Playing big and taking up room

Maddy and Cate, 2008

Maddy and Cate, 2008

I've learned a lot over the years, listening in on Maddy's violin lessons. It turns out that there are a lot of life lessons that can be extrapolated from learning an instrument from a patient, wise teacher--even vicariously, while sitting observing from an old scratchy sofa. I could go on and on about all the little epiphanies I had sitting there in Cate's studio: about focusing on just one thing to improve at a time, about relaxing and sinking in, about slowing down, about patience with the process, about form and function. Cate was pretty much my Mr. Miyagi.

One day as I was watching, Cate asked, "Maddy, do you consider yourself to be someone who holds pieces of herself back & tries to take up less room? Or do you think of yourself as someone who opens up and shares and isn't afraid to take up space?"

"Well...both, I guess." (Which is true...she does both. Maybe we all do.)

"Hmm. Right now your violin is asking you to open up more.  To be bigger.  To take up space. To share more of what you're feeling through your music.  It's a great invitation!  Can you do it?"

Meanwhile, I'm over on the scratchy sofa, inspired and inwardly nodding my head and saying "Yes, I can, Cate. I will play bigger.  I will share. I will take up space."  

My life asks that of me, too, and it's scary.  I'll admit it, I'm a walking contradiction.  I want to rise to the challenge that opportunities bring.  But I also crave staying well within my comfort zone. Preferably with pajamas on. It's easy to play small, stay quiet, let someone else step up to do what needs to be done. Pieces of this Marianne Williamson quote have been rattling around my brain so I had to go look it up again. I'll bet you know the one:

"Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

I do not have this down at all. One of my new year's resolutions this year was to stop for a moment when I had a "somebody really should" thought (you know the kind? "Somebody really should __________ (pick up that litter; host a neighborhood block party; start a family newsletter; get a thank you gift for that teacher, etc.) and be the somebody who does it. I've pretty much failed that one so far!  But. I really do believe that playing big(ger), showing up, shining out, and really occupying our space is a gift to our kids as well as ourselves. It's the permission slip for our kids to do the same in their lives.

Thanks, Cate. Six years later and I'm still practicing.

p.s. Last year this clip from a poetry slam competition was going around. Did you see it? Lily speaks powerfully of observing her family tendency toward shrinking women: “She wanes while my father waxes. I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking... I have been taught accommodation...[My brother has] been taught to grow out, I have been taught to grow in.”