When we got a piano, my grandfather asked me when I would start taking lessons.
“I’m not,” I told him.
“Oh, you are playing around on it then?” he asked.
“No. We got it for the kids.”
“And you aren’t learning to play?”
Though I have always wanted to learn to play, it just felt like an insurmountable thing to learn. We had one young son and were hoping for another. I had left my job and was struggling with forming a new identity. (“Keeping house” is not my forte.) I didn’t feel like I had the time for the luxury of piano lessons.
However, my grandfather was truly puzzled by why I wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity, in my own home, to learn something new.
As a child, I was deathly afraid of the water and, despite sporadic lessons, didn’t learn to swim. When I was older, there was never a good time to learn to swim – too embarrassing to let anyone know, too inconvenient to get to lessons, etc.
I spent a lot of energy avoiding water-based activities. For example, I wanted to take a spring break trip to Florida with my friends, but panicked each time someone suggested renting a boat, going water skiing, or doing any water-based activity. Could I fake my way through? Or should I feign disinterest, stay back and read a book? When I started dating my husband, he loved going to Bermuda. When he invited me along, of course I jumped at the opportunity. We went boating and snorkeling and played in the waves, though I was often nervous that I would have some swimming mishap or die faking it.
In my mid-thirties, it was time, not only to conquer my fear, but also to live up to this glamorous image I held of myself possibly jumping off a boat into a lake, with the sun shining in the background…When I could finally swim comfortably, my husband booked a trip to Anguilla for us and some friends.
When we left for Anguilla, I was three months pregnant with twins. But the pregnancy was troubled from the start and, shortly after we arrived on the island, I miscarried. We called my doctor, who said, “Well, in case you didn’t actually miscarry, stay away from alcohol. And if you did miscarry, you shouldn’t have sex or go in the water because you could get an infection.”
I wondered what he does for fun on vacation. But mostly, I couldn’t believe I finally learned to swim and was surrounded by water, but I couldn’t go in!
That was over a decade ago. Now I am dealing with tumors and one of them seems to have ripped open my belly button. With an open wound that is taking its time to heal, I again cannot go into the water for fear of infection. I watch from the sidelines and take photos while the kids play in the ocean and the pool. Or I hang back and read a book or simply enjoy the sunshine.
I’m not complaining. I know that I am lucky to be enjoying some lovely weather and beautiful surroundings with my family. I am lucky to be able to travel at all. But I also finally realize that maybe I should take advantage of the opportunities in front of me at the time rather than assume they will always be available. Because the thing that I am not able to do inevitably becomes the thing I most want to do.
I continue to busy with the kids, chemo, energetic healing, writing, cooking, keeping the house somewhat organized (always the house), but maybe it is time for piano lessons?