Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC

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Intimacy With A Piano

Me at age 16
I started playing the piano again this week.  My mother-in-law is graciously selling me hers, in order to make more room in her house, so in anticipation of it coming, I’ve been warming up by tinkering around on my electric keyboard. Aaaand it’s very clear that I’m hopelessly out of practice.  🙁
My parents got me started with piano lessons at 8 years old, when knee problems prevented me from being a “peewee” cheerleader, like all the other girls in my class.  I played until I was about 16 years old and during that time, I had teachers who pushed me hard and cracked the whip, as they entered me into all kinds of competitions and recitals.  Truth be told, I grew to hate the stress and facade of it all.  The discipline that it took to practice up to 4 hours every day was remarkable (and in my opinion unfair), for someone so young.  But despite the anxiety that nearly brought ulcers, and all the social sacrifices, I learned that I was capable of accomplishing something extraordinary.  Something very difficult that ultimately resulted in something deeply meaningful and beautiful, to then be performed (albeit “offered”) to a live audience to share.
Yeah, I don’t think peewee cheerleading would’ve done that for me. 😉
I may be going out on a limb here, but it was probably the first experience with intimacy that I ever had.  I became, in a sense, “married” to the piano.  For better or for worse, I was in a dual-relationship with it. I dedicated myself to learn, understand, and bring out its potential beauty and, in return, it gave me something I desperately needed at the time — a sense of “specialness” with its own language.
Of course, we fought a lot, and I often wished for a divorce, calling it quits when it demanded more of me than I thought I could give.  As a budding teenager, the pressure to be like my other peers was mounting, not to mention my gravitation toward boys and being in a much easier relationship than this.  But my piano was a lover in a league of its own, and worth standing by.  It immersed me in its bath of emotion, allowing my body to move with it and live vicariously through Chopin’s sweet Preludes and sensual Nocturnes, Beethoven’s brilliant Sonatas, and Mozart’s intense Concertos, among others.
I have a deep appreciation for the tenacity, patience, and vulnerability it takes to perform something that really moves people.  I mention vulnerability because in order to be a true artist,  you have to open your heart to your conduit and let it inside of you. What I thought were unrealistic expectations demanded of me, were oftentimes just the natural resistance one gives when coaxed beyond their comfort zones.  If you’re open to it, you can potentially stretch into new stratospheres of skills and experiences.  If you’re closed, and only play the easy songs, then you can’t really be surprised if you one day look back at all the time you’ve spent together and see very little progress or fulfillment.
Not many kids (or adults, for that matter!) I know today can claim active participation in a commitment like that.  Their attention span is much too short and there are far more interests to juggle in this culture.
Learning how to bear hard work in a relationship is an incredibly valuable trait.  There have been times when I’ve asked clients to list any major accomplishments in their lives that required hard work and discipline.  I ask if anyone in their lives ever pushed them beyond what was expected, seeing something in them that was worthy of growing.  That’s a big part of the experience of intimacy.  Do you selflessly love the other person to help them go deeper, try harder, reach higher, and open wider to what life may have in store for them?  And…are you allowing them to return that gift?
Even though I didn’t go on to Julliard or The New England Conservatory (as I’m sure my parents would have loved), I still took the ethics of hard work and high expectations into my adulthood.  Having learned the language of music, it was also easier for me to pick up on foreign languages in school, understand other works of art, and do well in Math.  But mostly I enjoy the benefits of being an open person who is capable of being intimate with something or someone beautiful.  One who can feel special, gifted, and intelligent in unique ways. 

Of course, it would have been easier to have a traditional childhood and adolescence, with perhaps a faster experience of passion from various other interests (i.e. boys!).  But psychologist Robert Sternberg once said “Passion is the quickest to develop, and the quickest to fade. Intimacy develops more slowly, and commitment more gradually still” and I have to admit…I’m the luckier for having tapped into a deeper understanding…through music.

5 Comments to Intimacy With A Piano

  1. October 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    What an incredible experience you had. I am excited to see how this trip down the piano aisle goes now that you are an adult. Wonderful writing about your youth. 🙂

  2. New leaf counseling's Gravatar New leaf counseling
    October 8, 2011 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    Wow I remember you playing! I tried to be as disciplined as you! I remember your schedule you made for yourself and always was in awe ! I didn't know that it stressed you out but at 8 I was very envious of your skill and jealous when you got to write your own piece I think it was called waterfall? I bet now you will find it like therapy!

  3. October 8, 2011 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    Wait….who wrote this last comment?

  4. March 1, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the great post. It reminds me that I have to bring more structure in to my blogging. Your blog is very interesting. Please let me know how to go for your rss blog.

  5. March 1, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your feedback! It's always helpful to get it…not knowing who's reading these or whether it's even beneficial, so it's much appreciated. 🙂 As far as RSS, I just have a Facebook page and Twitter account set up for my practice, and new blogs get posted on those as they are developed. Is that what you mean? I'm afraid I'm not as savvy as I'd like to be when it comes to the technical aspects of social media (that's what I need to get better at!).

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