgment is harsh: I am just a whore, having no self. Then the idea that could make me a “permission slip”, letting others be who they are. Another says that is her way to avoid her own feelings. Three interpretations- how could I know? Perhaps all are true. I want to put others at ease and connect with them.

We share on a topic, and as Jamie says my creative self can just come up with the words. I am surprised at my creativity. What I say sounds prepared to me, with beginning, middle, and end, and it was spontaneous. It is easier to create like that than to create for a purpose or to speak from the heart to communicate what I need to another human, but this playfulness pleases me. I contain playfulness and anxiety and will judge neither.

My intention when I refused to play the more difficult piece on the piano was to keep myself safe, and now that desire has taken over my life.

I would like not to be judging and fighting myself. And now I am sitting with and accepting my pain, exhaustion and perplexity. There is no need to think, or find a solution.

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