So Jim got me a bass for my 31st birthday this last June, and my parents got me an amp to go with it. Did I mention that before? And I’ve played it a grand total of oh, four or five times. Yep. I suck.
It sits there in the corner, mocking me with its rad black sleekness, taunting me with the potential music therein which I am just not making. "You’re no Kim Deal," it seems to say, "and will never be. You’re really more of a Sid Vicious, except you don’t even stand there looking cool not-playing. Ha ha ha ha, pudgyish thirty-something days-of-glory-long-past mom."
So I try. I pick it up. I adjust my strap. I employ my tuner. And I attempt to "play" something. And just as quickly, I take pity on the ears of those around me and put the bass down again. And go cook something or clean something instead.
Yesterday, Jim took the boys to play arcade games at the local Fun-Park, leaving me with an hour and a half of solitude. I told him "I’m going to take a bath and play my bass." He gave me a sweet sure-you-are smile and headed out.
I took my bath. I plugged in my bass. I turned the volume waaaay down on my amp, and I started noodling around. Discovered how to make the strings quit buzzing quite so much. Figured out how to play "Jingle Bells" (Merry Christmas, y’all!). And finally went and printed out the tabs for "Debaser," put the song on an infinite iTunes loop and did my valiant best to kinda-sorta play along. Then before I knew it, the boys were home and I felt compelled to stop playing so no one would have to hear me.
But about ten minutes (I think… time flies when you’re playing bass) before the boys got home, I realized something. Just about everything I do that I could consider "work"–writing, cooking, errr, writing and cooking–comes easily to me. I don’t have to try particularly hard to draft an article or come up with an exciting new way to combine chicken, onions, spices and rice. I get the pleasure of a job well done, but not the frustration of struggling with a challenge. And writing an article or fixing a meal is a fairly instant-gratification process: it’s done, it’s paid for (or eaten), and I’m on to the next thing. No agonizing process of self-doubt and reinvention… there’s no time for that when you’ve got hungry kids or anxious editors waiting for you to produce.
So maybe fumblin’ with the bass, going through the long slog of suckitude, will actually do something Character Improving for me. Maybe struggling and sticking with something for which I appear to have zero natural aptitude will prove a crucible of sorts, burning off the useless and lazy and comfort-loving squidge of my personality and replacing it with tested and battle-hardened virtue. Maybe it’ll give me the confidence to actually finish a book (oh god I want to finish a book but it’s so scary). Maybe I’ll learn to ride a motorcycle, climb a rock, run more than half a block without expiring in fish-mouthed gasps.
Or maybe I’ll just be able to get through "Debaser," and perhaps one or two other Pixies songs, without proving an utter embarrassment to myself and others. Heck, that sounds pretty good too.