When I’m up on the bandstand, I actually have to play with twice as many people as are up there.  I have to play with the musician I hear.  I also have to play with the musician they think they are.

My piano teacher used to tell me a very corny joke.  It was about a man who used to hit himself on the head with a hammer.  When asked why, he said, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”

 

I have to admit there’s something about this joke that hits a little too close to home.  I have a habit of creating problems for myself.  Part of the reason:  solving them feels so good.


Yes, you got that right.  I create problems I didn’t actually have before.  Then I solve them.

 

My superpower is writing about ideas.  It would be easy enough for me to live my life without ever writing about good ideas.  Plenty of other people write about ideas, and I’d have lots more time to watch shows like The Office.

 

Everyone has a superpower. 

ne night a few months into my career as a professional jazz musician, we were playing some tune.  I was killing it.  I was so into what I was doing that I was having a euphoria baby right there on the stage.

 

Then one of the musicians shouted at me on the bandstand in front of everyone.  He completely shut me down.  Although I was hurt and mad for a long time, I came to understand years later why he did it.

I always promised myself I’d put out a great album some day.  I also assumed it would be one of mine.  Then, there we were, a year and a half into this project and I suddenly realized, “Oh…this is it.”

 

After over two years of work, Decades, the first album by the Front Porch Session Players, of which I am a member, has been released!  We didn’t know it was going to take two years.  We also didn’t know those two years would be as worth it as they turned out to be.

 

I am gradually losing bone in my mouth.  It’s possible that in a few years some of my teeth may fall out because there won’t be enough bone to ground them.  Other than taking excellent care of my teeth and gums, I’m still trying to figure out what to do.

Good piano technique always eluded me. After 12 years of lessons, what I could actually do on the piano when I got to college was laughable.  Or not so much.

 

I eked out bits and pieces over years:  having the hands in position, free activation of the fingers, stability of the base.  Each idea got me a little closer.  But there was always that sense that I was missing something obvious and important.

 

Then I had a skype lesson with a Taubman teacher. 

The other day I was driving behind a truck.  Stamped in the metal back of the truck were five letters, something like VEREX.  My attention was caught by the “R.”

 

It had a couple of notches on the left and right sides of the top-half of the R.  I found myself wondering, why were those notches there on the “R?”  Did they have to be there?

They did.

 

 

I just got back from Italy.  My first time there.  I was anxious for several reasons.

 

First, I always get anxious when I travel.   Second, I spent a year studying Italian to learn to speak some essential phrases.  I have a lot of fear around acquiring and using new languages. 

 

Third thing is the funniest of all.  I was afraid I would love it there so much that coming home would be intolerable, unbearable.  That isn’t quite what happened. 

You’ve probably head the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”  Of course it’s literally true: before the light comes up, it’s the moment at which it’s been dark the longest.

 

It is true in any other sense?  When things look their bleakest, is that an indication that something better is right around the corner?  I think yes, and here’s why.

 

The despair event is an incredibly powerful part of anyone’s life.  I’ve survived many of them.  It’s that moment when you absolutely lose hope because there’s no way you’re ever getting out of danger, trouble, the dark.

 

The moment seems utterly convincing.  You feel cut off from every source of hope or rescue.  You’ve been in the dark so long that you can’t remember or conceive how to get out.

 

Many people have succumbed to this moment.  They have done something rash, taken their own life, taken other lives.  If I could do anything for those people I’d tell them this:

 

There’s no way you could have reached that darkest place without having traveled a huge distance to get to it.  The road to despair was not a short one.  It came after many trials and failures.

 

One of the reasons you’ve reached the despair moment is that you’ve actually done everything you can do.  You’ve exhausted your resources and your options.  There’s nothing left for you to try, and so you are powerless to fend it off.

 

But all the work you’ve done, the things you’ve set in motion, the energy you’ve expended, is still out there.  It’s enough to carry you just a little bit farther forward.  It takes you, without your having to do anything more, to another place where you can see at least one option, a light to move towards, a hand to grab.

 

People who fail, who quit, without having reached the place of despair, will not succeed in this way.  Theirs is the despair of being afraid to try, or of being kept back by some element that is out of their control, and it holds them back from expending their full effort.  It’s important not to confuse the two.

 

In the moment of despair it’s important to do one thing.  Don’t give up.  Be still if you have to, but wait.

 

It would be insensitive of me to claim that every despair moment results in a triumph, or even a way out.  Many people live lives of despair, or are in situations that are so far removed from their control that they will never have the world they deserve.  I hope my little essay won’t be misconstrued as blaming them for not sticking it out.

 

I’m simply suggesting that for those that have been striving, that have exhausted every possibility, it is a reasonable choice not to give up.  While accepting the feeling of despair, recognizing its power and its unanswerable grief, one should consider that one has earned the right to be in that place.  And if one has earned the right, then the feeling of despair is not equivalent to defeat.

 

***Innovative News***

We are doing the final mixing on Decades, the long awaited album by my band, the Front Porch Session Players.  Please stay tuned to get a listen to this two-year, fifteen man project!

Adam Cole is an author, educator and performer who blogs weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and artistry.  He is the director of Innovative Approaches to Music, a comprehensive look at the benefits of music learning.  To take a quiz on what kind of music warrior you are, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net

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