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Thoughts on a (Failed) Cello Lesson

I have of late started to cultivate a creative self. My cynicism had continually dismissed any overt opportunities to create, and I was comfortable in what I often refer to as Lady Catherine de Bourgh Syndrome (finding safety in the idea that if I had tried I could have been a true proficient and therefore there is no actual need to try).

However, my sister Noelle, a brilliant painter, marched into my placid discontentedness, declared that enough was enough, and skewered my illusions of an uncreative existence with Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way. She claimed that my secret dream of being a writer was a good one, and that I was going on this journey to unblock my creative self with her, and that we were going to make a podcast with our friend Anna about it. We dubbed this quest Coffee and Creatives, added our friend Christina to our journey, and set off searching.

What does have to do with a cello lesson?

I am not cellist. I play the piano and enjoy it, but I love the sound of the cello more than anything else. I have been provided with a cello and did take lessons for a few months several years ago, which stirred joy in my tired soul. I think this came partially from learning something novel, but also because the screeching, stubby sounds emanating from my bow and curved wooden box connected with my favorite sound waves, though often more in an allusion to an allusion sort of way.

Julia Cameron explains that to become unblocked, sometimes you need to find another outlet for creative (for me, not writing), to break things up and get the creativity moving. In our podcast, Christina, a lyricist, musician, and writer, talked about how in a time that she was really blocked taking ballet lessons was tremendously helpful. It was something she had always wanted to do, and the rhythm and routine of the creative outlet helped her get things flowing.

When Christina shared about this, my mind clicked on cello lesson. Yet, infuriatingly, I had so much fear of even starting. My excuses flicked from it not working with our budget, not knowing if I could continue them in seasons where work is much more time-consuming, and how it just seemed like a vein use of my time to do this when I could be doing something much more important (I'm not sure what, but definitely there were much more important things I needed to do).

I think the real reason offering up all these excuses was that I was afraid to invest in a creative self, because I am afraid that there is no creativity in the well of my soul, and I'd rather imagine hypotheticals than actually try to draw it out.

So I built up the courage, investigated good cello teachers and found a remarkable one, and she was even willing to work with my budget. I arrived at her house, and it felt like something out of a dream. Old trees lined the brick cobbled road she lived in. When she opened the door, I waved my face mask (we are in a pandemic right now) and asked if I should put it on, she smiled and said no, but that it was important that I remove my shoes before entering.

Her home was was filled with sunshine, bamboo, old wood, white walls, and an enormous friendly dog. I don't know how, but there was a good smell in the house that smelled just like the smell in my first cello teacher's house, 200 miles and 8 years ago.

After pleasantries I opened my cello case and...she inspected my cello and told me it was in need of repair and we could not proceed with the lesson: bent bridge and a broken sound post. She told me of a luthier and assured me that when my cello was repaired she could teach me.

I left, feeling so sad. More sad than a novice cellist with a broken sound post really has any right to be.

I had expected problems and obstacles, but they were around my poor technique or my own personal failings. Not the problems with my equipment. I know that anxiety is a signal flare for problems down below (I always envision Harry Potter in The Goblet of Fire sending up red sparks from the maze when I feel anxious and wonder what is the Kruhm of the matter).

Julia Cameron talks about failures being actually u-turns. Upon a little reflection, I think that the problem is that I have a hard time seeing that creativity is worth spending money on, and since really your bank account is the map to your heart, worth spending me on. Why do I feel this way? Intellectually I affirm that creativity is core to the human experience and worth cultivating. Yet somehow, that isn't in my heart? How do I fix this?

I'm not sure that I have found all the answers yet, but I have called a luthier and am planning to drop my cello with him sometime this week.

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