I just got back from Italy.  My first time there.  I was anxious for several reasons.


First, I always get anxious when I travel.   Second, I spent a year studying Italian to learn to speak some essential phrases.  I have a lot of fear around acquiring and using new languages. 


Third thing is the funniest of all.  I was afraid I would love it there so much that coming home would be intolerable, unbearable.  That isn’t quite what happened. 

You’ve probably head the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”  Of course it’s literally true: before the light comes up, it’s the moment at which it’s been dark the longest.


It is true in any other sense?  When things look their bleakest, is that an indication that something better is right around the corner?  I think yes, and here’s why.


The despair event is an incredibly powerful part of anyone’s life.  I’ve survived many of them.  It’s that moment when you absolutely lose hope because there’s no way you’re ever getting out of danger, trouble, the dark.


The moment seems utterly convincing.  You feel cut off from every source of hope or rescue.  You’ve been in the dark so long that you can’t remember or conceive how to get out.


Many people have succumbed to this moment.  They have done something rash, taken their own life, taken other lives.  If I could do anything for those people I’d tell them this:


There’s no way you could have reached that darkest place without having traveled a huge distance to get to it.  The road to despair was not a short one.  It came after many trials and failures.


One of the reasons you’ve reached the despair moment is that you’ve actually done everything you can do.  You’ve exhausted your resources and your options.  There’s nothing left for you to try, and so you are powerless to fend it off.


But all the work you’ve done, the things you’ve set in motion, the energy you’ve expended, is still out there.  It’s enough to carry you just a little bit farther forward.  It takes you, without your having to do anything more, to another place where you can see at least one option, a light to move towards, a hand to grab.


People who fail, who quit, without having reached the place of despair, will not succeed in this way.  Theirs is the despair of being afraid to try, or of being kept back by some element that is out of their control, and it holds them back from expending their full effort.  It’s important not to confuse the two.


In the moment of despair it’s important to do one thing.  Don’t give up.  Be still if you have to, but wait.


It would be insensitive of me to claim that every despair moment results in a triumph, or even a way out.  Many people live lives of despair, or are in situations that are so far removed from their control that they will never have the world they deserve.  I hope my little essay won’t be misconstrued as blaming them for not sticking it out.


I’m simply suggesting that for those that have been striving, that have exhausted every possibility, it is a reasonable choice not to give up.  While accepting the feeling of despair, recognizing its power and its unanswerable grief, one should consider that one has earned the right to be in that place.  And if one has earned the right, then the feeling of despair is not equivalent to defeat.


***Innovative News***

We are doing the final mixing on Decades, the long awaited album by my band, the Front Porch Session Players.  Please stay tuned to get a listen to this two-year, fifteen man project!

Adam Cole is an author, educator and performer who blogs weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and artistry.  He is the director of Innovative Approaches to Music, a comprehensive look at the benefits of music learning.  To take a quiz on what kind of music warrior you are, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net

I have never learned another language.  Not that I haven’t tried.  But for whatever reason, I never felt like I could master the vocabulary, understand what was being said, or come up with ways to express myself in another tongue.


But I’m going to Italy with my family this summer and I decided that this time I was going to make it happen.

This is my favorite saying: “He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare.

And he that has one enemy will meet him everywhere.”  (Ali Bin Ali Thalib)   I never realized that I could use it to learn a new language.


Last week I read a statement from an aging scientist.  His suggestion was that, as we have probably passed the point of no return on the changes in our climate, we should treat our lives the way we would if we were terminal.  In other words, enjoy what’s left, celebrate music, joy, love.


It put me in a terrible depression for a long time.  How am I supposed to carry on knowing that there’s no real hope for a solution to one of the world’s most serious problems?  Why should I bother doing anything?


But I kept thinking. 

I wonder if you knew that the tiniest difference in head positions can completely change the ease with which you stand or sit.  Most of us don’t think to make tiny little movements because we’ve been taught that bigger is better.  So we never find out just how little we have to do to experience a change.


When my students are getting ready for a performance, I teach them this quality-control method.  If you can play your piece (or your passage) three times correctly, then it’s probably ready for performance.  If you can play it three times correctly in a row, it’s definitely ready for performance.


It can be absolutely maddening to work on a five-minute, or a thirty-minute piece, get through it two times perfectly, and then fail in the last few seconds of the third time.  I’m usually tempted to throw myself out a window in those moments.  But if you stop and think about it, what does that kind of failure mean?

Two weeks ago I woke up and my back spasmed.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get out of bed.  Once I managed that, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go to work.

The same thing always happens when I go to the beach.  I have a panic attack.  I know at some point I’m going to have to get into the ocean. 


It didn’t bother me when I was a kid, but somewhere along the line I learned to hate, and then to actually fear jumping into a cold body of water.  Nevertheless I always manage to do it before the end of the trip.  There are three ways I go about it.

I am very pleased to announce that Royal Fireworks Press has contracted with me to publish all of my non-fiction books currently in print, and is interested in producing other books that I have currently in progress. I have been negotiating the arrangement for several months and am very confident that the partnership will be a fruitful one.  What does this mean for my readers?

RSS feed

Subscribe with your e-mail and receive a free gift

Years of Possibilities (pdf or e-book)