Monday, December 31, 2018

French Piano Handstand - Living Artfully in 2019

I guess I'm a New Year's Resolution kind of guy.

Looking back at my writing notebooks and blog posts from Decembers and Januarys past, I notice a tendency to make big plans for the "next stage" in my life - writing more, better fitness, learning a language, cleaning up my files at work, etc. Alas, most of my years look the same, and that's OK because I'm pretty happy and in a good spot professionally, personally, physically, and emotionally. And, yet I still have more I want to do both professionally and personally, especially in the field of writing and in the world of the arts. One of the areas I'd really like to grow is in The Arts, and one way I attempted to live more artfully - have more art in my life and all I do - last year was to try learning to play the piano. That's gone fairly well, culminating with the purchase of a keyboard for Christmas this year. I've always been a music fan and aficionado, but I've never actually been musical other than some feeble attempts at guitar like practically every adolescent boy. And I have really developed such a fondness for jazz piano trios, that I figure I've got the next 30-40 years to learn how to do that which I love. So, in 2019 I plan to play a lot more piano.

But there's more. And, I'm calling it French-Piano-Handstand.

Living artfully is my idea of being in the flow and in a groove and living well, doing what I want and need to do with deliberate intention and a sense of joy on the way to always "becoming who you are." Thoreau called it "living the life you have imagined," and there are certainly parts of my life that I have imagined but are still not a reality. Part of it is academic and scholarly in terms of the type of writing I want to do. While I've had a reasonable bit of success with some freelance journalism, and have even sold a few copies of my re-imagined thesis study of the works of Douglas Coupland, I would like to do more long-form writing on both academic and pop culture subjects. I've also done enough travel and food blogging that I think I could find some success in that area. My writing notebooks - as I imagine many writers' are - are filled with ideas for articles and books. If I'm living more deliberately and more artfully, then I will be producing regular pieces, regardless of whether I find a place to publish.

So ... what does this have to do with French or Handstands?

It's a catch-all theme for the areas of growth where I want to devote regular attention. Being comfortable in another language is something I would like to have in my life. And, having studied four years of French in high school, and having lived in Taiwan for five years, I have enough of a background in French and Mandarin Chinese that I ought to be able to achieve and maintain a decent level of competence. To that end I've been tinkering around with a few of the obvious online sources like Duolingo and YouTube tutorials, and of course I have the added benefit of working in a high school where I can always pop in on a class or chat in the halls with teachers and students. But in my view of the life I have imagined, French stands for any academic or scholarly pursuit, including writing. In fact, because I have a son who's a junior in high school (and just scored a perfect 36 on the ACT), I would also like to go back and make sure I can still do the kind of math that is expected on those tests. These days it's so easy to learn so many things online via Khan Academy or Udemy or Master Class, that I'd be a fool not to take advantage. So I plan to.

The "piano" aspect of my French-Piano-Handstand is obviously focused on learning to play piano with a degree of fluency. But I am also re-discovering visual and graphic art, and I really want to add more art in my life in terms of drawing and painting. There are so many amazing opportunities to experience art in and around Denver, including opportunities to take art classes, and I would like to make the visual and graphic arts more a part of my life. I know that I used to draw as a child, but like so many people (especially Americans), I somehow regressed into the belief that "I can't draw." That sort of thinking drives the Fine Arts coordinator at my school crazy because he knows that anyone can be an artist, and I believe him when he claims everyone should be. We should make art regularly. That idea of creation is so valuable - if I do nothing else with the rest of my life, I'd like to create more as I consume less.

And, finally, the Handstand. While my fitness is pretty respectable for a (almost) forty-nine-year-old man, I know I can do better. And, to me, the handstand is the pinnacle of fitness, specifically the ability to pull myself into a handstand from the floor in a yoga pose. So, if I could reach a point where I can comfortably do the crow in yoga, and then be able to do a legit handstand, then I will know that I am in pretty good shape and am physically "living artfully."


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