Perhaps if anyone other than me reads this blog, someone might be aware that I also play piano (and have for a long time) and fart around on flute a bit, and that I’ve messed with viola some time ago.
Piano and flute seem to be the two things I play that don’t make me hate a part of my body. Viola had me hating my neck and (nonexistent) shoulders. Harp has me hating my hands, and I mean hating them. Hating my fourth finger, which doesn’t even come up to the nail bed on my third, and resenting that my fingers are utterly unsuited to the thing because of my relative finger lengths (despite being more than large enough to allow me to play almost anything I’ve ever fancied on the piano with second effort). Having to refinger every damned thing I play on the harp because of it, and knowing very well that I am just flat-out doing it fucking wrong as a result. Doing it all the cheap-shit crappo amateur way.
Plainly put, I’m angry about this goddamned instrument. I love the sound, I love arranging for it, and I haven’t sat at it for a solid month because the last thing I’m in the mood for in my life right now is to sit down and do something that will make me hate a part of my own body. I feel stupid about it because my teacher’s hands are half the size of mine — but she has a reasonable sized fourth finger relative to her third, which comes to halfway up the nail.
And I don’t know if this is me being an impatient, immature whiner or if I really just don’t want to wrestle with this stupid fucking instrument anymore, don’t want to force myself to do something that will make me hate my body. Being frustrated because I just have to slow down and work harder is nothing to me. Being frustrated because my body is wrong and I can’t change it is different. It’s the difference between learning how to do something and learning how to be six feet tall. One of those is bound for failure.
And when I sit at the piano or pick up that admittedly annoying flute, my body is not wrong. I get irked with myself — and get irked with the instrument, if it’s the flute — but I have confidence that I can work it out instead of cobbing up kluges to compensate for the inadequacies and failures in my physical being. I mean, I can handle that damned flute. It annoys me, but I know that when I get ticked at it, it’s just me being impatient and foolish. I mean, my hands aren’t perfect for it; I still wish my fourth finger were decent, but it’s really nothing worth worrying about at all, and most people have to struggle a bit with the bottom hand ring finger. That’s why people use a piper grip on the bottom hand. There is no fundamental body failure or inadequacy that would prevent me from doing something on the 19th century flute (other than not being able to get a C foot for it since I play lefty, which is a failure in the technology, not a failure in me). My limits on that instrument are ones that I will set by my own willingness to work, not ones set for me by my body.
When I sit at the piano it’s even more straightforward; I know that I have hands that are very good for that, so if I can’t do something, it’s just me being lazy. Other than Rachmaninoff, I can manage just about everything I’d want to play on it. Again, my limits are set by me and my own appetite for work, not by a poorly formed body.
But like the viola, when I’m at that harp, I’m struggling against having the wrong body, the wrong hands, the wrong neck, the wrong whatever. I’m not lazy or impatient, I’m wrong. My very physical being is wrong. And struggling against that means pain and possibly damage, all to do crippled, crappy, amateur versions of even the most basic things.
Or am I rationalizing? I mean, that’s what humans do.
I know that my life has been a bit more stressful lately with my mom getting older and work getting a bit strange (I’m not hugely worried, but there is definitely more on my plate), and lately I just do not have the emotional bandwidth to spend on something that makes me hate my hands, a part of my body that has always and without fail been on my side for the last 52 years.
I am angry about this. I am angry at myself because I fear I am rationalizing. I am angry at trying something and not wanting to continue. I like my teacher and I don’t want to disassociate myself from her. I wish I had more time in my life, I wish my job hadn’t gone ever so slightly pear-shaped, and I wish my mom weren’t getting older. And I don’t goddamned feel like struggling once a night with something that makes me hate my body, where my limits are imposed by my hands — which are suddenly my enemy after being my best friends for a lifetime — as opposed to my own controlled decision of where to put those limits.
I think I’m going to stop. I hate stopping because I so like my teacher, and I so like arranging and composing and sharing those things with her, but I cannot stomach playing refingered, corner-cut versions of things that I will never be able to play properly because of physical attributes I can’t do anything about, and hating my hands the whole time. If my life were in a better place right now, maybe I could manage it. Maybe I’d have the emotional bandwidth to tolerate it. But right now, I just don’t. I don’t have the bandwidth left over right now to hate my hands while learning to play half-assed crippled versions of what a proper harp student should be learning.
When I have to struggle with the piano, I hate the piano. When I struggle piffling around with that flute, I hate the flute. When I struggle with the harp, I hate my body. I am not in the mood for that right now, and I dread telling my teacher because I just like her so much, and I have to say that I do like my lessons. But I don’t have the emotional spoons right now to spend on something that makes me hate my body for an hour every night. I can get over hating the piano and the flute, but the harp makes me hate me.