Piano (Wo)man



I think for as far back as my memory goes, I've been plunking away at the ivory keys. My Mum recalls me starting lessons around 5 years old. What I remember is hitting rhythm sticks together and my teacher falling asleep during my 'lessons'. All in all, I don't think my musical education really began to take shape until I was closer to 7 or 8 years old.

Like my two older sisters before me, piano lessons were a non-negotiable in my house. Mum played as a child and my maternal Grandma, Nanny, was known to sing a limerick or two alongside a catchy tune. For all the lessons my sisters and I protested taking from time-to-time, I'm really glad my parents forced us to stick it out until high school.

I choose to continue with lessons longer than my older sisters, and ended up playing at a Royal Conservatory Level 8 by the time I graduated high school.  At school I played in the band, starting on the bass guitar, playing a little acoustic and then upright bass, which I quickly learned I liked to play as cello better. Music has always come really natural for me and it's something I'm trying to foster in the boys too.

Through my 20's when working as a Recreation Therapist, having a musical background was super handy. A scheduled performer couldn't make it? Karina to play church hymns to the rescue! Grammy Enid's 103th birthday in the dinning hall? You bet I'll play a couple rounds of HBD and For She's a Jolly Good Fellow. I even played back up one time for a really rad retired couple who dropped in to sing for the residents one day.

But in my life today, where I often feel like time is this fuel I can never ben topped up on, music had really taken a back seat in my life. I have my piano from my childhood sitting in my main living room and walk by it countless times a day, scolding the kids for the chocolate fingerprints on it when I rarely sit down to play it for myself.

While reading a book about habits a couple weeks back I decided to make a list of the habit's I'd like to try and bring back into my life and playing music surprisingly was on the top of the list. When I began to consider why this habit was harder to stick to in my life, I came screaming back to my 9 year old self, the one who hated playing in front of a crowd, let alone in a house with everyone home. 

Surely this can't be the reason I don't play anymore, is it? After a cold hard look at myself, I was remiss to see that it was. I then remembered back to when I first moved into our home 9 years ago. I played quite a bit for the first few months, having finally my own piano in my own house. I was home from work on bedrest with my first son and after about a month of living here and getting to know the new neighbours, one complimented me on the music coming from the open windows. 

I was shocked. I had no idea anyone could hear me! Well the perfectionist in me shut that down ASAP and the piano became a place to store family photos and trinkets. Can you say insecure perfectionist?!

Today marked the first of a new month. And along with the habits I'm trying to add/subtract from my life, today felt like as good a day of any to tickle the ivory keys. After forcing myself to walk the five feet over to my piano, I searched for any excuse to avoid starting. Usually as soon I hit the first note, all three boys are there with their tambourines, kazoos and drums ready to rock out. I was hoping this would be my ace in the hole to 'get out of it' just for today. Kids couldn't care less today.

OK, I guess I'm doing this.

After a super quick scale warm up, I selected one of my favourite arrangements and let it all flow through me. By the tenth bar my muscle memory took over, and the piece I knew by heart 15+ years ago became beautiful music filling my home.

I cared less about fingering and hitting every note, and more about carrying the tempo and adjusting the volume. I forgot every neighbour on my block could hear me (thank you second floor living!) and my kids even left me alone (mostly) for almost half an hour. After practicing two of my favourite contemporary pieces, I knew I had hit my time limit. The baby was jonesing to get on the keys and my mental fatigue had kicked in. Thanks drugs

I felt so much more energized and my mood was considerably improved. I really felt like I put my brain to work in a way I haven't in a long time, and I know keeping up with this habit will help so many areas in my life. Balance was closer to being achieved on this first day of August, and I don't care who hears its.