Monday, December 07, 2009

Rethinking: I Can't

More than a decade ago I had carpal tunnel release surgery on my left wrist. My wrists were sore enough that I was concerned that I might have to change jobs (till I realized that *everyone* types to some degree or another these days, and that I need to figure out how to heal them).

With lots of rest and time they healed, but to make sure I recovered as best I could, I made some choices as to how much I could use my hands, and ease up on the more wrist-stressful activities.

Things I stuck with were: computer work (it's my job and writing is a hobby). working around the house, painting, and working with the dogs. The activity that hurt the most to ease back on was music. In particular, I stopped playing guitar, and shelved the idea of doing more drumming.

I didn't have my parents piano at the time (that piano is another blog entry unto itself), so I was essential not playing an instrument at all and continued my musical education by working on singing and doing a lot of unstructured ear training by really learning how to listen to a song and pick out the individual elements - which has turned out to be enormously helpful.

But I find I do miss playing and taking part. Terri now uses my guitar and it gets the attention it deserves and it gets on-stage time even which is something it never got before. It's been long enough and I know a lot more about building of strength that I'm starting to wonder if I could start playing.

The trouble is that music just makes you want to keep playing and the risk of overdoing it is sky-high. The other trouble is that I get bored with the standard open chords (C-D-G-A-Em etc), and am fond of those slightly fancier higher up the neck bar chords, but it's those and wide chords that span 4 frets that just kill my hands. I'm toying with learning more lead guitar though that looks like it could hurt too and I'm thinking of buying an electric guitar again (I had sold my older electric) because electrics are usually easier to play. In fact I have an unpublished blog entry of all my electric guitar agonizing. Unpublished probably because I'm not quite so willing to tell the world how obsessed I can get. :) Though I did admit it to my Facebook friends.

But I need to start slowly with basic chords again and stop after a specified period of time. I guess to keep it interesting I should try to learn some new songs by ear. The cool thing about that is that it really works your brain and you stop a lot which is good for your hands. I noticed the other day that one of the Grammy award nominations is just done with open chords, so that might be worth starting with. If only I could remember what song it was. Guess that's project number one....

But before stopping I need to wrap back around to my original point (and I did have one at least then). This is difficult to summarize and even to put into words and it's likely to sound completely incoherent, but I was taught all about "I can't" at a young age. Now that's not entirely fair as I was given the opportunity to learn all sorts of things and the only reason I notice the "I can't" sneaking into there is that I was mostly taught "I can." The glaring exception to this is with respect to physical training and injury. Physical rehabilitation was not as well known nearly as much as it is now (Remember "Walk it off"? Oh please.) Most everything I've learned about physical therapy and healing from injury, I've learned as an adult. Now that I think about it: pointing out injury and minor disability and war wounds was prevalent all through my growing up particularly with respect to school athletics. "I can't" always got more attention than "I can." It set you apart in a really weird, unhelpful way (in my view) - I'm not talking about serious disability here, more the minor injury things.

So not playing guitar has become my "I can't" and now I'm not so sure I need to keep carrying it around (In fact I'm actually quite sure I don't need to). At the risk of sounding like an Obama campaign: the point is that I can. Probably in a limited way, but it's not all-or-nothing. I can, dammit, I can, and I need to stop being defeated by this. I am not my wrists.

1 comment:

Jan said...

I have played the violin for about 8 years or so, but had to shelve it when I developed a wee bit of osteoarthritis in my neck. But I am now picking it up again after 18 mos and trying to do a work around with my shoulder rest - perhaps setting it higher. I am not my neck! Well, I sort of am, and am also quite the whiner, but still...

I also want to learn the bodhran. Nice change ~ shopping the cheap ones for learning.