Several years ago I passed my guitar down to my daughter, Lucy. Sometime before that, she won a child’s guitar at a church event. That little guitar set her love for music in motion. Within a short time Lucy learned to play and started taking lessons to learn more. After she outgrew the small guitar, I gave her my Ibanez acoustic guitar. Then she upgraded to the violin. Having a more refined instrument to master, the guitar remained in a stand in the corner of the living room.
Every day for the last year, that guitar has been calling out, beckoning to be played. Unfortunately, no one else can play it. It had been my intention to learn it when I bought it more than a decade ago. Such is the path laden with good intentions. Work, writing, and ministry have taken priority over learning a new song.
For the last year or so, it has been eating at me seeing that lonely guitar wasting away in the corner. Time is always the challenge, but the sissy factor has also been a deterrent. Picking up the guitar means pain. I remember that pain. For weeks the tips of my fingers were sore, and the thought of going through that again made me say, “Nah. Not today. I’ll subject myself to suffering and torture tomorrow.”
For the last few months life has been so busy that my writing has taken a back seat. Even when there is time, some days I just want to do something different. It would be nice to just resonate the music and relax in the evenings. Then came the Christmas holidays. I took vacation and the weather was bad, my verbal section of my brain wanted time off, and the old guitar in the corner kept sticking its neck out and peeking at me. After listening to its whining for a while, I said, “Oh, okay. But only if you promise not to hurt me.”
That scoundrel did hurt me.
Over the last 47 years, I’ve broken two fingers and dislocated one. All my past injuries seemed to gravitate toward my left hand. So each of those fingers protested vehemently when I started making them push on the strings. But I knew that was coming because of my attempt to learn guitar 10 or more years ago. I also know that pain goes away fairly quickly. The pain in the fingertips does not. So I braced myself to endure torture for the next month or so and started learning my chords. No, that’s tears of joy, not tears of pain when I’m playing. Honestly. Real men don’t cry.
I’m now at the end of my first week and here’s where I stand.
- I have no rhythm. But then again I never did. When people clap to a song, I have to watch the person beside me and attempt to clap when he/she does.
- I have no timing. I made my first attempt at a metronome. It wasn’t pretty, but after a few days I was able to keep time – if I watch it.
- My eyes water and my voice cracks while playing. But that might be due to the torture inflicted upon my fingertips.
- My fingers are as sore as a baby with diaper rash. No. Worse. But I feel the beginnings of callouses. Unfortunately, the nerve endings in my fingers seem to be unaware of these callouses.
- The tendon pain in my once-dislocated ring finger now only hurts a little. It only affects me when I play. But then again, it didn’t affect me at all before.
- I memorized 9 basic chords. I audition for Foo Fighters next week, so I better get a few more under my belt. And learn to change chords. I can almost change between three chords. D, G, and Cadd9 are my practice chords until they are mastered. Or should I say, until they master me?
- I’m not whining. Okay, maybe a little. But half the enjoyment of pain is getting to share it with people who don’t care. Except you. I know you care, but you’re the only one.
My New Year’s resolution was going to be, “Do the same thing as last year, but only do it better,” but some said that wasn’t specific enough to be a real goal. So my goal in 2012 is to do something I’ve wanted to do since I was 10. Because the Mayan calendar indicates that the world ends this year, I figured it was a good time to get started. Since I started up on 12/22, I can just get a year in before the world goes ‘poof’.
This is my third attempt. My first was at the age of 10. My instructor quit. I and several students showed up about three weeks into lessons, and no teacher. We never saw or heard from her again. My incredible talent must have overcome her. Oddly enough, I still remember the strumming pattern I learned – down/down/up/up/down. It’s the most music I learned from any instructor. Oh, I also learned to pluck the strings one at a time and say, “My dog has fleas.” I still don’t know what that’s supposed to mean.
The second was about 10 years ago. My instructor quit then too. I was self-taught, but that still counts. They say, “The third time is a charm.” Great! I’m prepared to be charmed.
If I learn to play something more pleasing than ‘My dog has fleas’, I might upload it here. I would upload something now, but if it caused my instructor to flee the country, just think what could happen to you.
Have a Happy New Year! And feel free to share your plans for the coming year.
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Author of I Called Him Dancer
President of the Christian Authors Guild