I just kept strumming

Monday, April 25, 2016

It had been a long and productive Monday.
I ran across campus to minimize time spent in the cold, the sound of headphones blaring in my ears and dull thud of my feet on the pavement as the fluff of my scarf bobbed against the top of my chest. The night was young and I was invigorated by the pace of the day. Reaching for my car keys, I decided to reward myself with an evening spent however I wished.

I didn't have to think about it. All I wanted to do was play my guitar.

I got home, put my things away, and quickly prepared and polished off my usual snack of frozen blueberries drizzled with peanut butter and topped with shaved coconut. (I'm telling you. IT'S GOOD.) I had gripped the neck of my guitar, and was teetering a little as I lowered to sit cross-legged on my bedroom floor when it happened--

my D string popped.

I'm not sure how it happened. Don't even remember the exact sound it made. I only know I was in disbelief and, in that moment, pretty stinking sad.
This didn't stop me from trying to play it, though.

Which proved interesting. Because as a novice player, I tend to rely on the relative location of a string to quickly find them. With a prominent string missing (I suppose the fact that there's only 6 makes them all prominent strings), I was suddenly fumbling over songs I'd played dozens upon dozens of times. Out of desperation, I tried to fix the problem by reaffixing and tightening the shriveled string--the spoke groaning as I twisted and twisted, ultimately resulting in a repeat snap. My proud and beautiful instrument suddenly looked like it was missing a tooth, and by the sounds of my fumbling and general something's-not-right of the guitar, I wouldn't doubt if my roommates started to wonder (when I'd stop and) if I was ok.

Someone who has never experienced what I'm about to refer to may think it's a stretch. (Though this is quite possible coming from a mind so analytical, it seems to find life parallels like a middle schooler does gum under a table in their cafeteria.) But as I was trying to adjust to a D-stringless guitar, I couldn't help but notice how much it felt like loss.

You try to go about life as you always have. Sometimes you get so good at it, you forget something is missing, that something was ever there. You always know in the back of your mind that it was, of course; no matter how conscious you are of it--or successful you've been at trying not to be--in your heart of hearts, you know it was. You wonder if it could ever sound as beautiful. But you also know you can't just give up. So you pursue a new normal.

Sometimes others inadvertently remind you. Not intentionally, but with confused eyes that search your casual expression for answers, because it's only their natural response. They weren't expecting it any more than they've come to terms with it; haven't realized the need for acceptance of what you know you can't change like you have.

I suppose if I were to take my guitar downtown like many musicians do on Sunday afternoons when the weather begs us all to get out and enjoy the day, some passer-bys would judge me. They might think I chose to play the guitar that looked and sounded like that. Perhaps they'd wish I'd conceal my scars like the rest of the world so they wouldn't even have to wonder.

Then, of course, you have the ones who don't genuinely care about what you may have been through, but merely stand around and pretend to sift through their pockets and purses for spare change to throw into your empty guitar case until you offer them an explanation that eases their curiosity, at a cost their tattered dollar bill and spare quarter could never begin to pay.

But I'd smile, of course, because I've learned I have nothing when I don't have love--and because those people act not out of malice, but out of their own honest-to-goodness ignorance and immaturity. And that's ok. Because they'll get there. And when I suspect they've already missed that train, I'll still choose to extend grace, because I treated people and their pain carelessly once, too.

You're right. Perhaps it was a bit of a stretch. Because in reality, I can buy another guitar string in the morning, and will only have forfeited a few bucks and a night of practice. But someday, someone might ask me: What was it like when everything was suddenly different from what you knew? And what did you do?

It was like suddenly playing your six-string without it's D. And I just kept strumming.


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