twas the life before christmas
when i was a boy, my mother sat me down at the piano several times each week and tried her very best to teach me how to play. between the profoundly irrelevant music that formed the basis of the lessons, (only one piece of beethoven i can remember saved it from being a total life loss), and the peevish "you can't make me" nature that either has been burned into my soul or is otherwise the very essence of it, i would sit for hours resisting every attempt to pass on something that couldn't be calculated or deduced. needless to say, i cannot to this day play piano.
years later, i was inspired by lowell george to come by a cheap acoustic guitar, and though i dragged it and charlie on the mta through the next several phases of my life, (if only i had seen rancid and the dropkick murphys ripping the roof off "skinhead on the mbta" in time!), there was ultimately an even greater power than "you can't make me" standing ready to guard the door--"you're really not very good, are you..."
...i can't excuse myself, i can only forgive myself...
for years i was told i wasn't really very good, was i. truth to be told, i wasn't, which is always going to be a pretty serious impediment for anyone who thinks too much about the implications. but worst of all--worse than having to wonder what anybody else might be thinking, and to know for SURE what i was thinking--was to always have what someone else very important to me was thinking, whispered directly into my ear by that very same someone who was otherwise supposed to love me unconditionally... and this isn't to complain or to bemoan, because the fault is squarely on anyone who mistakes the nature of the love they are also supposed to bear unconditionally in return... "you're really not very good, are you".
a profoundly generous friend, whose generosity i will always be short in repayment, shared some of the intimacies of life the other day, and rounded upon the unfortunate coincidence (my conclusion) that many (most?) people are held back from discovering what it is that they love, by either or both their own fears, as well as never having known anyone to comfort ones self from them. (ESPECIALLY if the fears are well-founded). i was lost for years in the lonely place where i'm neither good enough, nor loved well enough, to be shown how that never, ever is supposed to matter.
yesterday, for the very first time in my life, i made music that was good enough. faint self-praise, you may feel, perhaps, after all this, but in those simple two words, "good enough", there is more joy than i have words to say. i wonder if beethoven heard any of his symphonies, or that little turkish march i learned over forty years ago, and ever felt they might have been good enough--i can only hope for his sake he knew the kind of joy i felt, even if mine was only for something that was far less worthy.
but, see, that's the point i realize this morning. the worth is in the feeling. i love everyone who has ever heard me struggle to play something, and simply reflected back their happiness that it might be making me happy. full stop. i wish my wife and i could have broken through all our broken parts to have been able to do even that much for each other, but all there is ever to do in life is from each moment onward, and i'll have to find other ways to say how sorry i am for my part in that.
so a couple days late, let me just say that i'm thankful for all those who love me well enough to always see my struggles as good enough. some day, i hope to be able to see myself through those eyes, and repay all the love and kindness that is within that feeling. and, especially and in specific, a special thank you to the one whose specialty is in arranging around all the mediocre musical bits, so that what is there might possibly become good enough. i could never, ever on my own have given that gift to myself, even with all the love and support in the world.
sometimes, to be good enough, it has to start by being good enough...
with such, it's always going to be, as is so often said, the best christmas ever.