Play Like You Know What You Are Doing

Posted by Stephanie Lawless on 1/24/2020 7:00:00 AM

I mentioned feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of the year. One of the things that was getting me down was feeling like I was not getting everything I needed to do done. I am normally pretty good at prioritizing, but things were just coming to fast. My mind was like one of those Bingo Ball Machines, rolling around all of my todo lists. I felt like I kept falling short. In that state of chaos I kept forgetting things, which only contributed to my feeling of inadequacy. I would forget a paper I needed for a meeting, forget to grab my laptop, forget my son needed a bath, forget to check his homework folder, forget to pick up a prescription, or forget to return a call.  Each mistake I made just pushed me further into feeling like I could not be what I needed to be. 

When I was in school I played the trombone in the band. I remember playing very timidly. I was not confident and my performance was lacking. To be technical, I didn’t push enough air through the instrument and sounded weak. I would hesitate and second guess myself and I would fall behind. At some point the band instructor suggested I get a few private lessons. So there I sat, with an adult who was only focusing on me, with no band to hide behind. It was pretty much my worst case scenario. I remember very specifically what he said to me, “You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to play like you know what you are doing. When the music is playing and you make a mistake, you have to keep going. You can’t go back and fix it. You keep moving forward. “Play loud, play confident.” 

I took his advice and started playing loud. If I didn’t know a note I just skipped it and stayed in time with the rest of the group. No one ever noticed a missed a note and people started actually hearing me play. I honestly don't know if I was any good, but I felt amazing. I applied that advice to other areas of my life. I am not an expert in anything. I don’t feel like I have mastered a single thing. What I try to do now is allow myself grace, when I mess up I keep going and don’t dwell on it… normally. Like I said before, I do have times I forget and dwell. I wallow in my shortcomings.  Which brings me back to the beginning of the year. 

One night, after I forgot to check the homework folder, forgotten to give my son a bath, yelled at my boys at bedtime because I lost my temper, and put the boys in bed so late we didn’t have story time and barely got teeth brushed. I was laying next to my four year old, and right before he fell asleep, his eyes fluttered closed and he whispered, “You are a good mom.”  I cried. In that moment I didn’t feel worthy of the praise but he still gave it. I stopped worrying about the dishes in the sink, laundry waiting to be folded, and the emails in my inbox. I just cuddled him a little longer. 

I like that I don’t have to be perfect and mistakes are part of me. In my last article, I quoted Nietzsche. I remember studying his work in philosophy and feeling like Billy Maddison, “He’s good”. However, I have also extensively studied the work of another great man. He said, “I make grave mistakes all the time. Everything seems to work out” (Thor, Ragnarok, 2017).  So I am going to go with that? But really, who am I to argue with a Norse God?


Stephanie Lawless, Assistant Director