From the moment she slipped her feet into her furry slippers each morning until she tumbled into bed at night, Joli was on the go. She took pride in the fact that while many of her peers were seen to be slowing down, she was described by friends and family as a blur of efficiency and accomplishment.
Her marriage of 40 years was solid. The kids were grown and on their own. She was still working part-time, but that was because the work truly interested her, and a part-time position had been available. She was even pursuing a life-long goal of learning to play a musical instrument, the piano; and had dreams of someday performing--at least for herself and those closest to her--with a respectable amount of technical prowess.
Still, Joli was not happy. A strange sadness bit at her heels and heart; and try as she might, she could not outrun it. Even today, a piano lesson day! "What is wrong with me?" She demanded an answer from herself, but none was forthcoming.
At her lesson, she played the Passacaglia with blazing speed, ending it with a double-fortissimo flourish. Expecting words of praise from her teacher, she heard instead, "Joli, I've been meaning to talk with you about something, and now may be the time. You obviously have a great interest in learning to play, and you practice diligently. But ...," the teacher paused before continuing, "although you are playing all of the notes, you are not playing each note. Every note has a beauty of its own; and the attention to each individual note's beauty is what is missing from your playing. And, you are missing something too, by not experiencing that beauty. You need to slow down, breathe and enjoy all the elements of the piece, not just rush through it.”
The teacher asked her to go back to the beginning of the piece. "Play the first line, right hand only, accenting just the first and third beats of each measure. ... Now accent just the second and fourth beats in those measures. ... Now play all four beats, and listen to every note. Do the same with the left hand alone. Listen. Love each note as you play it.”
Joli began to steam on the inside. This exercise was ridiculous and childish. It was slowing her down, wasting her good time and money. After today, she would look for a teacher who would recognize her maturity and ability.
"You know,” said the teacher, “it is like when we let ourselves slow down to notice and accent a beautiful moment we might experience in our day. You do that, don’t you?”
“Uh, ...” Joli hesitated.
“Now, put both hands together. Listen. Pay attention. Accentuate the beauty of each note as you play it. ..."
Joli did, and then sat for a moment in stunned silence.
"Oh, my gosh," breathed both Joli and her teacher simultaneously. "That was gorgeous!"
Driving home, Joli stopped at a red light, momentarily tempted to feel inconvenienced by having to slow down. But then she took a deep breath, looked out the window, and noticed a large old oak tree with sunlight shining through its leaves. "Ah," she breathed, "how lovely."
Pulling into her driveway, Joli paused for a moment, rolled down the window, closed her eyes, and allowed a slight warm breeze to caress her face. "Ummmm," she sighed.
The 2nd grade girl who lived next door came out her front door with her dog, and walked toward Joil's driveway. Instead of rushing into the house, away from the encounter with the child, as would have been her usual pattern, Joli got out of her car and waved. "What's your dog's name?"
Tucker," the child answered. "Do you want to pet him?"
"I sure do." The dog's happy tail-wagging and wet tongue on her hand made Joli laugh.
An hour later, Joli was in the kitchen preparing supper when she heard her husband step through the door. “Accent each note, each moment, each gift,” she heard in her mind. She walked to her husband, wrapped her arms around him, and gave him a long, loving kiss.
"Whoa, baby," he said. "You seem happy tonight."
"I had a good piano lesson today," she answered.
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