Monday, June 15, 2009

Recovery and Growth

As I’ve mentioned before, since my brain surgery last December, my body has changed. I used to be very good at multi-tasking. I could be making three dishes for dinner, talking on the phone, and following the news on television all at the same time. But since the surgery, I can only do one thing at a time. My reflexes are slower. My thought processes are different and I often find myself having to force my brain to do things that before I didn’t even think about.

Yesterday, for the first time since the surgery, I was asked to play the piano at a meeting to accompany congregational singing. When asked I didn’t think anything about it. I’ve done that thousands of times. So I went to the meeting and began playing the prelude. While playing a man came to ask me how I was doing. Before that would be no problem. I could talk and play at the same time, but yesterday I found myself playing all the wrong notes as I tried to listen to him and when I answered my hands stopped playing altogether. A few minutes later, I wondered if it was time for the meeting to start and glanced up to see the clock—something I’ve done hundreds of times with no problem. But this time when I looked back down I had absolutely no idea where I was. Fumbling I picked a spot and went on playing, but it was obviously the wrong spot and sounded atrocious!

The worst part, however, was the opening song. During the prelude there was some wriggle room. I could fudge a little on timing or do my own thing and it still sounded good. But now I had to follow the leader exactly. I was only two measures into the hymn when my stomach tied into a knot and my mind began to think, “I can’t do this! I can’t keep up. I can’t read all of these notes anymore.” I started to breathe heavy and my heart pounded. Then I realized I was dooming myself to failure. Quickly I changed how I was thinking. “I can do this. My brain has changed; I just need to discover how it works now. I made it through the prelude, and I can do this.”

At those thoughts, I could physically feel a change. My heart and breathing slowed. Panic left my head, and I could think clearer. I made some mistakes, more than I would have before, but I made it through without disrupting the meeting.

As I pondered on this after the singing, my first thought was, “I’m never going to accompany anyone again. I can’t do it anymore!” But even as I thought the thought I realized I couldn’t do that. If I give in to limitations, limitations will rule my life. As I endeavor to recover my full abilities, I will make more mistakes. People might criticize me or worse make fun of me. But if I am going to recover my abilities, I need to let mistakes happen and not worry about them. Letting worries about what other people think of my playing or any other thing I do will only hinder my growth.

This is something we all need to remember. Opening ourselves up and putting ourselves in a position where we are vulnerable is essential to growth.


DeRae said...

Your blogs always seem to come to me when I have a need. I have been called to teach Relief Society. Yesterday I almost talked myself into quiting after only 2 lessons. Then I remembered your Truth Tools, and I talked myself into doing the best that I can and not worry about it. I now trust that this calling is what I need for my growth. Thanks again for your thoughts.

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

DeRae, Thanks for the comment. You will do a great job teaching. Remember, when the Lord calls, He also qualifies. So relax and enjoy the experience. He'll help you.

Jenny said...

Good job, Mom!

I had a similar experience to yours with playing the piano at a baptism last week. And the absurd doom thought that kept going through my mind was that my piano teacher's brother was in the audience and I was so embarrassed that he would go back and tell his sister how poorly I had done. (By the way, Barbara Roy's niece lives in my ward.) After wards I tried to write positive stories about the things I learned from playing and how fun it was to play despite my mistakes. It made me want to play and practice more.

I need to re-write stories more with other parts of my life now!

Wendi said...

Thanks for sharing the thought process you went through. It's helpful. I hope you'll continue to recover your full abilities. I appreciate your example. :)

Anonymous said...

I think one of the most challenging "adventures" we go on when recovering or adjusting to limitations is to find new ways to do old things. It can be fun, frustrating and frightening in the best of circustances, but to do it in a public setting takes the heart of a lion. Living in truth really has made you strong and courageous and I have no doubt you will find ways to do the things you love. Plus, probably no one was very aware of your mistakes, they were probably too busy being grateful you were there and admiring you cute, new hairdo. :)Cathie

Anonymous said...

I can relate to the self talk during accompanying congregational singing. I am a self-taught pianist / organist, who learned to play the piano as a 30 year old adult because we lived in a small branch without accomplished pianists and the need was great. As the Lord helped me grow in my ability to play, I got to the point that I could make it through three songs a week without many noticeable mistakes, (especially if I left out the tenor line.) Even when I did make mistakes I didn't get too worked up about it because I knew there was no one else in the congregation who could play better than me, so they would forgive my attempts at growing in my talents as long as they were not asked to play.

The biggest challenge I had was when I would catch sight out of the corner of my eye of a visitor from another ward who I knew was confident in their piano abilities. Then I would get so nervous about impressing them with my ability to play that I would make numerous mistakes.

I had to learn to perform for the Lord, not for others, and remember that my goal was to bring the spirit into the meeting, not to impress others.

Now in my current calling as choir director, I always tell my choir members that it is very nice if we can be musically accurate, but it is more important that we bear testimony and bring the spirit into the meeting. Generally we are successful at doing that, and that is all that is really important in our worship services.

Laura Gordon

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Jenny, Thanks for sharing your revision story. It really works, doesn't it! Keep playing--I will, too!

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Wendi, It is an interesting thought process. It is amazing what we can do if we don't give in to fear!

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Cathie, You are always so kind! Thank you. I know you've been through this and conquered!

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Laura, Thanks for your story. And thanks for the insight. It does solve a lot of problems if we perform for the Lord and not to impress others!

Debbie Feller said...

Sherrie, We all adore you & nobody will be laughing or making fun!!! Isn't it strange when we realize things we have always just taken for granted!! Time will heal!!
Love, Debbie

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Debbie, You are so kind. It has been strange, but every day gets a little better. I am counting on time healing!