balance health & happiness music personal wellness

Always Starting Over

January 30, 2021
black and white piano keys
That stuck key is me, so metaphorical. // photo by Steve Johnson on

Music and movement. These are the twin pillars of purpose and pleasure that structure and support a meaningful and bearable life for me. To be honest, I’m probably touched a little with the ADD; I flounder without a focus. Music and movement are how I quiet the noise, but gurl, it’s hard to focus on anything right now. I should probably line up a therapist now to deal with the psychological fallout of my year-long COVID isolation. (We’re only 43 days away from that anniversary. Oh joy.) Anyway, here’s how it’s been going so far in 2021.



This week, I did something that I haven’t done in years, maybe decades: I practiced my piano. Deliberately and with joy, I busted out the Hanon, worked some scales and arpeggios, and then went all the way back to the beginning with Clementi’s Sonatina in C, op. 36, no. 1. We’re talking way back.

For lack of a better idea, my plan is to work through the progressive order of the sonatinas as listed in the front of my old Schirmer Sonatina Album, purchased from Music Mart of Kent for $7.50 a thousand years ago. It’s got coffee ring stains on the cover and masking tape on the binding, so you know it’s good.

I practiced in several 30- to 45-minute sessions over the course of a day. The kids’ online-school schedule only allows for working in the morning, during lunch, and then after school. I played until I was interrupted, or my hands and brain needed a break. Coming back to piano with a deliberate practice plan for improvement is a little like time-traveling, or having the chance to go back to then with what you know now. When I was working on these pieces as a kid, I was simultaneously learning the language of music–reading, theory, history. Now, two degrees in music later, all that is clear. I’m just waiting for my hands to catch up now.

The first movement, the Spiritoso, is memorized. On to the Andante next week.


Learning to play the guitar is my big goal for this year. And it’s going to take some big grit on my part. Things I’ve been working through:

  • Musical boredom
  • Sore fingers
  • Right or left leg to support the body in a seated position (definitely the left leg)
  • Wondering if my hands are too small (they’re not)
  • Researching electric guitars because I read they’re easier to start on

When I took lessons a few years ago during my music therapy stint, we started with Alfred’s Basic Guitar Method I. So, of course, I started it again. I’ve worked my way through the top three strings and have just started chording. It’s slow going, and the slowness is the hardest part of this for me. But, my singer roommate during undergrad taught himself guitar during his senior year. Mostly, he just always had his guitar in hand. He’d sit on the sofa and just play, for hours–watching TV, talking, procrastinating. And now he’s a guitarist. I think about this often.


My goal for January was to exercise an hour every day. LOL. Yeah, that did not happen.

Ambitiously, at the beginning of the month, I reset my Apple watch exercise ring to 60 minutes a day. I’ve now scaled it back to 30 minutes a day. I usually go over, but when it was 60 minutes, it just seemed like too much, so I didn’t do anything. Obviously, this was not a winning strategy. Thirty minutes is better.

Last weekend, I went skiing for the first time in 25 years. (Bill Clinton was president then, for some perspective.) I have to say, it actually went pretty well! It took about 8 hours of skiing to get back into a rhythm and loosen up, about halfway through our second day. I fell on my first and last runs, as you do. I am excited to pick it up again. I hope we can go at least one more time this season.

January Reflections

Every new year, as we all do, I start off with the best of intentions to carve out a more productive and better life. This January was a struggle. I knew winter was coming, but it was heavier than I expected. We weren’t with our family over the holidays. The kids and I hit 300 days of COVID quarantine. There was the attempted coup and insurrection before Biden’s inauguration. Seasonal depression. Frankly, it’s been a lot.

February is short and hopefully sweet. At the very least, it’s another 28 days to get my life together. See you then. xo

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