Sometimes it amazes me what provokes that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach.
Last night I was thinking about my hammered dulcimer.
At the beginning of the month I played at a local coffee shop, and they talked about having me back “soon,” which to them means “maybe Valentine’s Day.”
If I only play out once every three months, that means there can be a lot of time that the dulcimer sits in its case, and then a few weeks before the gig I start practicing a bit.
On the one hand, I could push myself to be disciplined — to play so many hours a week (maybe even keeping track — a blogger acquaintance had a group practice log that was a neat idea), to get out and relearn pieces that I no longer know well enough to play, to get out and diligently study pieces I want to learn or haven’t finished learning, and / or to diligently study and practice techniques like percussion rudiments or chromatic scales or sight reading.
In the same vein, I could more actively seek students and gigs — get in a regional wedding planning brochure, post flyers at music stores, give CDs to potential venues.
Or I could do like I have been doing since several months after Amy’s birth, and perform only occasionally and play only occasionally, even going weeks or months without playing at all.
And maybe that’s okay — maybe it’s okay to not care enough to be disciplined about dulcimer — maybe it’s okay to become a hobbyist, to let my repertoire slide, to lose the classical stuff I’d love to play but am not sufficiently motivated to study and maintain, to not make any progress in becoming a better or more interesting player.
Maybe some later day, when Amy’s in school (elementary? college?) or out of the house, maybe then it’ll become a more focused passion again.
Or maybe not.
There’s only so much time — and one needs to balance obligations (shoulds) and inclinations (woulds), and if what was once inclination now feels like obligation, perhaps it’s okay to drop it a little. Too bad the inclination to play that Bach prelude (the other one) is fairly strong, but the inclination is not there at all to do the hours and days and weeks and months of repetition, measure by measure, phrase by phrase, until I’ve learned the movements and memorized the sound and appearance, and then the additional hours and days and weeks and so on of practice until it hangs together nicely as music.
It was just so weird to think through all of this, and to feel — momentarily but very sharply — “oh dear, what if I don’t want to play dulcimer that much anymore?”
And what does that feeling even really mean?
(“Does it mean I’ve wasted eight years and however many dollars? Does it mean I’m a phony? Does it mean I’ll earn ridicule among the dulcimer community? Does it mean I’m neglecting my Calling or burying my Talent, earning condemnation in the Church? Or selling out to those in the Church who don’t believe in women working, or in music as valid work unless it includes strings of holy words? Does it mean I’ll never get around to making that next CD? Does it mean I’m ‘just’ a mama now, and a domesticky cooking and sewing mama?”)