Living out Loud

Remember that segment in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ferris toots a few off-key notes on his trumpet and proudly declares, “Never had one lesson?” Later that day, he takes the stage on a float in the parade and plays for real. Clearly, Ferris was charmed, but I have been thinking a lot about how much the rest of us can do without lessons.

We bought a piano last summer. No one in our household plays an instrument. A hint of curiosity about playing piano cropped up in conversation and the simple inquiry became an opening to the possibility to enrich our lives. We found a reasonably-priced used piano for sale, and brought it home.

Now we have a lovely piano in our living room and the possibility of learning how to play it looms ahead. For the first week, I was so intimidated I wouldn’t even sit at the piano. I was sure that I needed lessons and the structure of instruction to even know where to begin. A few days later, D got home from school and promptly sat down at the piano. The first night he plink, plank, plunked his way to find all the notes to Mary had a Little Lamb. After a few minutes, he got out his phone and found an online tutorial to walk him through the first phrases of Fur Elise. He soon committed this song to memory too and, within 30 minutes, he had the beginning of a repertoire.

When T got home a few weeks later, he too sat right down and began to make music. The remainder of the summer, they both played for several minutes each morning and each evening. They often explored variations like playing with their non-dominant hand, or with one finger, or depressing the pedal or in two keys simultaneously. Melodies spontaneously emerged from their fingertips. They haven’t had any lessons and their fingering won’t be “right” but they are making music.

After hearing the boys play with exploratory joy and confidence, I wondered why I was waiting for lessons to pave my way. I hear music when the boys play, but worried that when I play it would only be noise. Was I doubting my ability to learn on my own? Am I really so averse to risk that I can’t sit down in my own living room and try? I may or may not make music, but what harm would be done by sitting down and making noise? I thought a lot about the way in which guarding myself from failure was keep me from even trying much less succeeding. What else was I sub-consciously choosing not to do in my life?

I finally mustered up the courage to sit down and taught myself Mary had a Little Lamb one evening. Even better, once that was done, I let my fingers just move. I won’t be on stage at the concert hall anytime soon, but the music is not for anyone else. It is for me, for the joy of making noise, and for the understanding that I can learn and grow.

Since deciding to enroll in ChIME, I have noticed my interest in “living out loud” expanding. That means creating opportunities for thoughts and feelings to take expression in a myriad of forms — sometimes it is movement, sometimes words, sometimes creative art, and sometimes even a few minutes at the piano. I have found that I love the opportunity to create without knowing or caring what the outcome will be. The act of creating something, anything, feels healing. The creative process provides counterbalance to the overwhelming feelings of chaos and sorrow that accompany the too-frequent devastating news of violent action against humans and the earth, natural disasters, wars, and civil discord. And sometimes, the creative process manifests in an outcome that begs to be shared with others — an offering of creation into the world amidst the disintegration. This extension creates echoes that carry creativity and positivity back to me.

I may not gather the courage that compelled Ferris to the float in the center of the parade anytime soon but I will keep finding new ways to live out loud and appreciating the surprises that the practice reveals.

As I explore my own process, I find myself wondering how others choose to live out loud. How many times each day do you approach and then embrace something that is unfamiliar or plain old scary? When do you try something new, even when you don’t know how it will turn out? When do you chose to share your process or your outcome with others?