My accompanist emailed me the other day asking at what metronome tempo we would perform the Beethoven violin sonata. Marked Allegro con brio puts it in the upper range of fast and lively, but also with brilliance! I set the metronome at 144 and flew through the sixteenth-note runs, and struggled to slow the eighths and quarters to match the rapid tick toc. I find it is typical for me to rush the more difficult passages and I have to question why. Why do I do that? Why do I squint my eyes tight and fly through them like a child pinching their nose to quickly gulp down bitter medicine, just to get it over with? I have always been this way. When anything is difficult, when I am facing deadlines in my writing or my business, or even with big family events, I tend to go into overdrive, acting too quickly, leaving no room for presence or appreciation of the moment.
I am often reminded of this tendency of mine, and its remedy, by the words of an Apostle, Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be…[The wise] resist the temptation to get caught up in the frantic rush of everyday life. They follow the advice ‘There is more to life than increasing its speed.’ In short, they focus on the things that matter most…We would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Let us be mindful of the foundational precepts our Heavenly Father has given to His children that will establish the basis of a rich and fruitful mortal life with promises of eternal happiness. They will teach us to do “all these things … in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that [we] should run faster than [we have] strength. [But] it is expedient that [we] should be diligent, [and] thereby … win the prize.”
What is the prize? Truly living and being present in life, not rushing from one deadline to the next, just getting by and speeding through. It means more listening to my children and watching for the ways they communicate that aren’t just words. It means thoughtfully preparing my articles, studying them out in my mind and feeling the heart in the stories I choose to share. It means seeing the potential in my music students and helping them enjoy the process of learning. It means savoring the relationships of my business and feeling joy in other’s success.
I slowed the metronome, but sent the finished tempo to my accompanist. It will be the goal for performance, but my practice will gradually adjust so I can be present for those runs as well as the quarters and feel the music throughout, rather than focusing on the double bar line at the end.