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Picking up the pieces.

By Pam AsberryDuo2On May 10th, I remembered the anniversary of my daughter’s death, celebrated my youngest son’s graduation from high school, introduced my ex-husband to my now-fiance, and presented a full-length duo piano recital with a colleague, my first such performance since 1982. I still haven’t fully recovered from it all but I learned a lot. Here are a few reminders the next time I am working towards a specific goal – whether it’s a piano recital, a writing deadline, or a job assignment.

1. It’s okay to let some of the housework go. There were nights I left dirty dishes in the sink, days I didn’t lift a finger to cook or clean, and weeks where grocery shopping and laundry didn’t happen. We survived.

2. You can’t do it all. Since the first of the year, I have done very little that didn’t involve the piano. With 40+ piano students, student events most Saturdays, my personal piano practice, and two professional rehearsals each week, how could I? My writing and jewelry making completely fell by the wayside. I am looking forward to having more time to spend in those areas now after summer vacation begins.

3. Drink water. Remember to eat. And take your vitamins. I always struggle with keeping myself hydrated. But when I am extremely busy I sometimes even forget to eat. Worst case scenario, I end up with headache; regardless, when I realize how hungry I am, I stuff myself with the bad stuff. Healthy, easily accessible snacks are a must. And I know the jury is out on how helpful nutritional supplements actually are. But I swear I feel better when I pop my morning fish oil and Vitamin D. My mind and body function best when I keep up these simple daily routines.

4. Limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol. If I drink coffee past noon, I pay for it at bedtime. Then it is tempting to indulge couple of glasses of wine helps me to relax and unwind. This is a vicious cycle. I am researching the benefits of green tea instead of coffee and working on a relaxing nighttime routine to help with the insomnia.

5. Silence your inner critic. Since I have been playing the piano as long as I can remember, I don’t feel that I play as well as I “should.” As a result, I suffer from debilitating stage fright. Even though I am comfortable speaking in front of an auditorium full of people, the minute I sit down behind the piano my hands and legs tremble, my heart races, and my thoughts go wild. And now that I am older, memorization is an issue as well. Although I have learned mechanisms for coping with all of this, it would be much easier NOT to perform. In the end, I had to give myself the same pep talk I give my students every time they put themselves in a similar situation. No risk, no reward.

6. Be realistic about your expectations. Despite months of preparation, it was unreasonable to expect that our performance would be flawless. It wasn’t. But we had wonderful time making music together and our audience gave us a standing ovation at the end of the concert. It doesn’t get much better than that.

7. Reward yourself for a job well done. Although we enjoyed a nice dinner out with family and friends Saturday night, I felt kind of lost last week. It was as if I had forgotten how to live my “normal” life. My best attempts to reclaim my home and reconnect with neglected loved ones fell short; all I wanted to do was sleep. Finally, over the weekend, I began to feel like myself again. I went grocery shopping; I cooked a meal for my son and his friend; I finished reading a book I started months ago; I cleaned out my bedroom closet.

And I guess we are gluttons for punishment. Because my colleague and I have already started selecting music for our next musical event. Click HERE to see a recording of our grand finale, our own arrangement of a well-known classic rock song. If you enjoy it, we hope you will follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

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Carol Burnside - May 20, 2014 - 2:19 am

Wow. That’s a lot of events and emotions packed into one day. I’d say you deserved some time to regroup and recharge.

Piper - May 20, 2014 - 9:05 am

I would agree with Carol. You are deserving of that time. These are excellent tips, though, Pam. Thank you so much for sharing them. Not to mention the lovely music. It is often said an additional creative outlet helps in writing. I’m still searching for mine…:)

Marilyn Baron - May 20, 2014 - 9:44 am

You sure have a lot going on and I really enjoyed that piano performance. I loved your advice. Thank you.

Pam Asberry - May 20, 2014 - 9:55 am

It sure was, Carol! I am really looking forward to some down time after my student recitals are over. They are scheduled for May 31st and June 14th.

Pam Asberry - May 20, 2014 - 9:57 am

Sometimes I think I have TOO many creative outlets, Piper. My practice time ate up my writing time and I almost completely neglected my Etsy store. But the unpublished Maggie deadline is looming. Time to swing the pendulum in a different direction for a while!

Pam Asberry - May 20, 2014 - 9:58 am

I’m glad you enjoyed the recording, Marilyn. I am looking into purchasing a camera with better speakers and we will try to find a better camera angle next time. That really is me hidden behind the second piano, LOL!

Connie Gillam - May 20, 2014 - 10:44 am

Congratulations on the recital! And I agree with everyone else. Give yourself time to recover.

I’m already following you and your musical partner on Facebook!

Maxine Davis - May 20, 2014 - 10:51 am

Pam, That was such a big day and so many events. I can understand. It will probably take a few days to unload all that stress – it would me. Good luck with everything! You have many talents.

Sandy Elzie - May 20, 2014 - 10:56 am

I’m in awe of how you’ve handled everything in your life. Kudos. I watched the video and left a short message…great job!!!! as to your list, I whole-heartedly agree. Great list. We sometimes to put ourselves last when we need to take care of ourselves in order to have what we need to give to those we love.

Pam Asberry - May 20, 2014 - 11:04 am

Thanks, Connie! We appreciate it!

Pam Asberry - May 20, 2014 - 11:05 am

Thank you, Maxine! But is it really talent? Or just crazy? LOL!

Pam Asberry - May 20, 2014 - 11:06 am

Thanks, Sandy! Maybe I should print this list out and post it on the refrigerator. It is so easy to forget!

Julee J. Adams - May 20, 2014 - 1:43 pm

Congrats to you, your musical partner, WGB and Rock Star!
We keep repeating we need to cut ourselves some slack and take care of yourself. Looks like you finally took the memo to heart and I’m grateful.
At least the next recital will be a hell of a lot easier, huh?
I’m proud of what you’ve done and know that you can be proud of yourself too. Take a breather, get back to your routine and take care of yourself, then take another run at another goal.

Sia Huff - May 21, 2014 - 9:03 am

Wow, Pam. What a huge list of accomplishments for one day. I’m tired just hearing about it. ;) I learned a couple of your lessons a while ago. I can’t do it all. and I need to take care of myself. Thanks for the reminder. Good luck on all your creative endeavors.

Pam Asberry - May 21, 2014 - 9:38 am

Thanks, Julee! I had forgotten the simple pleasures of cooking a leisurely meal, baking brownies, and writing in my journal. It is nice to have time to do those things again!

Pam Asberry - May 21, 2014 - 9:39 am

Those are good lessons, Sia – lessons I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to remember. Thank you!

Walt Mussell - May 21, 2014 - 10:44 am


Sorry I’m a day in reading this. I drink coffee at night and it usally doesn’t keep me up. However, if I was doing as much as you are, I think I would have an IV drip of cappuccino.

Pam Asberry - May 21, 2014 - 10:56 am

Actually that’s not a bad idea, Walt! LOLOL!

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