benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

HEARING, LISTENING

When I was recording with the trio this week, the first take was pretty uneven on my part because I could not hear myself in the studio.

So I asked for a pair of play-back headsets.

And when I could listen to the bass player and the drummer, things went pretty smoothly after that.

Likewise, I heard my ego tell me to attempt the bravado of squatting 315lbs, which I hadn’t done in a while, but I figured I could manage since I had only just deadlifted the same weight for three reps.

However, at 275lbs, I decided to listen to my body and stop. I ended up getting a good workout at that weight with two sets for three repetitions each set, and most importantly, no injuries.

Today, I heard a complete stranger (but regular) at the gym “feel the need to compliment” me on my weight loss.

I absolutely hate it when people display their ignorance. Especially when they have idea what I’m doing, or what process with which I’m engaged.

I have the feeling that this person wouldn’t dare to comment on a woman’s body in this day and age.

I expect the same social courtesy.

So I’m not listening.

But, clearly, I’m pissed.

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RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME

The owner of a large metro-Detroit piano company comes in this week for drinks.

 

He is attentive and complimentary towards my playing.

 

He says, “ I came to the right place at the right time.”

 

But I know that wasn’t entirely his doing.

 

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

When he started reacting coldly to me this week, I assumed he was having a bad day.

 

I later learn that this manager has been promoted.

 

And then the complete avoidance of every friendly ritual we have developed over the past 5 years makes sense.

 

The anointing of a certain brand of masculine authority obviously cannot now be seen to fraternize with a homosexual.

 

Certainly not with the gay pianist whom everybody calls Sparkles, on account of his joyful demeanor and brilliant wit.

 

No worries on my part though.

 

I am grateful for the many others who are proud to claim me, not just in friendship, but intentionally, as chosen family.

 

Thank you for loving me exactly as I am, and for making me a better person by simply accepting me, without judgment.

BIPARTISAN

A man comes up to me in between songs.

 

He says he has enjoyed listening to my music very much and he that appreciated me “enriching his dining experience.”

 

I introduce myself, shake his hand and thank him for listening

 

He then introduces himself, reaches into his coat pocket and hands me a business card.

 

We say goodnight and he leaves the restaurant.

 

As I place the business card on the piano bench, I glance at it and realize that the man is a United States Senator, currently in office.

 

A quick google search later, I find out that he is a Republican.

 

And even though I am all the things he is not – gay, Asian, an immigrant, a staunch Democrat – it does not matter, he still took the time to have a polite 30-second exchange with a stranger.

 

Because the Arts hold at their most fundamental, the amazing power to communicate across boundaries.

STICKING A PIN IN IT

As I lift the lid up on the piano, I notice that one of the two hinges is broken.

 

The L-pin that secures the connecting halves has fallen out.

 

I search the ground but see no pin.

 

Since it’s not ideal to leave the lid up, precariously supported by only the one remaining good hinge, I shut it back down and sigh.

 

I’m cranky that I have one more item on my list of things to do, but understanding that it won’t get done tonight, I sigh and promise myself that I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

 

The next morning, I’ve forgotten about the whole hinge situation, so I automatically go to lift the lid before I sit down to play.

 

And I’m simultaneously reminded that it was supposed to be broken, and surprised when I feel no shift or wiggle in the movement.

 

I set the lid down and go around to check the hinge in question.

 

There’s a pin snugly nestled there.

 

The janitor probably found it after hours and knew exactly what to do with it.

 

The expression “sticking a pin in it” derives from the WWII slang of putting a pin in a grenade so that it will not detonate.

 

Nowadays, it’s an ill-used business term to shelve an agenda item for discussion later, probably never.

 

This week though, it means that when I waited purely out of necessity, an ordinary miracle happened.

STAY HUMBLE, HUSTLE HARDER

The thing about New Year’s resolutions is that they can really turn against you.

 

Remember how last year was supposed to be: more glitter, less bitter?

 

I must have used a billion gallons of glitter to offset the million incidents that could have turned my heart black(er) with malice.

 

Good thing, I buy my glitter wholesale and in bulk.

 

So I’m wondering what it will mean this year to: stay humble, hustle harder.

 

Already, on my first day back at work I got bitched out for something I didn’t do, which I am pretty damn sure I wasn’t told to do in the first place.

 

I stayed humble by biting my tongue, then apologizing for the miscommunication, even though it wasn’t mine, and just walked away, fuming in very reticent silence.

 

Now, I’m anticipating what kind of unforeseen road to personal growth hell is paved with the intention of hustling harder.

 

Maybe, I should continue to keep stocking up on that glitter.

TINKERBELL

At this time of year, there are many new faces in the gym during my regular training hours.

 

Some people are getting a head start on their New Year’s resolutions.

 

And some other people are there because they are on vacation from work or simply home for the holidays.

 

Today, as I am changing out in the locker room to leave, two college boys are arriving.

 

It’s just the three of us in there and the boys aren’t particularly muscular or good looking, so I’m paying them absolutely no attention.

 

While trying to get my snow boots on without having to untie and retie the laces, I hear one of them mention something “hysterial, yo, that (his) uncle said at Christmas dinner.”

 

He elaborates, “What with all this having to be politically correct and everything, my uncle’s new code for gay is ‘Tinkerbell’, you know, because gay guys stand like that fairy with their limp wrists.”

 

I am laughing internally while keeping a straight face because I do think it’s hysterical.

 

Not because homophobia is funny, but because these guys think that Tinkerbell is actually the gayest character in Peter Pan.

 

One of the trainers walks in,

 

“Looking good big guy,” he says to me.

 

“Must be all that Tinkerbell fairy dust I use while trying to lift with my limp wrist,” I reply as I walk out to my car.

 

I’ll explain what I meant to the trainer tomorrow.

 

But for now, I just wanted to see the look on their faces when two clueless lost boys realized they had accidentally wandered into my Neverland.

IN A PINCH

I wake up one morning to a text message from a co-worker, of a screen shot from Yelp, the restaurant review site, and a ‘laughing until I’m crying’ emoji face.

 

A guest comment reads, “otherwise a great place to dine … watch out for the Asian piano player, he likes to pinch butts.”

 

At first, I giggle.

 

Because not only is it untrue, it seems like a pretty ridiculous and immature statement.

 

And then, reason suddenly kicks in.

 

I begin to feel anxiety over the possible real world consequences of someone throwing out such an allegation of sexual harassment against me.

 

“Have I been Weinsteined?” I text to about 30 people, along with the incriminating screen shot, “and should I be lawyering up right now?”

 

After extensive teasing, the general consensus is that an anonymous post on a less than reputable website bears no weight. Those who have Yelp accounts go the extra mile to report the post as being malicious and slander, so it can hopefully be taken down. Furthermore, I am reminded, my boss who reads Yelp reviews religiously hasn’t even mentioned it, and I’ve already been working two weeks since the post.

 

So I am advised to not loose any sleep over it.

 

To trust the sweet baby Jesus who has always fixed, provided and protected.

 

To not talk about it anymore and make matters worse.

 

To just laugh it off and not give it any more power.

 

But those things are easier said than done when upset.

 

So I go to the gym and work out my aggression with leg presses, hack squats, leg extensions and lunges.

 

This will have to do for now, in a pinch.

LIFE AND DEATH

A regular customer reserves the largest room in the house and treats his entire staff to a holiday dinner.

 

Just before dessert, he waves for me to come in, and then introduces me to the group.

 

They clap and he instructs them to pick the last three Christmas songs for the evening.

 

He slips me a hundred dollar bill, pats me on the back and says, “I don’t know if you know what my business is, but I run three funeral homes. I see regret everyday. So it’s important for me to thank you for a great year of memories. Have a blessed Christmas.”

 

In a season where many of my co-workers are increasingly bitter and unhappy because of internal politics, it gets harder and harder to play songs about goodwill, peace and joy.

 

This tip revives me and gives me new life, not for its generous monetary value, but for reminding me that a very special life was given to death, in order for me to have hope.

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

A ghost of Christmas past came to visit me at work.

 

I didn’t see the apparition, but a regular guest informed me that the spirit was hovering over the piano as I played.

 

The spirit, the guest further elaborated, was definitely female, and enjoyed listening to all the Christmas music, because every time I played a holiday song, the spirit would gently sway back and forth in time to the music.

 

I didn’t think the guest was drunk.

 

I have been told numerous times by guests with the gift of the third eye that spirits have been seen to gather around the piano and dance when I’m playing.

 

The spirits don’t try to enter my body or touch me, (which is always my first paranoid question,) so I’ve learned to just laugh it off.

 

“I guess my approval rating goes beyond the grave,” I’ll quip.

 

But really, I’d like to think that on occasion, one of the spirits this season could be that of my late husband, who proposed to me many Christmases ago, and comes back to say hello.