benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

BENCHMARKS

The very first songs I play everyday when I sit down at my bench in the restaurant are a medley of hymns.

 

The hymns are chosen based on the devotional reading from the publication Our Daily Bread.

 

Last Sunday, a woman gently tapped me on the arm after Amazing Grace-Old Rugged Cross-Crown Him with Many Crowns.

 

“That’s exactly what I needed to hear,” she said with tears in her eyes.

 

And I know, with absolute certainty, that I am supposed to me on this particular bench, at this very specific moment, for an important reason.

 

A few days later, I’m on another bench, at an unfamiliar gym, because my home gym has a power outage.

 

The head judge of most Michigan bodybuilding competitions is training a client right next to me.

 

And because the bench press has always been the weakest of all my lifts, I’m hesitant to begin.

 

“I’m the smallest guy here,” I whisper to my coach.

 

“That doesn’t matter,” she tells me, “You have the biggest heart.”

 

With that, I begin.

 

In the end, it wasn’t a personal best kind of workout, but it wasn’t the worst either.

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THE WORLD ON A STRING

Turning 41 this week was not as big a deal as I thought it would be.

 

I know exactly who I am, and I am in love with a life where I do not have to apologize for it.

 

I’m just so incredibly grateful that I’ve got the world on a string instead of holding on to it by a thread.

 

 

THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY

“Today was supposed to be my wedding day.”

 

She states it simply, and softly, in my ear, without a single trace of emotion.

 

She is wearing a gown too fancy to be a Friday night going out dress.

 

It’s not white. But it’s close enough, like a very light ash color.

 

“Will you play Unforgettable?” she asks.

 

Her father is here, and along with the courageous act of a very public dinner, she still wants to go through the motions of this traditional dance tonight.

 

So I play it, and everyone turns to stare at the mesmerizing duo, who have clearly been practicing a long time for this moment.

 

They thank me and return to their table.

 

Her server tells me later that evening that I totally made this woman’s night.

 

She was crying at the table.

 

I didn’t know if the secret was mine to divulge.

 

That those were certainly not tears of joy.

EASTER THOUGHTS

So, I lost the combination lock that I had been using at the gym for the past 5 years.

 

Which made me incredibly sad because it represented some kind of credibility.

 

The lock bore the chips, dents, scratches that can only come from a daily and dedicated fitness practice.

 

My new lock is shiny and doesn’t even turn smoothly.

 

I guess, over time it will get broken in too.

 

Some things clearly need fixing and forgiving.

 

But with some other things, scars don’t have to be necessarily bad.

 

 

 

 

 

GUARDIAN

Since one of my closet and dearest friends mentioned to me this week that the Detroit Jazz Festival presents a Guardian Award to a recipient every year, I’ve been obsessing.

 

Not on getting the award per se.

 

Rather, over what exactly I keep guard in my heart.

 

I’m pretty sure I have a bunch of morals and standards in there that I try to put into practice, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

 

A bunch of loved ones who have touched and shaped me, who remind me that I am capable of love in return.

 

But mostly, I think, there’s a lot of hope and trust in there, which keeps me faithfully guarded against that easy slide into negativity.

BACK-ASS-WARDS

I took a screen shot of a lead sheet from the iReal Books app on my cell phone, emailed it to myself, enlarged it in Photoshop, then printed it out to put in my binder for the gig I’m playing tomorrow.

 

And because management wasn’t co-operating with my advice, I convinced a bride that we move the piano into her room, knowing with absolute certainty that this was the best solution to having multiple musicians work different gigs simultaneously within the same venue.

 

I’m always just plain grateful when problems get resolved, back-ass-wards or not.

SWEAT

On my first day back at the gym since the cold, my trainer took a new approach to getting my strength and stamina back.

 

She loaded up a bar and set the timer.

 

“We’re going to see how long it takes for you to squat one hundred reps and sweat the rest of this cold out of you.”

 

True enough, at the end of it, I felt better than I had been feeling all week.

 

So it should be no sweat then to play this Cinderella Tea event next weekend with a singer friend.

 

All I should have to do is practice with my sheet music at least one hundred times.

 

Trust that rehearsal goes well.

 

Pray that the children will be well-behaved, receptive and attentive.

 

Hope that I won’t have any technical issues with the microphone.

 

Believe that the singer will be in good voice and arrive on time with no problems.

 

Depend on management to handle all the other events that day to ensure no other conflicts.

 

I’m sweating it just a little.

COLD

I’m just back from urgent care.

I have a cold.

The sinus pressure started last night in the middle of my first set at work. By the end of the night the post nasal drip was making my throat slightly sore.

Since there isn’t a fever or body aches, and the strep test came back negative, the doctor assured me it was a simple cold and would be gone in 5-10 days.

I have antibiotics to knock out the 20 percent chance that this might be bacterial (versus viral), and a decongestant to help break up the mucus.

I’m well enough to play.

But too under the weather to lift.

And that, even though I know I’m doing the right thing by resting, leaves me cold.

WRONG DOING, DOING WRONG

There’s a man at the gym who has been warned and reprimanded on several occasions for training clients.

 

He has no contract with the gym and it is very clear that he is not working out together with various people, but rather instructing them on what to do.

 

He has not stopped what he is doing and I wonder when the gym will finally revoke his membership.

 

I also wonder when I will be prone to stopping my occasional fits of jealousy when I feel that I don’t have enough attention, even though, clearly, I do.

 

EDELWEISS

A Middle Eastern couple celebrating an early Valentine’s Day comes in late one night.

 

At dessert time the guy comes over to me and says:

 

“When we were young and growing up in Lebanon, we enjoyed this old movie very much. I wonder if you know any songs from The Sound of Music?”

 

I ask for their favorite one, and after a quick consult, they agree on Edelweiss.

 

As I play, I think how wonderful it is, that an American classic can be so internationally boarderless, and particularly specific to Edelweiss, how the ideas of identity, homeland and departure are still so resonant for today.