I started a blog that was supposed to be about thirty days of practicing in a row, wrote about three days, and then took a week off. Today I wrote a post about Thursday last week, and now I'm writing about yesterday's practice, and then I'm going to go practice and write about today's practice; I'm not exactly doing what you might call sticking to the plan. It's pretty tempting to say "well, I tried that blog thing, it didn't work either, guess I'm just going to perpetually feel guilty about how I'm not practicing as much as I should." I do feel guilty! I can't help it. My feelings are my feelings and they have a mind of their own. I feel guilty about lots of things: not practicing every day, not answering my emails within 24 hours of receiving them, not calling my mom every day (though I do generally send her pictures of my cat every day, so that has to count for something), nagging my husband about his socks, his dishes, my dishes, the cat's dishes, all while he's trying to write papers and go to school and work.
Did I mention that I feel guilty? Well, I do, and I can't control that. But I can keep the guilt from controlling me. I once heard a wise preacher friend describe forgiveness as "a refusal to let that thing bother you anymore. That refusal might be as simple as flipping a switch, or it might take years of tears and therapy." So, I forgive myself for the past week of not sticking to my practice schedule. I refuse to let it change my behavior. It still feels bad, but I'm going to plow ahead with the rest of these thirty days of practice anyway. (Just as an aside, that's exactly how I've been interacting with the 30 Days of Yoga videos that inspired this series of posts: I've been doing them in order, but I started them in September and am currently on Day 24. Life happens.) So yesterday, as an act of self-forgiveness in the not-letting-it-bother-me-anymore, I got out my violin and played through not only my usual trill, vibrato, and scale warm-ups, but also all of the thirds, sixths, octaves, fingered octaves, and tenths that I did every day at the height of my practice time and motivation. I got hungry before I actually got around to playing any repertoire, but that's not the point. I spent intentional time alone with my violin, and now I'm writing about it. I'm back on this train and I'm not going to let it bother me that I got off of it for a little while.
I do want to be careful that forgiving myself doesn't fall into two common traps that I've observed in both my own behavior and those around me. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, and it does not mean making excuses. I had lots of good reasons for not practicing over the past week. I'm intentionally not going into detail about those reasons, because there are always good reasons not to practice, and the important thing is to find better reasons to practice than to not. I'm also not going to pretend that I didn't not practice, I'm just going to move forward and give myself good reasons to spend time with my violin every day.