Skip to main content

Church music, my favorite song by Pink, and thoughts from a recovering perfectionist






A song I've loved for years is, "You are perfect," by Pink, because it rings true for me:  I've chased down all my demons.  Or at least most of them.

I've played the organ in Sacrament meeting dozens of times.  Occasionally there's a distinguished visitor or an important somebody sitting on the stand (literally two feet from my organ bench).  Sometimes it makes me nervous, but usually not too bad.  The time that freaked me out the most was when there was music professor in the congregation.  I remember having a little meltdown before church that day.  I told the Bishop, "I got a D in organ when I was in school..." and in his good natured, humorous way, he said, "We won't tell him."  Still, my anxiety was real.  I was worried about the songs, I was worried about the singing, I was worried about a lot of stuff.  Mainly, I was worried that I wasn't good enough and that somehow that music professor would agree.



If you look closely at my old transcripts, you'll see evidence of a girl who had a lot of fun at college.  I took classes like swimming and candy making. One semester I took a group introduction to organ playing.  It was only one credit but I loved it, did well and decided to learn more.  So the next semester I took private lessons.  It was still a one credit class, but each week I met with my instructor for half an hour.  At the end of the semester, we had to turn in our practice records.  (We were supposed to practice like 2.5 hours/week but I probably spent one hour a week on the organ.)  I chose to tell the truth and hope for mercy.  My thoughts went something like, "After all, I played okay at the recital.  Surely he'll give me props for performance."  No, he didn't.  He gave me justice.  That D could stand for Dating.  See the social dance class?  Yeah, that's where Norm and I spent some serious time flirting before our missions.

But I've digressed.  Why would one grade from twenty years ago bug me so much?  I really could care less about the C+ from science.  Even the B- from a humanities class doesn't hurt my feelings.  But for a musician to get a bad grade in a music class, that's just unacceptable, right?  Why am I still haunted by that D?  D could stand for disappointed.  Or demons in my head telling me that I'm never good enough.

This next rant is mainly for friends who like music but don't play piano, or who don't understand why a musician might act like a diva sometimes.  Sometimes the accompanist gets overlooked.  Sometimes it's no fun to play a song nobody knows when nobody sings.  Sometimes it's frustrating to get to church and find out the songs at the last minute.  If I do a great job playing, if it sounds effortless and easy, it's because I practiced and had plenty of time to prepare.

It's common in a lot of wards to have 5-10 people who are super talented and willing to do all the music jobs.  We play musical chairs with the different roles.  ie one person leads the music in primary and one person plays piano in RS and one person is the choir director.  Then when we get burned out, we do one of these things:  move (and don't tell anybody you're musical), ask the Bishop for something new, or go on strike.  But here's the thing.  There's way more than a dozen good musicians in most congregations.  There's probably 10-20 more people who could step up, if they were given adequate time to prepare.  But for a beginner to join the ranks of the noble, unappreciated core, that's a difficult thing.  End of rant.

Here's the thing.  I love music, and I love church.  And, some of the most powerful moments of my life have happened when the two combined:  when an amazing song touched my heart, gave me courage, or reminded me of compassion.  The moments when I've been absolutely certain that there is a merciful God in heaven who knows my name and cares about me personally, those moments have usually come during a song.


Last week my Karly girl started taking piano.  I intentionally chose not to be her piano teacher.  I love piano, and I love my daughter.  But I'm still a recovering perfectionist, and as a mom I want to be careful not to pass that down.  Somewhere between getting the right note, the right rhythm and the right everything, musicians have to be careful not to take perfection too far.

And I already messed up.  She was so excited for me to watch her play the songs that she'd memorized.  She got all the notes right but totally screwed up the rhythm.  She was proud of herself, and what did I do?  I told her about quarter notes and half notes, and she said, 'my teacher didn't teach me those yet..."  And I had to remind myself that Karly did an amazing job with one week of lessons.  The next day I apologized for making her cry, and told her that I'd been a bad 'piano mom' and that next time I messed with her, she needed to remind me not to be a bad piano mom.  She's on her own.  Her teacher can deal with whatever mistakes she makes.  I get to listen and watch her learn.

And that is a good thing.  So to recap.  I am enough, even with my worries and fear of failing.  It's okay to mess up, making mistakes is part of being human.  Beauty in life comes from the contrast, and beauty in music comes from the dissonance.  When it's finally resolved you get this amazing sound.  Maybe that's a little like when you finally chase down all your demons, and then there's this peace from knowing you're enough.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Controlling Are You?

Life is like Mario Kart. In the early levels, you're driving through Moo Moo Meadows and the grass is green and there's cows and fields and it's lovely. There's an occasional banana peel that gets tossed in the path, and sometimes the cows walk in the road so you try not to hit them. But overall the driving is pretty mellow.  Then later after you've unlocked other levels, there's stuff like Bowser's Castle. It's a maze with lava on both sides of the path, there's fire and brimstone all around, there's stone columns that try to smash you at random intervals. Just to know where to go and how to steer and stay on the path is complicated. Some stages of life are like Moo Moo Meadows. The details are easy-peasy and you just keep moving right along. And then there are years like Bowser's Castle where it's pretty intense and you pray a lot because the fire around you is pretty hot and you're trying not to fall in the lava pit.  During years

Twenty + One Month

You know how life gets kinda messy sometimes? My version of messy looks like this: Four kids including a teenager learning to drive; a kindergartner learning to get herself ready in the morning; a senior learning about adulting; a middle schooler learning to ride her bike to electives every other day, a mortgage husband's career VIRTUAL PLUS church service pandemic, civil unrest, election year my own personal need for friends and connection even when my schedule looks like a revolving door Our big anniversary was last month and we were lucky enough to celebrate together this past weekend. We managed to sneak away for 24 hours. First I need to give credit where credit is due. There was a very generous friend who volunteered to parent the children during our 'Nelson marriage offsite.' And there was a generous benefactor who donated Marriott points to spring for the fancy room. I won't mention either party by name, but thanks to their generosity we had a great time. I'

2021 Christmas Card

December 2021  Dear Friends and Family, We love you and and miss y'all that are far away in WA and UT and other places!! This year we skipped our tradition of sending a Thanksgiving card and opted for a virtual Christmas card instead. It saved a ton of stamps and envelopes, but I definitely miss the glitter and sparkle. We hope you can feel our love even through a simple email or blog post. One tradition we couldn't skip was our gratitude tree, where the little leaves are a list of blessings. We are so thankful for God's goodness and mercy every day. Here's the highlight reel:  Cade graduated, made lots of Domino's pizza, read probably a thousand books, and is currently living in Provo, UT as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's heading to Helsinki, Finland in January. We are so proud of him and his hard work, we miss him but are excited for his opportunity to learn and serve. Shad spent a zillion hours with Marcus Ban

Companions - Notes on Home MTC

November 18, 2021 Most people know that missionaries run around in pairs. Some of my neighbors have seen this version of a companionship lately. Let me explain. During Covid, the church did a pivot and changed the missionary training experience from in-person to virtual. During this process they realized there were a few cool benefits that were worth continuing even after the pandemic. So the new version of missionary training begins  at home  with an Elder or Sister doing full-time training with a companion online. Then they transition to  in person  after a few weeks.  My oldest son began on November 8 with training at home. When they are in class or working together, they are meeting and making friends with other missionaries in their district. My son's cohort has four young women and four other young men, for a total of nine kids all going to Finland in January. BUT when they're not actively working or studying together,  I'm his companion . All of the places I'd no

Hair and random thoughts from a Brunette

Recently I've thought quite seriously about doing this to my hair. It might be so fun to have purple/blue highlights! I never dyed my hair in high school or college. Then when I was 37 the first few grey hairs appeared, ironically enough while I was pregnant. I've spent the last handful of years adding lots of blonde highlights.  Now my hair has a respectable amount of silver. It's kind of annoying. I'm learning to say farewell to being a brunette, because that young girl with the dark hair has grown up. Last month for Christmas, one of my favorite gifts that I GAVE to my little daughter was kinda fun. I spent like 20+ minutes at Target deliberating on which Barbies to buy. Finally I chose this group of friends for their amazing variety in hair!!  And I love each for different reasons. The dogwalking blonde is fun because my daughter really wishes we had a dog. The other three have accessories to be an astronomer, a teacher, etc. Ultimately, each Barbie is different fro

The Invisible Woman

Today I'm thinking about my mom. She spent a lot of years building and serving and lifting. She poured love and time and energy into her children, in a never-ending pattern. She did a hundred things that we still haven't noticed. I wonder if there's a coming of age that happens for a young mom, when she begins to realize how much work it is to BE a mom. Then maybe about two dozen years into this parenting thing, she begins to see  more stuff she missed. Then another realization comes when her oldest is almost grown. I'm still learning to see my mom and appreciate her as a person. But how can you see somebody who's been invisible? This morning I was talking with a good friend, another mom like me. She's younger and in a different season of mothering, yet we both can relate to sometimes feeling lonely. Sometimes we need evidence of progress, or at least a friendly word from a girlfriend. Maybe sometimes we just need somebody to notice and say thanks. Years ago I h

Roots

A few days ago I went on the coolest field trip. My cousin and I did a family history tour. We explored the places that were important to his parents and my parents and our grandparents. I loved meeting some of the extended family that I'd seen before on zoom, and I loved being in the cemetery where my grandparents were buried. I have a new satisfaction from this physical connection. Being able to feel the summer sun and the dust on my feet, these are part of finding my roots. This journey actually began sixteen years ago. Rewind the clock and I was super pregnant with baby #2 when my dad's dad passed away. Of course I was too pregnant to travel, so I missed the services. Years went by, and the time finally came when I thought I'd go pay my respects to them in Colorado. I have good memories of my Grandma and Grandpa Bare living there when they were older. So of course it seemed natural to find the little cemetery by their house, where they'd be buried. I drove the eight

Love

"How are you feeling about your son leaving soon?" has been my favorite question lately. My answer is kinda mixed. During July and August I was surprised and excited. Then on September 14 he flew to and from San Francisco by himself for a day. The purpose was a quick visit to the Finnish consulate for a visa. He had fantastic instructions to get from the airport to the BART to the consulate, but waiting for the interview took longer than planned. Leaving the consulate he had less than an hour until his flight was supposed to take off. That included a 32 minute tram ride, printing a boarding pass, airport security, etc. In all honesty, he should have missed that flight home. But he didn't. Call it a miracle or a test of faith, or whatever you want to call it. But for my boy who loves to be punctual, boarding a flight 7 minutes before take-off was pretty intense. Long story short, I think we all realized a few things that day. There are so.many.details I can't control,

Rainbows

A few years ago, I asked Norm for an umbrella for Christmas.  On grey days, I crave sunshine  and bright colors.  So I asked him for a beautiful rainbow umbrella, and of course he said yes.  I love it, and it's come in handy more than ever lately.  Amber has a rainbow umbrella too.  This happens to be one of my favorite photos of our little girl. Back in July when we were house hunting, it was super hot and we knew Texas would have a blistering summer.  But I wasn't expecting so many rainy, cloudy days.  Everybody here says this is unusual, that normally it doesn't rain this much.  But just for kicks, let's compare: In a normal year, Utah gets about 16-20 inches of rain.  The higher number includes snow on the mountain benches.  It's a desert. In Dallas, TX during the last two years they've had about 35-36" rain each year. But after I got here, between: August 11- August 31:  2.99 inches September 1-30:  12.69 inches October

Shoplifting: Tic Tacs at Target

 You know when you're at the store and one of your kids asks you to buy stuff? Then they ask again and again and again and again? My reply is usually something like, 'No, but thanks for asking.' And if they ask again then the reply goes something like, 'If you ask again, the answer will be no for like a week.' OR, "If you ask again, I'll take away your favorite toy," OR "If you ask me one more time, __________." Think of a punishment you will actually do! You can't make an empty threat here. If you don't have the energy to see it through, then just say yes. My older kids will often comment on how their younger sister gets a ton of stuff or privileges. If I'm tired and don't have the energy to win a battle, it's much better to JUST SAY YES the first time. That way, when I say NO on something, it carries more weight. So I explain to the older kids that they've already run me ragged and I no longer have the patience or st