“Jazz” — Part 2/4: Poorly-with-Skill


I feel I became an adult when I was 30 years old or so…

I had just made a career change from teaching string orchestra in public school to a marriage and family therapist — I was just putting together the plans that would become my private therapy practice, and I was working a couple of teacher-related jobs to piece-meal a salary while that prospect grew.

I was a substitute teacher, an after-school teacher, and a guitar instructor — all with elementary aged students (I had always taught middle and high schoolers). And it was at this point in my life that I learned what it was like to TRULY suck at something

In all honesty, it was humiliating: I really had no idea how to manage classrooms of young children.

It was exhausting; I constantly felt defeated; I was not the person I thought I was; I was trying to learn, but it all happened so fast! I asked for help, but didn’t really receive much [with the exception of my lovely wife — a veteran PRO in the classroom].

This humiliation took root in me, and I noticed myself change. I was a little emptier; a little less certain of myself; I stood less upright; I probably drank a little too much…

Eventually I was faced with a choice: remain imprisoned in this humiliation, or give myself permission to experience it as humility. (These two “sister-states of the will” are so near each other, after all.)

This is no Hero’s Story, however. The movement toward humility was somewhat a tragic one — many parts of myself had to die to make space for new growth of maturity. It hurt.

As this humility began to take shape, I understood more and more what was happening to me: I was beginning to learn to live with “Not-Knowing” without resistance.

We all experience varying levels of certainty throughout life, and the difficulty in moments of uncertainty seem to be related to the degree to which we resist the experience of not-knowing.

“Don’t Know” is something that has become a more frequent visitor in my life since I became an adult. I have begun to recognize its taste it in my relationships, in my parenting, in my career, in music… what I am seeing, however, is that the edges are a little smoother; the challenges a little less threatening; and the task a little more playful.

Greeting “Don’t Know” as a companion rather than an enemy is something that humility is teaching me (what little taste of true humility I have experienced in my young life), and there seems to be something essential and generalizable about it.

Adapting to the inevitability of not-knowing involves a willingness to allow it to be present — a playfulness — as it shows up in so many modes of life: family, work, emotion, loss, and music…


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