When I was a young child I watched my older sister play at a piano recital and it was magical. I remember sitting on a red velvet seat in the dark auditorium and the only lights on were brightly shining on a grand piano standing center stage. Finally my sister, wearing a flowing beautiful dress and looking like a movie star, walked out on stage to the crowd’s applause. Calmly, confidently she sat down and began to play. I have no idea what music she played, but each arrangement was complex, impressive and selected to showcase her amazing talent. Ending the final piece in a flurry of notes, her fingers flying up and down the keys in an extraordinary crescendo of sound, there was a pause as the last note drifted off into silence. The applause that followed that silence was thunderous. I remember jumping to my feet clapping wildly straining to see around the adults who were standing clapping in front of me. My sister gracefully got up from the piano bench, walked a few steps and bowed to the standing ovation. The applause seemed to last forever, my sister’s smile was radiant as a young girl walked up to her with a bouquet of flowers. Right there, right then I knew I wanted to play the piano–well actually to be more honest what I wanted was to play in a recital.
So I begged my parents to sign me up for piano lessons. From day one I hated it. I hated having to sit on the bench in front of the piano practicing my scales every afternoon, day after day after day after day. I wanted to do anything but practice. I wanted to be outside playing with my friends or hidden in a corner somewhere with a good book, anything but training my fingers to run up and down the scales over and over, or to practice the stupid “row, row your boat” style songs that my teacher gave me. On a daily basis there were many tears from me and over the 4 long years to come a lot of scolding, threats from my parents plus one or two—ok, actually dozens spankings throughout the years. Every Thursday my mother would load me into the car and drive me to my piano teacher for a weekly session. The lessons with my teacher were pleasant enough, she was a kind, grey hair older lady and after the lesson she always let me pick something out of her candy bowl. However, for some reason, which to me was a mystery at that age, no matter what I told her she could always tell how much practice I had done on my scales and assignments that week. After 4 long agonizing years I talked my parents into letting me quit. I never had a recital.
Today of course I know that there was no mystery of how my teacher knew the amount of practice I was doing. The evidence of my daily work or lack thereof spoke for itself, loud and clear. Looking back I now know that the magic was not in that night I watched my sister perform on stage. The real magic happened in my home every evening for at least an hour every day, year after year after year. The amount of time, energy and effort my sister gave on a daily basis practicing, learning, fine tuning and perfecting playing the piano was what made her into the amazing talented performer.
Some days in sobriety I don’t think I’ve change much from that 10 year old sitting at the piano. If you could see my internal spiritual practice, there are many day you would find me sitting on that bench in tears, not wanting to practice, not wanting to use the tools I’ve been given, trying to convince others that I really am practicing and most of all pouting because I haven’t been given a recital. There are days when I get caught up thinking the magic is in some sort of recovery or spiritual recital that will of course be all about me. There are days, weeks, months when all it seems I do is practice, practice, practice. I still don’t like practice, however, I’m beginning to learn that it is not about waiting for a recital. I have found that there is tremendous freedom, strength, comfort and peace in the daily practice of the 12 Steps and a spiritual way of life.
The funny thing is that now my view of recitals has changed. Today my recitals look like seeing a new-comers eyes light up for the first time, it feels like the hugs, it sounds like the laughter in the rooms, or joining in on the applause when a sponsee take a year cake. Now instead of that child fighting against having to practice scales, my first question of the day is always “what Steps do I get to practice today.” And trust me; it makes for some beautiful music.