Monday, March 18, 2013

Failure

I/we had a painful thing happen a few weeks ago. At first it was too tender to talk about and I really didn't think I would blog about it...my immediate reaction was to just move on and forget about it. But it's turned in to a beautiful thing in a way and it has caused me to do some great thinking. At the end of February, Michelle had a violin concert. Her violin teacher (who is WONDERFUL!) ended up getting sick in January and then had surgery. So between Christmas break, her illness and surgery and so on, Michelle had only a few lessons in December and January. I have learned a little about the violin from observing the lessons but I don't play and don't really know a ton about music, although I appreciate music.


Anyway, Michelle had a concert to help prepare her for Federation which is this coming Saturday. She worked hard to practice. But she was being accompanied by my sister, and they had only had one chance to practice together (and it was before Michelle had her song memorized.) We got stuck in traffic and the day just wasn't going so well. She stood up to perform and got part way through the song and just got completely lost...the piano accompaniment does not play the melody so it really doesn't help her to pick back up if she gets confused and she stood there looking petrified and embarrassed. Finally, she figured out where she was supposed to be and continued playing. It was really quite terrible. Michelle was so embarrassed. She came home and said that she was awful and she didn't want to play violin any more and that it was so embarrassing. She tends to get very nervous and worried around concerts and tell me repeatedly that she wants to quit...but the rest of the time she likes it and I think it will be a real blessing in her life if she sticks with it, so I've made her so far.

But I must admit, I felt like I had failed her somehow. With my new calling, I am busier than ever. I make sure she practices, but I had been less involved in her practicing...not paying close attention to her form or to making sure she was getting her fingers right on the tape, etc. I'm not the best at this to begin with, because as I mentioned, I don't play violin. But I'd been worse. I knew she had really tried to master the song, but without much help from me and after not having several lessons, she just wasn't ready. In my head, I thought, I'm not sure I can keep doing this. It hurt my heart to see her feel so discouraged and embarrassed. I had kind of decided that I'd make her stick with it until the end of the summer, but that I'd probably let her quit. I didn't want her to quit right after a bad experience and feel like she'd given up or was a failure. And I was smart enough to not mention anything about her quitting or about my feelings to her. I tried to build her up and tell her that she still had a month until Federation and that she could do it. But inside, I doubted.

Well, the next week we were going to a lesson. Her teacher is always so positive...she has high expectations, but she is very kind. But inside I was dreading going. I knew how sensitive Michelle was feeling about the concert and how tender my heart felt when I thought about it. (I think I have insecurities at times about whether I am doing enough as a mom or whether my working--which I have to do--will have a negative affect on them. My biggest concern about accepting the call as Relief Society President was whether it would mean more time away from my children and whether that would be harmful to them. It does mean more time away from them, although I try to do it in ways and times that impact them the least...and I feel certain that if I serve to the best of my abilities, the Lord will make up the difference and bless my family. But still, I have those insecurities at times. This was definitely one of those times!) I feared that at the lesson the teacher would express disappointment or disapproval. She didn't at all. She gave some suggestions and reassured Michelle that there was still a month and that she could get it. Then she had Michelle play through the songs again and really drilled the parts she was struggling with. She'd make her play a little section 10 or 15 times correctly and then move on. She has repeated that in the subsequent lessons. Michelle came away from it feeling so much better, and so did I. Federation is this coming Saturday, and Michelle may or may not play perfectly, but she will play to the best of her ability, which is all that I (or anyone) can ask of her. She still whines sometimes about practicing and she gets discouraged that it isn't easier. But she also absolutely loves to see or hear people playing the violin. I checked out a CD from the library by Jenny Oaks Baker where she is playing the violin and Michelle loves it. She loves Lindsey Sterling's youtube videos. Today I shared a video with her that our Relief Society teacher, Natalie, shared with us. It is about a young man who has no fingers on his right hand and uses a special prosthetic to play the violin. He is amazing!! She was so impressed.

I was talking to my dear friend Brenda about this right after that first lesson after the concert. I told her a little bit about how terrible I felt, how Michelle felt and how I hated her feeling like she'd failed...how I had struggled with whether to let her quit or have her keep trying. As we talked, Brenda said that maybe this was a good thing that she experienced this failure. As we talked, I realized that it was a good lesson. Michelle is going to have disappointments in life. She is going to try at some things and fail. But if she learns that failure (or what was perceived as a failure in that moment) is not the end, that she can pick herself up and keep trying, then that is a valuable lesson. If she has the opportunity to fail in fairly safe ways now (yes, this was embarrassing, but there weren't that many people there...and there were no long term consequences) then it will give her greater confidence, greater ability to get back up and dust herself off and keep going when bigger disappointments come. And that is a valuable life lesson. So neither of us are failures after all!