“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” T.S. Eliot
For the past few months, I’ve made a point of playing the piano every day, sometimes for 15-20 minutes, occasionally for 30.
I am enjoying it––in fact, finding great pleasure in it! I vary my routine: practicing scales, playing familiar pieces, and transposing some of my favorite tunes like Summertime and Amazing Grace into multiple keys. I even learned a song from my latest favorite Korean drama.
For years—and by years, I mean decades—people have pressed me, “Why don’t you play? You were really good; you majored in music. You should play.” The short reason is, I didn’t want to. It wasn’t a pleasure; it was drudgery for me. It certainly didn’t bring me happiness or joy. Even though I had been an accomplished pianist, I didn’t enjoy it, hadn’t for a long time, and couldn’t really imagine that I ever would again.
Over the past few years, an impulse slowly re-emerged. A friend loaned us a piano, and I would occasionally sit down to play. Then, one of our newsletter subscribers, C.A. Hurst, started prompting me every few months, asking me the once dreaded question: Are you playing?
Finally, I decided to set a goal to start playing every day, even if only for a few seconds, just to get started again, and maybe I could find my way back.
Well, with that daily habit, however brief, something started to come alive. I played the bass line of Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely––on the piano. Then, I tinkered with playing Doctor Gradus Ad Parnassum by Debussy, a piece I prepared and played at my senior recital in college. There are also days that I watch yet another video on jazz piano from Aimee Nolte.
But the thing that really did it was watching a show on television with a protagonist who loved the piano, truly loved it. Playing it was pure joy! And what was waiting to come forth in me finally did. I had to start playing again.
Do you have something like this, something you need to step away from while you attend to other parts of your life, but now you are coming back to it, or you know you will eventually return to it?
What is that something for you?
Why is it important to sometimes step back? If you feel regret that you have chosen—or been forced—to do so, what would you not have learned had you not retreated for a while?
I’m delighted to introduce this week’s podcast guest to you. Brooke Snow, who, coincidentally, also stepped away from her music temporarily, but it’s now coming full circle for her as well. She is a musician, meditation instructor, podcaster, parent, and author who prefers to be defined by who she is rather than any of these things she does.
Brooke talks about reframing bad days as good ones by recognizing your wins (however small). It’s an uplifting perspective we all can use, on some days more than others, but probably on more days than we want to admit. Please join us!