I said to him, "You played the wrong note. So what. What do you do now? Do you quit or do you play it again? Do you quit or do you practice? What happens if you quit? What happens if you stay in the seat and erect your spine and reshape your embouchure and steady your fingers and blow?"
He looked down at his feet, and mumbled, "I don't get better, or I do."
"So, which is it? What do you want?" I asked the options kindly, but I asked them.
He turned back to the music stand, centered his horn, and blew out the first chords of the Imperial March. No squeaks this time.
This morning, I had a meeting. "He saw Mrs. L and turned in on himself," she said. "He turned down a snack!"
He loves Mrs. L. He loves food. What?
We have a tradition: Thursday night deep talks. Sometimes these happen on Thursday, but as often they happen on Friday or Monday. It really just depends on when said deepness needs to be talked out.
Tonight, Friday, I initiated a Thursday night deep talk as he packed his instrument away until tomorrow.
"Have you ever heard the expression 'Fake it until you make it?'"
"Well, Misse used to tell me to do that when I was nervous."
"What were you nervous about, Mama?" with a definite emphasis on 'you'.
"All sorts of things, honey. Being liked. Being smart. Making the dance line..."
He snapped the case latches shut and moseyed to my lap.
"What did it mean, what Misse said?"
"It meant that sometimes you have to pretend to be comfortable or confident or capable or ready. And ultimately, do you know what that sort of pretending is?"
"What did I ask you earlier, when you slapped your head and said, 'This song is too hard'? What could you do?"
"I could quit or practice."
"And what might faking it until I made it be like?"
I see the way he turns in on himself when he's nervous. When he doubts himself. When he doesn't feel up to snuff. It is a behavior I am all too familiar with. The turning in to the darkness, to the false feeling of invisibility. The hiding behind 'can't' versus shakily bucking up before 'faking and making.' Sometimes, but not always.
"Honey, let me tell you. It is scary for me to write so openly about politics and social justice. I was not raised in a place that championed the questioning of the status quo. But I do it anyway because it feels to me right and just. I am scared, but I make myself do it. What do you think that making myself do it is?"
"Practicing?" he murmured.
"Yes! And do you know what happened to me today? I left my meeting and as I walked through the school parking lot I saw a lovely acquaintance sitting alone in her car. It was an odd time for a mom to be parked in the overflow carpool line, and as I approached her, I saw that her eyes were shining.
“Are you OK?"
"Oh, I'm OK." and we exchanged deeper-than-pleasantries catch up talk. But soon enough, I was in her car skipping Pilates, and she was crying, and I was nodding.
"And at one point she said, I sort of hate Facebook but it's allowed me to see that you are an amazing person."
"And I blushed and said thank you, and still I am so moved, honey, because I was practicing speaking my truth even when it was scary, even when it meant pretending not to feel dark and worried, even when it meant being decidedly NOT invisible, and someone essentially said thank you for that."
"The only way I know how to be more like the people I admire -strong, brave, vocal women- is to fake giving no fucks until I don't. It is scary but it's the only way I know. And I want you to see in yourself all the absolute wonder and magic I see. Does that make sense, hon?"
"It does, Mama." His lip quivered, and we snuggled tight, and I said, "Sweet pea, what is it to ask for help?"
"It's practice," he said.