guitariversary

A year ago, I had a bad anxiety bender. I couldn't eat; I had no appetite and felt nauseated. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't be at the computer or watch TV or movies or craft or do any of the things I normally do because I was so preoccupied that I couldn't concentrate on these everyday things.

I went to sit with my mother in the living room and bother her because I suddenly had nothing I could do. This so rare -- I have so many things I occupy myself with that I am always working, like a little elfin shoemaker on something. But I just couldn't concentrate. My dad's beat-up old classical guitar was leaning against the bookcase in the living room, as it always is, and I picked it up and asked my mom to show me some chords. I already knew the D chord from previous attempts to learn to play the guitar. I just wanted to learn to play "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore," as silly as that sounds. My mother printed out a chord chart for me and some songs with easy chords: "This Land Is Your Land" and "Sloop John B."

Although I had tried to learn several times, each time I found it incredibly difficult to hold the huge body of the guitar and spread my fingers over the wide neck, and the guitar was out of tune all the time and I couldn't tell whether I was striking any chord correctly. They all sounded like mud!  "Is this a C? How should I know? What does a C sound like? I can't tell!" I didn't know how to tune it, either. I am a musical person, but I never learned any instruments because the idea of taking lessons and having recitals made me so anxious. And I was really afraid of breaking a string or somehow damaging my dad's guitar in another way, so I didn't dare fiddle around with the tuning.

Still, I suddenly threw myself into it, picking the guitar up over and over and over, because it was so hard for me that it required all my concentration. After seeing me suddenly pouring in all this effort, my mom suggested we go to the music store to look at guitars, try a few out and see if any better suited my small hands.

That was the day I decided I was definitely going to learn to play the guitar, instead of giving up because it was so difficult. I mean, it really was difficult for me. My left hand is the worst, I have weak wrists. I gingerly strummed by myself in my room, as quietly as possible, worried someone might hear me.

Over the next many months I slowly continued to practice every day -- and finally, finally, I got my Little Ghosty Boo, a lovely slimline with a tiny neck with a built-in tuner. I have played the guitar almost every day for the past year solid now, often a couple of times a day, slowly conquering those difficult Fs and D minors, adding song chords to my favorites on my UltimateGuitar.com account and basically learning new chords just as they appeared in Jewel songs, or whatever.


I don't think I will ever be a good guitar player; I started learning so late in life (at age 28), that for me, it isn't easy to acquire what are essentially new language skills. Guess what: I'm so poor at playing that I can't even strum upwards, and this is a year in. I still can't even strum with confidence. Maybe I'll never be able to do bar chords without struggling to get my fingers where they need to be. But I can certainly play "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore." It's no small feat for me.

Those couple of months of severe anxiety were awful, even moreso in retrospect, but I am also so glad that my desperation made it possible for me to obsess, fixate, and begin to do something I have always wanted to do. Even if I never become good and I never really play in front of others or even make it through a song without messing up, it has still brought me so much joy that I simply want to keep it up for my own happiness. Music is truly the best therapy.

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