Lump in my Throat

Lump in my Throat

“Vulnerability hangover.”

That’s what my husband said as he collapsed on the bed.  We had just spent the afternoon at a piano recital.  My girls and husband started piano lessons about a year ago and last weekend they had a recital.  Leading up to the recital we found ourselves in a handful of debacles.  The three of them do lessons before school starts.  While this is super convenient for us, it is a nightmare for keeping track of their piano music.  After lessons, they neatly and carefully place their folded piece of music into their bags for safe keeping.  Oh how I wish that were true.  Instead, they shove it into an overpacked and massively unorganized back pack.  Which, week by week changes shapes and forms, and more often then not, that music gets lost.  While that is a disaster in itself, it lends to less practice and more drama surrounding the piano experience.

So, leading up to this recital I could feel the tension rising.  Missing music and practicing just one page of a three page piece was certainly not ideal, and the day of the recital was a rough one.  Everyone was on edge, emotions were high, and mama was running out of patience.  I found my voice raising a bit adding to the already high tension levels.  In the final moments before leaving the house I was dealing with a handful of last minute items: the dress wasn’t right, the shoes didn’t fit, the sweater was too short!  Oh dear Lord help me…so many naughty words running through my head.

We get to the church.  About 70 people gathered to both perform and applaud these hard working students.  I had a pit in my stomach, sweaty hands, and armpits to match.  If this is how I felt on the side-lines how did my family feel?  First up, my oldest.  She walked boldly to the piano and assertively introduced herself and her piece, A Whole New World.  Gulp.  I held my breath.  She played the first page flawlessly, the grip on my pant leg let up a bit, I exhaled.  Then it happened.  She played one wrong note.  I could see it on her face.  Panic.  Silence.  I started praying like only a mama can.  Silence still.  I am sending her well wishes, love, kindness, warmth, I’m wishing I would have been more compassionate earlier at home, regret.  More silence.  I can see her eyes starting to well up, it has been at least 10 seconds of dead silence and you can cut the tension in the room with a knife.  I want to yell, “It’s ok, honey. Don’t worry”, I want to run and sweep her into my safe arms and save her from this toxic silence.  The lump in my throat grows with each passing second.  She is staring at her fingers…willing them to do something, anything.  More silence.  Eventually, she skips a slew of measures, and instead just plays the last note, the note that ends the song, but certainly not her agony.  I know she’s just a kid and this too will pass, but I am without words, and my lump is growing.

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My eldest and the sweater that was too short.

The other two follow suit.  Each making mistakes and stumbling through their pieces.  My husband struggled too, but not because of lack of practice, just the pressure of performing as an adult among a trove of young kids.

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My youngest and the alternate pair of shoes.

We all head home, heads hung low. It’s as if we’d just witnessed a tragedy.  When we get home, everyone retreats to a quiet place.  I am still feeling the pain of that moment, but there is something else I feel that I can’t describe.  It’s warm and authentic and deep…I feel proud.  How in the world could I be feeling pride, when as a family, we performed the worst (and I’m not just saying that).  I  took a moment to just sit and think, and when I did, the lump spilled over.  I was so deep down proud of my family.  Through my tears I realized how hard it was to put themselves out there.  How hard it is especially knowing you won’t be the best.  How hard it is, to even try,when success is so far away on the horizon.  So, there I sat on the bed, rubbing my husband’s back, as he dealt with his vulnerability hangover ,and I sorted through my unexpected feeling of pride.  Being vulnerable is hard.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s humiliating at times, but, boy, is it inspiring.

Sure, the girls learned valuable lessons about being prepared, but I hope that’s not all they learned. I hope they watched their dad carefully, and felt the same pride I did.   He was showing them, in the best way possible, how to be vulnerable.  He used no words, made no mention of life lessons, he just did, and, so did they.   So, next recital, you might see me standing on my chair yelling a big whoop whoop no matter the outcome, because once you understand, and appreciate the magnitude of being vulnerable, it deserves a standing ovation.

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My husband. Be still my heart.

Swimsuit not optional…

Last week I visited the lovely city of Cancun in Mexico.  We were ready to enjoy all the many benefits of sunshine, sand, and surf.  It is always so refreshing.  Nathan and I go there once a year.  Always 4 days, 3 nights – a long weekend and then it’s right back at it.  Usually the weather is nothing but dreamy, but there is an occasional sun shower.  If we come across a day like that, we make a plan to do the spa.  In preparation for such inclement weather we decided to tour the spa just in case.  It was an upscale spa with a separated men and women area.  I saw this before in Vegas too – very classy.  They do this so that each sex has the ultimate in privacy and so that you can experience all the water/steam/sauna amenities without having to wear a suit.  At the thought…my heckles instantly went up.  I would have to be by myself sans suit.  Uffda.  Why was I so intimidated by being naked?  It really wasn’t that big of a deal, or was it?

As the day progressed and we looked at the upcoming day’s weather forecast, rain was looming.  It was ok, I was ready, face freckled, lips chapped and sun drenched, I could use some time indoors.  I woke up the next morning to the sound of rain and knew spa time had come.  I started my internal pep talk…I can be naked…I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.  I kept telling myself, “no one knows you, who cares”, but I kept feeling that churning in my stomach.  Finally I came to that moment…the Towanda moment (watch Fried Green Tomatoes if you don’t get that reference).  We walked to the spa and I had my mind made up…I would be naked and proud.

So, I walked in.  There were 3 other women in the spa area, all with their swimsuits on.  I smirked with my new found confidence, Americans, so afraid of being nude.  I promptly unloaded my stuff at the locker, dropped my suit and walked my naked little bum cheeks into the hot tub.  I laid there, eyes clothes, pretending to be so cool with my nakedness.  Inside my heart was pounding and I felt a bit nauseous. I sat there practicing my deep breathing until the pressure of watching eyes was too much.  I got up and headed for the sauna.  Alas, at least there I would be alone.  Another 10 minutes passed, I was starting to feel kinda clever.  I walked out, ready to take the cold plunge, patting myself on the back with each step, when my plan got quickly interrupted.   A staff member was high-speed walking my way.  She looked at me with disgust and scolding eyes, arms waving across her chest and says, “Swimsuit por favor!”  Oh. My. Goodness.  I try desperately to think of a French phrase to let myself off the hook, but instead I stare like a deer in headlights.  I am in shock.  I am breaking the rules, being nude is not an option.  I want to run and hide.  Curse that one time I go for it and no one is around to help me!  I nod, walk away, head held high, put my swimsuit back on and sulk in the steam room.  I can. not. believe. what I just did.  What was I thinking??

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Morale of the story?  Wish I had one.  I guess I’m sorta proud that I took a chance and tried to be brave and confident with my body.  Did anyone look at my nakedness and feel inspired to shed their own suit?  Did they wonder at the freedom I felt?  Did they whisper quietly to each other wondering who the crazy American was?  In the end I had a really good laugh with my husband, a really good one.  It was worth the risk, the nausea, the embarrassment, because now I have a story to share and a memory I won’t likely forget.  So, when in doubt, go for it.  Go big and own it. If you get it wrong, at the very least, you can say you tried and then later find some space to laugh at yourself..it’s refreshing.

Red Faced and Giggly,

Sara J (founder of trumi)