The dulcimer question

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?”)


5 thoughts on “The dulcimer question

  1. I think it reminds us that life goes in stages, and especially a woman’s life is a series of chapters rather than one long straight line. While raising a little one, your ‘me’ time is very limited and valuable. You have to be intentional about how you spend it. Right now it sounds like you don’t want to spend that precious time on this one thing, that admittedly would take up most/all of it and even then might need more than you have. Perhaps smaller, short-term projects work better for now.
    Life changes, and when Amy moves into pre-school (if you do that) and real school, the demands on your time will shift and change. Maybe then you’ll become interested once again, maybe not. The amount of things you accomplish while spending your days with a little one continually amazes me. I don’t remember anything like that when mine were little. Do what you enjoy and what works for you for today. Tomorrow will take care of itself. {Actually, isn’t there a verse that says that? šŸ™‚ }

  2. Life has seasons, Marcy. You are in the season of child rearing. It passes very quickly. I know. My firstborn is 45 and my baby is 31! Where did the time go. When I was a young mom that’s all I could manage. There are so many things to do in life and there is time as well. Our “you can have it all and do it all” culture is feeding you a lie. As Amy grows you will have time to do other things. If there are more children you WILL have time for other things. I know I had six and have had a wonderful life so far. I don’t have your musical talent but discovered over time talent I didn’t know I had.
    Do what you can with what you have where you are.

  3. I echo the other sentiments here – life moves in seasons and those seasons can change everything. I have greatly neglected my music while my children were being raised, but that was the way it had to be. I played as I could and have always wanted to play more than I have had time. Some days, there was no time or I was just too tired or the kids needed me or whatever. All you can do is the best you can. Your dulcimer will wait for you, as long as you need it to. Just play because you want to and let everything else slide. Personally, I am nearing the end of the kid chapter in my life and my mind has been consumed with “what now?” type of questions. And, surprisingly to me, I have changed during that season. I’m not sure I want the same things I did 20 years ago…but I’m not sure I don’t. I think it is just something we all have to work through as we move through our seasons – to deal with the questions as they present themselves. Just remember to treat yourself with grace and mercy – it is OK not to know or to not be sure – it is OK to play just for fun, or even not at all. You will work through it as it is meant to me. Just be patient with yourself while you do. And BTW, I don’t think anything is a waste – God uses it all in ways we can’t even begin to understand. Blessings…..

  4. To echo what has been said above, but was said centuries ago, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:…” At this point in time, you have a beautiful baby daughter, a loving husband, and lots to do. You can relax and live what there is for this season of your life. And if you want to play some some time, do it, but life is too short to worry about all this. You have not wasted your time playing dulcimer, but rather have blessed others with your God-given abilities, and blessed God by doing that. Now you can bless God by living what He has given you in this season.

    Blessings to you all, and may you all have a Merry Christmas and a blessed new year.

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