Life and Health

When the going gets tough…

When’s the last time you did something really hard? Like so frustrating you want to cry, hard? For me, it was yesterday.

I am not musically inclined. And we can unpack those feelings of inadequacies for days but it boils down to having a rudimentary understanding of notes from a couple years of piano lessons and elementary school music class. However I have always loved music and been a little envious of people who have musical talent.

Enter the ukulele. These instruments have been gaining in popularity for the past few years fueled by the idea that they are easy and nonthreatening and cute. My church has a ukulele band and is offering a 101 class this summer that I decided to take. I figured that people say it’s easy and here’s someone who will teach me for free as a way to break up my SAHM-ness of the summer so why not?

hard SO I don't like it or if it's hard BECAUSE I don't like it

Except that it’s not easy. I have now done three weeks of the class and have left class almost every week on the verge of tears. IS IT HARD THEREFORE I DON’T LIKE IT OR IS IT HARD BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE IT?

As previously stated I have no idea what I’m doing. I would see chord diagrams for guitars and they made no sense. Again, my prior musical experience involved piano and reading music that had notes and lines and a scale. None of which show up in this type of music. So I am starting from square zero. Not even square one!

This makes me consider why this class brings me to tears and then why do I keep doing it?

It has been a very long time since I’ve felt completely inadequate in my life. I usually have some level of competency or frame of reference because I am generally staying in my wheel house. I haven’t gone beyond my comfort level in a long time. Even when I first started running and training for the half marathon, I know HOW to run, there wasn’t a steep learning curve on the basic movement. The last thing that felt this new was when I started learning how to sew, but even then I still had some intuitive understanding of put fabric here, hit pedal, things get stitched together. My sewing may not be pretty all the time but I at least I had some idea of how it is supposed to work.

When it comes to playing this tiny guitar like thing I. Have. Nothing.

And this got me thinking about the risks I take or don’t take in my life. The things I try or don’t try and sometimes the excuses I make for why. I have lived inside my comfort zone for as long as I can remember. It’s comfortable there (duh), I understand it, I know what’s expected of me. I also like to blame my responsibilities for the inability to spend mental/physical/emotional energy on new things but growth and achievement very rarely happen in the comfort zone.

This whole experience has given me a new perspective for being a parent and a teacher as well. I am reminded of how it feels to not know what I’m doing. It is incredibly frustrating to try and learn something that until now was totally, one hundred percent, foreign to you. I have new eyes for some of the Munchkin’s meltdowns when I’m just trying to get her to behave like a “normal” human being (for example: we must put clothes on before we leave the house) because she has no idea what it means to be a person at this point. I have new compassion for my students who are hearing some of the words I am saying for the first time in their lives which can admittedly sound like another language (sometimes because it is…damn biology).

I can’t believe how terrible I feel because I don’t know something and how that makes me want to give it up; and I’m an adult with compassionate instructors with whom I have a relationship. I can only imagine what it feels like to take risks when you’re NOT in a safe space: probably not worth the effort at all!

I’ve promised myself that I’m going to stick it out for the six weeks. I’m half way through and I’m not sure how I’ll feel at the end of the six weeks but I’m glad I’m trying something new even if I feel completely awful about it right now. I just wish the Munchkin was a little older so she could appreciate my utter failure right now.

6 thoughts on “When the going gets tough…”

  1. Hi – Sorry to hear you’re finding this frustrating at the moment. I taught myself uke a few years ago, mainly using online resources. Sometimes it’s just a matter of seeing the material presented in a different way, so that it ‘clicks’ with how your brain works (we all have preferred learning styles). I’ve put lots of useful beginners’ sites & free lessons on our uke club website – most recently a Twelve Days Of Ukemas series ( – scroll through from Day Two or have a general search & see if anything is useful to you. Some do use a bit of sheet music, if that would make life easier. And get in touch if you’re looking for anything specific, as I might be able to point you in the right direction without you getting overwhelmed. I’m sure once things start slotting into place you’ll feel a lot more comfortable with it – these things all take time. Good luck! Jeanette


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