Courage To Play Again.

I sit next to my grandmother, affectionally known as Grimmas, staring in awe at the keys. Nearby, I hear someone say, “Grimmas will show you how to play.” She smiles and after a little prodding shows me how to play my very first “real song” on the piano. A little fun black key song using my knuckles. In this moment, I believe Grimmas is a master pianist, although I don’t know that word, yet, and I’m determined to convince her to teach me the piano. This is my first memory of my piano.

After slight disappointment upon discovering Grimmas would not be in concert anytime soon, I began to ask my parents about lessons. At the time, lessons were only offered to 1st graders. So as soon as I reached 1st grade, I was signed up for my first lessons and fell completely in love with notes, octaves, theory, rests… you name it and I was trying my darnest to learn it. I loved the way octaves could be the same notes but sound higher or lower. I played with the pedals learning the way they affected my music. I think I learned RBF (resting B face) from trudging through Classical songs, which I hated. I smiled in delight as I mastered harder and harder pieces and found myself a little as I picked songs that meant something to me. I even learned how to play a few songs backwards (laying with back on bench with head under the table and hands positioned thumbs out on keys) after watching someone do it on Double Dare on Nickelodeon. ps. I can still do it. 😉 As I grew up, the piano was an enjoyable time on good days and an escape on bad ones.

This love continued until college, where I stopped taking lessons and did not have easy access to a piano. While in college, some of you know I went through a few very tough experiences, one of which ruined the piano for me for a while. I lost the joy I had felt when I played, joy which was replaced by memories I didn’t want.

And so I fell out of tune with the piano. I had moved it from my Grandpa’s house to mine about a year prior and had barely touched it. That is, until the most unlikely of people reminded me how much fun it was to play. In that moment, as I sat there playing and laughing, I remembered how much I loved it and that I could still enjoy it, even if it would be a bittersweet experience from time to time. So I got it tuned and started playing the songs I still had memorized and felt that drive to learn come back.

And so now here I am, awake at 1am excitedly browsing through sheet music, planning the next pieces I’ll learn, all because of a random moment at a painted piano on a sidewalk. Sometimes when life knocks you down, you, too, might need a moment to remember what you love. Maybe you need to set down your passions to heal for a season like I did, but when that unlikely person or moment comes knocking to remind you, don’t be afraid to reignite that fire.

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Courage Found In The Darkness

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When I was little, I read a book about this girl’s life back in the days of horse-drawn wagons and boiled water baths. At one point in the book, her dad died. Where there was once laughs and daddy-daughter dances through the kitchen, there was now only pain and shattered dreams. The morning after her entire world came crashing down, she woke up to the most beautiful day. The sun came peeking over the land, scattering gold and orange splendor all through the sky. And she couldn’t figure out how in the world the birds could be chirping and the world carrying on as usual. How could anything be beautiful when her world had come to such a sudden stop and shattered to pieces?

I failed to fully grasp then what I understand now.  In the dark moments of my deepest heartbreaks, I, too, have stared at a breathtaking sunset, unable to fathom how such a thing could exist in the middle of such pain.  How did the sun rise when I barely have it in me to leave my bed?

At first, it killed me. I remember the first time I got back on Facebook after my brother died. Heartbreak I had not experienced before set in as I browsed. It hurt seeing so many people carry on with their lives as tho nothing had happened. I saw posts of my brother’s death mingled in with happy, smiling faces and funny memes. Raw and exposed I sat, while conflicting emotions overwhelmed me. Of course I wanted others to be happy. I wasn’t mad at anyone for being cheerful or untroubled, but to be faced with such happiness so soon after being smacked in the face with my own grief, it was hard. Like a bright light being turned on after a while spent in a dark room, stinging the eyes as they attempt to readjust, their happiness burned a bit too bright in my current darkness.

But, over time, I actually found hope and healing by seeing genuine happiness in others. Hope that said there was still life after being shattered to pieces. Hope that said I wasn’t alone. I saw people who had walked through devastation and their own dark times of loss; heroes who didn’t just survive, but somehow managed to thrive. People who praised God with both hands, despite the sorrow they lived through.

I was blessed with multiple coworkers/ people close to me who braved their own heart holes, reopening their own wounds, to let me know I was not alone and would make it through – that my grief would not be the end of me.  They somehow summoned the courage to heal and love life again, and that gave me courage to face a life without my brother in it. Courage to live a life with loss and still find joy, even if it would forever mingle with pain. J.R.R Tolkien said it best:

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

I don’t think you ever really “get over” losing someone you love, but I think you learn to carry them as love in your heart instead of a load of grief on your shoulders. After all, “The ones that love us never really leave us.” – J.K. Rowling

So, as it turns out, our worlds will shatter over and over again, and yet, the world will still continue to spin. Flowers will still bloom. And on our worst days, birds will still sing. And maybe, that’s just the kind of consistency we need to believe in better days ahead.

The power of a memory.

Memories are a funny thing. They can be our stepping stones to propel us into the future, empowering us and making us feel secure. They can also be crippling, as we try to sort out what went so wrong or how to put the pieces back together to what we once knew.

It’s infatuating in it’s darkness the way a perfect and blissful moment that will never happen again can be just as cold-bloodedly heart-wrenching to recall as a person’s darkest and lowest moments.

I struggle with memories. Not so much the horrible ones, although I do have the occasional nightmare. No, those are easier somehow to move on from. The worst things are the little things. The nicknames. The traditions. Talks sitting on the piano bench or a card for every holiday. Card games. Old pictures. Tension where a warm hug once was. The moment you forget they aren’t in your life anymore, at least not the way they once were, and you go to text them about something. The autopilot blissful moment your mind goes to before it remembers. My worst nightmares are the ones where I dream of my best memories and wake up to face all over again that those moments so dear to me will NEVER happen again. That is the fate of no closure, no explanation, no solution. Your brain can’t process why, so it autocorrects to how things should be.

The truth is memories, good, bad, or just different from the reality we now know, can’t be our guide. A life spent looking back to what we once knew will only stunt our future. Perfect memories can’t dictate a perfect future anymore than horrible memories dictate a horrible future. People change. Situations change. You can be absolutely sure of something and it can be gone the next minute and you may never understand why.

I’m learning that people are only reliable to a point and through this, God is teaching me to rely on him. We all have backgrounds… insecurities… triggers… that while we have the potential to overcome, these things also have the potential to overcome us. “Hurting people hurt people” isn’t a quote from thin air. It’s from situation after situation of someone who has experiences their own horrors who either wouldn’t or wasn’t given the support to work through those traumas in a healthy way, and now the cycle has continued. I’m learning empathy and forgiveness go a long way to my own healing and sound mind and I can’t have the latter without the former. I’m learning I need less me and more God. Less how I feel and more of His guidance. I’ve got miles to go before I sleep on that journey, but I’m learning, albeit slowly, to take that road less traveled by and try to understand. I have acted far less than a great person in my worst moments. I am a person who has hurt others from my own hurt. I am a person that God has brought to my knees to heal and redeem from bitterness and unforgiveness and the ways I acted because of it. It’s a process and a hard one and I am not there. To forgive is to give up what should have been and to move on to what is. To forgive is to accept. And that’s pretty unnatural for me lately. But I also know I need to learn to forgive as I’ve been forgiven and risk the vulnerability that comes with it. It is starting to sink in that the only true freedom comes from a heavenly perspective instead of my learned responses. 

I don’t have any neatly-packaged answers. I have no quick fixes. I see a long journey of learning to trust and rely on God and a whole lot of blunders and wrestles along the way. If there were quick fixes, I guess we wouldn’t need God. I do trust Him tho. That I do know. And I know if there is anyone who should be leading and directing my life, it should be Him. So I’m just gonna start that journey into the great unknown and trust He will sustain me and truly works all things for good.