writing down the sun

In Which the Heroine Buys a Violin

Posted in strung out by annie on April 16, 2007

I find myself here, on the wrong side of 40, recently divorced and a single mother, struggling for cash and sanity.  So what do I do?

Get therapy? No. Nothing against it. Just (a) no time; (b) no interest; and (c) no insurance. Also, no cash. Ergo, no therapy.

Buy a sports car? See above.

Get laid? Hmm. Definite possibility. But … no.

What I do is … I buy a violin. A cheap one, off eBay. And I, who have never played a string instrument a day in my life, intend to learn. No – more than that. I intend to teach myself how to play the violin – widely believed to be the most difficult of all instruments to learn, nearly impossible to do so on one’s own. But there you have the essence of my personality, right there – I am drawn to the impossible. I crave it, like crack-addled monkeys in a lab. If there’s a project near and dear to my heart, that’s great. But if I can find a way to make it impossible, or at least much, much harder on myself, then – ah, bliss.

I’m sure that therapist I can’t afford would have a field day with that disclosure. But since I can’t afford therapy, this blog will do.

It may seem “out of the blue” but there is some precedent in my backstory for a violin obsession. I grew up singing, playing the piano, dancing. I spent long, blissful hours cocooned in a beanbag chair in my room, huge pod-like earphones cradling my adolescent head as an eclectic mix of tunes carried me off.In high school, I joined a competitive choir, classically trained and very, very good. I participated in that choir for four full years, and it was the anchor for a turbulent teen-hood. In conjunction with that, I received classical solo voice training – also some in college, where I branched out into musical theatre and straight theatre as well.

And then, my relationship with music rather suddenly ended upon graduation. I had no daily outlet, no choir or show cast to rehearse with, no time to lose myself in a beanbag chair. I went to law school, graduated, and moved to the coast to begin my career. I married, had a child, and dealt with some health issues.  I quit my job, launched my own practice, and buried my mother in the space of three months. By the end of the fourth month, my marriage was over.

And that’s where I found myself last week – broke, overweight, overloaded with obligations (most in relation to my struggling law practice), battling some health conditions (hypertension, fibromyalgia), and longing for … something. I didn’t know what.

Then two things happened that helped me figure out “what.” One – my brother came to visit. T is 14 years older than I am (so, mid-50’s) and last year, he picked up the cello. Just like that. Out of the blue. No prior experience. So, T came to visit and while he was here, he received two phone calls from people who wanted to learn the play the cello, too, and were asking his advice about how to get started. These were obviously grown-ups calling, and it planted the seed. That seed sprouted two days later, as I was tooling around on eBay, after selling some stuff to make a little cash, when I happened across a listing for a violin. It was listed for $50. I was shocked. I didn’t know you could buy a violin for so little cash!

I made the decision within a few seconds. I said a “holy yes” to the wild-assed idea and bought the damn thing.

Right now it’s at a local music shop. When it arrived, the G string had slipped off the peg (more about that in a future post), and it needed to have the chin rest attached. I’m awaiting a phone call telling me it’s ready, and also the arrival of three books and a DVD from Amazon.com, some rosin (also from eBay), a scales chart from another online store, and the Suzuki for the Violin – Book 1. The music stand ($5, also eBay) arrived Saturday. I’ve spent over $100 already. For someone struggling for cash, it was an odd choice.

But it made me gleefully happy for the first time in – well, several years  – when I opened that long rectangular box Saturday morning and unzipped the dark blue case.  It’s a feeling that hasn’t gone away entirely, at least not yet.

I know what I’m up against – more on that later, too. I don’t want to write everything this first time out.  Suffice to say, I don’t expect to be playing anything but “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by the end of the year – and that, badly.  I have realistic expectations – and I’m still insanely giddy over this little project. That has to say something about the authenticity of my dream. This is real passion.

At least – so far.


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