Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Beginning Again

Yesterday, the kids had their first piano lessons since we moved, and I was nervous for them.

Benjamin had taken lessons for two years before we moved, and Abigail had only played for six months by the time we had to pull them out. After nearly a year and a half without lessons or regular practice, I knew they had forgotten much.

I didn't want them to feel discouraged if they sat down to play and found it all unfamiliar and overwhelming. I also didn't want them to feel bored if she had to start them over from the beginning.

I shouldn't have worried.

Their teacher led them through the lesson expertly. She started them with an exercise that reinforced basic skills but felt absolutely doable, re-immersing them in language they once knew while building their confidence.

As they played, she asked them if they remembered certain terms or skills. "'No' is an answer," she'd say, making it perfectly acceptable to admit they had forgotten something.

My greatest surprise and relief came when she picked a song from the books where they had left off a year and a half ago, and then used that song to re-familiarize them with the basics. The songs she chose would have been too challenging to attempt unsupported, but she guided them back into the music, reorienting their hands to the appropriate keys, giving them clues and language to navigate the keyboard, breaking the song down into manageable pieces.

She didn't start them over, which would have felt patronizing. She didn't bore them with review, which would have smothered their enthusiasm.

Instead, she trusted them with a task appropriate to the skills they once had and slowly teased to life their body of knowledge, knowing that in the process of relearning this piece, the terminology and muscle memory would return.

The time and energy they invested back in Colorado was not lost. She recognized their experience is still buried in their brains, latent. It's simply a matter of time before their little minds fire the synapses enough times to re-connect the neural pathways and resurrect their skills.

I'm proud of my kids for returning to the piano: it is an act of courage and humility to endure the relearning process, but I know they stand to gain so much more from facing the temporary discomfort of re-entry than they do from avoiding something they once loved.

And their process encourages me. After a break from the gym or from writing, I am tempted to think the time and work I invested previously is lost. Beginning again can feel like starting over from nothing.

But it's not.

The foundations I built are still there, too, and while there may be a short period of reorienting and rebuilding, before long I will be growing from where I left off. 

No effort, no investment of work is ever truly lost--unless you choose not to return.

May we all be brave enough to begin again.

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