I was reminded yesterday how difficult it is to start something new for me when I read Rhi’s post entitled Accessibility about her failed attempt to join a poetry reading group because nobody else turned up. I was impressed by her courage but also touched by her writing because it resonated with my own experiences. It occurred to me when I was writing a comment though that even when I have “broken” into a new group, maintaining contact and presence in a group also takes an effort no matter how well I know the people in them. I guess being sociable is a struggle basically.

Today was my recorder group meeting. For months now I have not been gaining anything much from the group as a player but I kept going for a number of reasons I suppose. I feel a responsibility to the group, I am the closest there is to a founding member and I guess that represents a continuity now for perhaps fifteen years. I am not sure whether that counts as dedication or loyalty, perhaps for the former has morphed into the later. I have introduced people to the group because I think that is part of why the group exists (to encourage people to play recorders) but also because it about being sociable too. We don’t just play, we sit, chat, drink hot beverages and on occasion share from very different views (some of which I perceive as very annoying!). Over the years I have moved through the instruments, learning new recorders as I go and playing challenging music. That progression has been enough I suppose but progression has stalled. We have tended to play simpler music (because otherwise one could hardly describe the sound as music) and I have tended to get “stuck” on the same instrument because a few people can only play two instruments (descant and tenor).

I guess I got bored and disengaged but mainly I felt frustration at the inability of some people to practise or to try to learn a new instrument. When two members said they were going to learn a new instrument, it made such a difference to me, it gave me hope that things would improve however slowly. After last month’s orchestra rehearsal, I also felt I needed to make more of an effort to challenge myself since it seemed I could no longer rely on my weekly sessions to help me improve. Looking on the internet I found daily exercises to do that I could print out. I vowed to try to do ten minutes most days and unsurprisingly, these helped my playing become more relaxed and smoother.

Today, we played through several pieces. The first was fairly straightforward notes wise, but timing was challenging but we got a good enough semblance of the piece eventually. The other music was something we have played before and this went well and sounded good. The difference from last week was that the weaker members had practised the pieces. They had tried, I had tried and it was obvious from the results. The music was not particularly challenging but I still enjoyed it because we made a good sound.

It occurred to me too, that I could turn the argument around. I can be incredibly stubborn and stuck in my ways at times probably partly to protect myself but also to stay in control by making my own decisions. As my partner has often pointed out, my actions or inactions also has an effect on her and putting myself first and concentrating on my own needs can be incredibly hurtful to her. Unfortunately I can rarely deal with her pain, I shutdown to the emotional overload. I do recognise though that I can make a difference to her by trying to do some of the things she needs. She wants a tidy house whereas I often find the decision making process on what to do with things too much, so I have a tendency to switch off to the mess (I see it and dismiss it). We have two fifteen minute sessions of tidying up scheduled each week at a set time as a compromise. I understand it isn’t much timewise but it is slowly making a difference to long term untidy areas. It takes an effort on my part, but I can usually sustain fifteen minutes of choices even if some are too difficult to do all at once.

In the ideal world we would live in a tidy house, with a tidy garden. But we don’t and I don’t suppose we ever will completely. I can try though and in making that effort perhaps my wife can accept that that is enough to be going on with. Perhaps it is the same way when I see my recorder playing friends making an effort and trying to progress and it helps me come to terms with my own frustrations.

It isn’t all about helping others though. If I practise my recorder playing, then my ease of playing can support others to play better, my reduced anxiety can help me spare some energy to help them but that support for others initially comes from supporting myself. Tidying up allows me to vocalise my anxieties and discuss them with my wife. She can support me to learn how to make decisions on clothes and paperwork and in building up this experience, I can apply these learnt rules to make my life easier with less luggage.

Perhaps I am saying that the desire to disengage with an action is also a wake-up call to creatively increase my own engagement in something connected but simpler. Re-engaging in a connected discipline might eventually feedback and possibly allow an improved relationship with the initial action. So for instance, solo cycling may help me to get out cycling with others or solo swimming may help me get back into swimming in my club.

I think it could work.