Life lessons crop up, emerge, or even squeal in the most unlikely places, an everyday gift to each of us. The fine print that our logic often ignores is being open to the lesson, even when the cold sting of rejection and churn of duty urges us to close up, sign off, and pretend it didn’t happen. I nearly did that this past weekend but there is no ignoring bagpipes, especially when the piper is peeved. It went something like this. I spent the day at a trade show with a couple dozen other authors and several dozen avid readers, and it was terrific. For this solitary vocation, it was a necessity: getting out of the house, meeting other authors face-to-face, perfecting the pitch as visitors browsed for hints and swag. But in the glare of the house lights, fuelled by coffee and chocolate and recycled air, doubts emerged with each passing hour. Clearly I was the worst writer there, the least interesting, the lowest in sales, called ‘author’ not because of talent or promise but because I paid the fee and showed up. Now the warm goodbyes of strangers-turned-colleagues, some fresh air and a nap sent the doubts on a bit of a hike, but it took the Muppets to send them packing. More about that in a minute.
While I was flogging my wares down the street, my preteen piper was on Halifax’s awesome Citadel Hill wrapping up a four-event competition in which she earned two firsts, a second, and a third, taking the overall award for her grade. It was a great accomplishment. But. That second place, it was to someone she knew, on a tune she thought was solid. That was all she could think about, not what she won, but what she lost. The good-natured teasing from her peers, meant to show their pride in her accomplishments, threw fuel on the fire and by the time she got home frustration was waging all-out war on her outlook. Now the only folks more competitive than those swaddled in kilts are, perhaps, writers. Called by maternal instinct from the ooze of my pity party, we sat on the couch and shared miseries. Yes, we took pride in our work. No, it didn’t seem that was always recognized. But did we believe we did our best? Yes, we did. We repeated it over and over, until the black cloud melted and our stomachs unclenched. We can be our top judge or our worst critic: which will it be? A judge, we agreed, and a good one, who tells it like it is with constructive comment and encouragement, not insults or doubt. We will hold ourselves to our highest standard, and not tear ourselves or others down in the process. She hauled out her instrument and began to practise. Her final song was Danny Boy, described on the page as a Londonderry Air. When she read it aloud, though, it sounded like London Derriere. She giggled, we cracked up, and we hooted until we were sore. Then we watched this clip from The Muppet Show, with The Leprechaun Brothers, aka Beaker, Animal and Swedish Chef, and their rendition of this classic song. No awards, no medals, but clearly a winner:
Who were we kidding? Life is so much more than a competition. So, what do a writer, bagpiper and the Muppets have in common? We all share the same Derry Airs. Thanks for reading.