15 July 2014

Out in the Long Grass of Grown-Up

This is Week 7 of a "situation" with one of my piano students. I'm losing sleep over this. It doesn't spring directly from the piano study but it most certainly impinges. Here's the play-by-play:

WEEK 1:  Mom writes a check for music tuition that bounces. I contact her to let her know it bounced and that I was assessed a fee at my bank. She says she'll bring a good check round that evening but doesn't actually drop it in my box until three days later. There's no communication between the night I expect the check and the evening it actually arrives.

WEEK 3:  Student arrives 15 minutes late for her lesson. No apology or explanation from Mom or student.

WEEK 4:  Five minutes past the scheduled time for the lesson, Mom calls to say that she is out of town and her daughter is at the house of friends (just down the street from my house) without her music books and....  I said 'no problem,' I'll drive over, pick up the student, swing by their house to retrieve music books and bring her back to my place for lesson. Mom says thanks.

WEEK 5:  First lesson of the new month. Policy states tuition is due at the first lesson. Student does not appear for lesson. There is no communication before or after the lesson. I wait. One hour after the scheduled time, I leave VM and text message on Mom's cell and drop her a note on FB. No response.

WEEK 6:  I telephone the day before the lesson to ask if I should expect the student at her regular time (I've heard nothing from Mom since the call in WEEK 4.). The student (who is, by the way, 7 years old) answers Mom's cell phone, checks with Mom after she hears my question and comes back with "Yes, Mom says I'll be there tomorrow." The whole family is in Memphis shopping for the other daughter's birthday party so Mom "can't come to the phone."

Dad delivers daughter two minutes early for her lesson the next day. No tuition check. I walk out to the car after the lesson to inquire but "I'm just the chauffeur" he tells me. He says he'll deliver my message to Mom and they'll bring a check by later that evening. They did not bring a check later that evening.

WEEK 7:  Today is 7 days later...still no check...still no communication from Mom or Dad. I have decided without reservation that I will NOT call today to see if she's coming tomorrow.

Will she show up tomorrow?  If she shows up without tuition do I teach the lesson anyway? Is that unfair to the paying students or irrelevant? Or do I welcome her in and pass the time making cookies or sharing coloring books and crayons? What if she shows up with partial tuition? Do I even show up tomorrow or am I away when she arrives?


 As I said, I'm losing sleep over this. Somewhat groggy this morning, I grabbed a washcloth and stepped into the shower. Afterward, I noticed that the washcloth and the towel were the same color and was surprised how forcefully this noticing reverberated in my psyche. Really grabbed my attention:  I was suddenly wide awake. And smiling. Got a good feeling from the color coordination.

And considered for the first time the significance of matching towel sets. For some people. Historically, I could care less. Any matching that happens in my linen closet is purely coincidental but it occurred to me that matching towel sets -- and socks and shoes and etc. -- might be extremely comforting for some people in a world where so much doesn't match or make sense. I considered the easy amusement the towel and washcloth brought me -- compared with the sleepless night I suffered as a result of the "situation" with my piano student. 

Next door, a man with a noisy leaf blower is meticulously clearing the driveway of fallen leaves. It is July but it rained last night so there are a few leaves to clear but not nearly enough, in my mind. to make a difference or be worth the noise and effort. 

I think again about the comfort to be taken from clearing and matching what we can find to clear and match in this crazy world. Making order from the reigning chaos.

I think about the advancing complexity of growing up. For the first many years of life, when I was
confronted with a confusing situation, I just cried my heart out and moved on. I hid from scary things and rolled on the floor laughing when something funny happened. I was drawn to pretty things and reached out to touch them.

Life happened right next to my skin and visceral response was immediate and unambiguous. With maturity came the need to mediate experience, to analyze events and my feelings about them and to decide whether/how much/how to express those feelings, how much to let other people see me without "personality makeup".

Though it has crossed my mind, I have rejected storming over to Mom's house, banging on the door and screaming "What the fuck?!" as an acceptable response to the piano "situation." Though I
registered an impulse to cry and stomp my foot and yell "Stop it!" when leaf-blower man commenced his work, I rejected that reaction and chose instead to close the window and have a cup of coffee.

I am leaning now toward being here tomorrow, whether my student shows or not. She likes the various sounds my digital piano can make. If she shows up, maybe I'll just let her play with the instrument for the hour while I clean the bathroom or play backgammon online. She's a sweet kid. I don't know what's up with her Mom but my gut feeling toward her daughter is affectionate. Maybe I'll just go with that.

We do what we can. Find our enjoyment where we can. Make sense of what we can. And let go the rest.