Our Sprint Toward the Holidays is now complete. Chris and I have worked extra-hard, burning the midnight oil (and the 1 AM oil and the 2 AM oil...) to make sure that this week before Christmas would be as relaxing and stress-free as possible. We had no less than four recitals in the past week. I've been up very late making presents. Chris has been up very late being my assistant and working on presents as well. We are so exhausted. Andrew is sick and Emma has been grumpy. We have short fuses and dark circles under our eyes.
But it's done.
All of my major publishing for the church where I work is done and yesterday was our final recital. It was The Big One - the recital where both of my kids performed and, well, I did too. I am a student after all!
The kids and I worked out some special arrangements of Christmas songs as solos for their instruments (I accompanied on piano) and I played my first piano recital in 16 years.
I was so. stinking. nervous.
I don't do well on stage. Don't get me wrong - I've had lots of practice being up there. I've been a worship leader, an actress, a singer, a pianist, a member of an orchestra and I even tried public speaking once. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I'm in front of an audience - I turn to quaking jello every time.
I remained un-decided about what to play until the last minute. I was really hoping to pull off the Chopin piece I'd been working on all semester, but it was just out of my reach. I had to cut myself some slack and remember that I've only been "back" at the piano for one semester. So I went for a Debussy piece instead. Honestly, the Chopin felt safer to me - more familiar. You can hide mistakes behind impressive runs and loud moments of drama. The Debussy piece was a lot more open - fewer notes, more obvious if you hit the wrong one, etc. But the major thing is that, to get Debussy right, you have to let your soul seep out through your fingers. You have to be vulnerable. In front of lots of people.
That's the heart of what makes me nervous.
I know I've talked about this before, but, in spite of appearances, I am actually a very guarded, very reserved person. I don't like to be vulnerable. I especially don't like to be vulnerable when something very personal about me might be criticized.
Debussy. Nervous. Terrified. Stress.
Couldn't find Andrew's music.
Sick to my stomach.
Running on adrenaline fumes and coffee.
Potentially messing up in front of my students' parents - the ones who pay me to do what I love.
But I did it. I had to. I was on the programs they passed out at the door. I couldn't back out. This was something I really needed to do - for myself. I had some really deep demons I had to fight. I know that sounds really dramatic to most of you who have no problem with this sort of thing. I know. But I screwed up majorly the last time I played in front of people, 16 years ago. Maybe they didn't all know it, but I did. And I didn't play in front of anybody again. That sounds juvenile and silly, but it's true. There is certainly more to my story than that, but that is a big part of it.
I made a few mistakes and I wasn't able to put as much of myself on display in this music as I could when I was playing it with no audience, but overall, I'm proud that I did it and did it this well. I hope this will help my daughter begin to overcome her stage fright - she is, tragically, so much like me when it comes to sharing her gifts. And I hope that, with practice, I'll become more comfortable doing this sort of thing.
(video exists and will be posted if I can figure out why my new video camera's files are not happy about jumping onto YouTube)
One of the coolest things about the past couple of days, though, was watching my students perform. I was taken aback by how much I felt for them as I watched them overcome their own nerves and play for their parents and an audience too.
It turns out that I'm a music teacher.
I mean, I know I've been getting paid to teach music. I know I can do it. But there are lots of things I can do that don't necessarily define who I am - even musically. I love to play, but I am definitely not a performer (I don't get enough out of it to justify the damage to my nerves!). Music is as much a part of me as my own skin, but I've never been able to put my finger on what it is, exactly, that I do with music.
I got my first teacher present yesterday. One of my little guys, a funny little red-headed, freckled boy (who looks like a miniature Adam Savage and has completely stolen my heart) gave me a Christmas ornament - a snowman playing the piano. I almost cried.
That's when it hit me.
I'm a music teacher.
I didn't know before then.
Guess what else? I'm nearly sure that I'm going to be giving notice in the next week at my secretarial job. I will know for sure in a few days. I may have enough students next semester to take that leap. It will only be a partial notice - I'm going to offer them two days a week and continuing my publishing work for them (newsletters and bulletins), as I really want that income to save up for a big girl camera, but I'm prepared that my boss may not be willing to accept that. And if he doesn't, I'm out.
This is a big leap of faith for me - and especially my husband. Teaching piano means less income in the summer, means my pay can change from one semester to the next, means unsteady and unreliable income. I just need it to mean "enough" income. I know who my Provider is, and He and I have been working on this for a long while. But it also means spring break, fall break and holiday break with my kids. It means I don't have to hire someone to be their mom over the summer (you know my heart on that one, DeeDee!). It means getting paid to do something I love - and that's something.
Now. Now I'm ready to dig into Christmas. To knit like the wind, to pick up my camera again (it has lain dormant for nearly two weeks!) and to make merry.
I've been having a little trouble finding my Christmas Spirit this year. I think there's just been too much on my mind. But I'm feeling like a few cobwebs have been swept away and some space has been made in my heart. I did some hard work this past week. Now I'm ready for some fun.