This is from a clip on YouTube “Allison Janney – In Character: Actors Acting”

“I like control.” – Michael Jordan

What is the difference between being in control and being controlling?  Is there a significant difference or is this just another idea contrived by humans in order to make ourselves feel better?

I was visiting with my friend Mark the other day.  He is a piano student at the local university and one of the most talented pianists I have met.  We were talking about composers and which ones we prefer to play and listen to over those we would rather skip.  It all came down to J.S. Bach.  Yes, he is/was amazing.  I made the comment that I prefer to learn and play Bach because it gives me the sense of control that I feel is lacking in so many other areas of my life.  This is a pretty recent development for me – probably over the last five or so years.  There are days when I feel like I have been spread so thin and my patience is sorely lacking.  There are days when I bounce from activity to activity and feel like I have no real control over my schedule.  There are days when my emotions are so over the place that I really have no hope of functioning in any sort of appropriate capacity.  These are the days when Bach helps to reign me in and find purpose and order in the madness.  Today, I could have benefited greatly from having the opportunity to spend 30-60 minutes just with Bach.  I think that there could have been no better cure from the madness that kept evolving over the day than being alone at the piano with one of my dearest friends – Bach.

When I am working, I always feel so in control.  I know how to do my job and I do it well.  Then a powerful group walks into the building and every person freaks out.  Every.  Single.  Person.  I go from knowing how to do my job to all my superiors questioning my ability to do my job just because a bunch of people walked through the front door.  This is exactly what happened this afternoon.  As my coworker and I were regrouping today and coming up with a new game plan for the afternoon, our department manager comes up to us and starts ordering us around.  The longer the afternoon went on, the more I nearly snapped in two distinct pieces.  I was doing the same thing that I do every Wednesday afternoon because my job function doesn’t change based on people of importance in the building.  However, all the tension from the management team made me want to cry and scream….or something as appropriate.  This is not control.  This is pure controlling behavior.

We are not meant to control each other.  That is not what this life is about.  We need to take control of ourselves and trust that the other people in our lives are doing the same.  I am a human being full of emotions, talent, drive, and the ability to do my job well.  Trust that this I will continue to do and we will get along very well.  If you decide to try to control my actions, well, we might come to a not so happy end.  I am a person that is full of a range of emotions and in any given day, you will see many of them.  I hide nothing.

“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.” – Marilu Henner

Peace and Love (And Sanity),

The Mad Pianist

The Illusion of Progress

“Be not afraid of going slowly.  Be afraid only of standing still.”-Chinese Proverb-

The above proverb has, in a way, become my motto.  I used to have it written on the board above my desk at work.  In fact, I should probably do so again.  I would see it many times each day and have the reminder that as long as I am laboring and working to make progress, then everything will work out just the way it should.  Progress always.  

I had a teacher in high school that was pretty influential on my life.  Her name was Judy Pederson and she was my Honors and AP English teacher.  I remember her telling our class more than once (probably many, many times) over the years that when we cease to learn something each day, that’s when we die.  I didn’t really understand it all that well as a teenager and I’m not sure I fully get it even now.  I just finally realize that not striving my hardest to make progress is not just standing still – it’s going backward.  I cannot afford to move the wrong direction in life – I’m not willing to try that move.  Progress always.

One summer a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a friend of mine, Luke.  He was working on his MM degree at NYU but back in the area for a little while giving some music theater workshops.  I was the pianist and it was truly remarkable to see the transformations that the attendees (I can’t think of an appropriate word to call them) made over the course of their session.  I also learned a few things.  One night during this time, after I practiced my scales and was making my plans for the rest of my practice session, I decided to try a little something different.  In these workshops Luke talked about a process called centering – and I decided to try it.  Granted, as a pianist I am not using my words to convey the emotion but rather all the technical things like tone, voicing, and the like.  Well, I decided to try it anyway.  It was amazing.  I tried it first with Bach.  My Bach had been with me so long that it had just become a part of me.  As I played it, it felt different – I was not, icing different things within the piece – important things.  It was incredible.  I don’t know that I even would want to go back to playing it the way it was.  Using the centering  process on Bach was like being in the dead center of a lightning storm.  Lightning is flashing all around you and things are being seen in new and exciting ways – but in flashes.  It was like being taken to a higher realm and understanding things that my teachers have been trying to tell me about playing.  Progress always.

As I reflect on this moment, I wonder if I have once again started standing still or moving backward?  Am I consciously making that effort toward progress and all of its wonderful results?  What are you doing to ensure that you are moving forward?  Send me your ideas – I would love to hear them.

Is this idea of progress really just all an illusion?

Peace and Love (and Progress),

The Mad Pianist