Monday, October 25, 2010

My Music

I got a baby grand piano for my fortieth birthday. It was a gift from my dead grandmother, so to speak. I think she might be a bit appalled at its lack of practicality, but I love it. It is so way cooler than a dining room table that could be in the dining room instead. Do I play? Yes, of course I do. Do I play well? Not so much. I can read music about as well as someone who took seven years of piano two decades ago. I am slowly working my way through Moonlight Sonata, though I think it is giving me corporeal tunnel. Mostly I play my own stuff.

It started years ago right before Valentine's day. My brother had written a pick up song on his guitar. I sat down to compose a ridiculous break up song for him. But I really liked my melody. It was pretty good and I noticed various family members humming it from time to time. I decided to write real words instead. I adapted a Wordsworth Poem to fit. My first creation.

It was written in the key of c and when I played it for a musical friend, he suggested I transpose it to a different key. Yea, okay, I'll get right on that. But I did and the process of transposing it really helped with my ability to read music.

I then wrote a lullaby to go with some words I had made up when my youngest was born because I didn't know the real words to Lullaby and Goodnight. Not sure how it might affect others, but I find it calming to play it.

I wrote an Irish jig to accompany the words to the Yeat's Poem Fiddler of Dooney followed by another Irish inspired song about a wandering boy who loves his Irish melodies and his Irish poetry.

I wrote a Wedding Waltz next.

I then wrote another lullaby about a Mocking bird. I am having a hard time remembering that one. No, I haven't actually put any notes to paper.

I just finished, or started as it usually works out: They usually continue to grow and change, though the heart of the melody stays the same) my latest song. I don't think I want it to have words. It has a sort of Russian or Polish sound to it.

Writing music is a funny thing. I can't just do it. I play around on the piano a lot, but every once in awhile a melody will come together. I don't know why it works sometimes and not others. I never have a tune in my head, it just comes out my fingers. I have tried to sit down with the intention of writing a song. That NEVER works. If I come up with anything, I don't remember it the next time I sit down at the piano.

I don't mean to imply I am artistic. I have no idea how the world at large would judge my songs. I don't compose them for the world at large (though if anyone wanted to buy them, I would sell) :) I don't think they are great, though I think they are good. I compose them because...because...because....

I guess because
Every now and then, they are inside of me and want to come out?
I am in a mood and it takes the form of a song?
It is an expression of something I didn't know I was thinking about?

I don't know why actually. But it is a wonderful feeling to create something you like. To make something out of nothing is an amazing experience. My little songs didn't exist one day and the next they did. Poof, just like that. And no matter how bad they are in reality, I love them because they are mine. My creation.

It made me think: that is how God feels about us. So maybe that is why I compose. Maybe that is why all human beings create anything: To remind us of a truth about THE Creator. Hm? I wonder.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who Am I

Let me begin by saying that my identity crisis should in no way be construed as a slight to any other human being. What fulfills us, what gives us joy, what is frustrating or depressing or gross is different for each of us. There are some commonalities between all human beings in these areas, but in what we choose from our various daily activities to define ourselves, we are all unique.

So lets go back. The first thing that I was really able to use as a definer was: Teacher. My first job out of college was with the pro-life movement. It was cutting edge. It was one of only a handful of paid positions in the country. It was exciting and worthwhile and at the end of the day, not fulfilling to me. I mused on my computer at work about the possibility of becoming a teacher. I taught a little CCD class on the side. That hour a week was more fulfilling to me than my full time job. Was God calling me to be a Teacher? I asked. A co-worker found it and gave it to my boss. He fired me on the spot for it had been his experience that once someone "checked out" they were not really worth employing. (Hazards of being a writer who doesn't know about computer security.) I should have been in a panic. But I wasn't. I went to visit a friend out of state for the weekend. I returned home to a ringing phone from a friend of woman for whom I had babysat all through college. "Is this Sheila, I heard you need a job." I took the job over the phone. The second ring that day was from my boss, regretting his impulsive decision. "It has been my experience," I answered, "That when you get fired, you probably aren't really wanted. I'll be fine, I hope you will be too."

A few months later, I left Texas and returned home to go back to school to get my teaching certificate. Not only had I returned home in a geographical sense. Teaching felt like returning home. It felt natural. I felt fulfilled.

I defined myself as a Teacher for some years. But in the end, it was accompanied by a job like any other job. A job can't really define who we are as a person. I knew I would always be "Teacher" but I needed more. I wanted to be a wife. And so, the second definer in my life came in the form of being another's other half. To find your other half out of a world populated by billions of people is quite something. It leaves you in awe. And to this day it is still the single most important definer I have.

But I wanted more. I wanted to be a mother. It really was what I had wanted all along. And because God is so good, He gave me what I wanted. I became the mother of three children. Then we adopted our fourth. To be a homeschooling mother caused only a few moments of debate in my mind. For I was Teacher, Wife and Mother, so what better way to find my fulfillment than in the teaching of my own and my other half's children.

And I did. I often tried to explain it to my mother who thought I took on too much. I told her that in the end, it was really about me (this she could get as I was not the most selfless person growing up.) I could make the arguments about why I thought it was the best option for my children, but as I have explained on another post (The Home school Why) I always knew there were many great options in which my children could flourish. The reason I did it was because it made me feel fulfilled. I couldn't imagine being chauffeur and room mom only. I couldn't imagine being with my kids just a few hours a day. I knew they would be fine if I shared the burden of raising and educating them, I just didn't think I would be.

Fast forward. We adopted our fifth at the age of six. Life became too hectic to manage. I put all my kids in school. The transition for all of them was better than I could have imagined. I was right that there is not one right way. In many ways, I know they are perhaps even better off now as I watch them blossom and grow. An aside for the home schoolers: This does not mean I believe that school is better. Or that all kids are better off in school. Just as I did not believe homeschooling was the only option when I did it. I do not now believe school is. There is no right way to raise your kids. Ours was a unique situation and what my children had to adapt to required changes.

The changes we made were good for them. But were they good for me? Am I fine?

I am not. The dirty little secret is that all those room moms and chauffeurs have ways to define themselves. For some it is through volunteer work, part time jobs to help financially support the family, coaching, or like my mom they find fulfillment in cooking, or like my grandmother in the order of her household. They are good friends or marathon runners. It doesn't really matter WHAT it is. It is that IT is how you define yourself. It is how you find fulfillment. It is how you know who you are.

I don't know who I am anymore. I don't know how to define myself. I don't know how to feel fulfilled.

We recently got a little dwarf hamster. He is really quite cute. He has a little wheel he runs on. He goes round and round and never goes anywhere. They call him Nip because he bites. Perhaps Sheila would have been a better name. But no, because he is happy going round and round. He has no need to get anywhere.

Teacher...Wife...Mother...Teacher/Mom... I am still all of these and I guess I should be excited. I used to have the spirit of adventure, waiting for the next big phase. And it will come. I will get another definer. Before and between each previous stage there was a period of longing and confusion. Before and between each I would ask, "Is there more?" The answer was always "yes." And the result was always fulfillment. Who am I God? Who am I now at this point in my life? What should I use to define myself?

Please, Please, Please don't answer: Marathon Runner.