Doing Things Badly

woman practices guitar
by Amaya Pryce

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. ~ Martha Beck
I am learning to play the ukulele. At least, that’s what I hope I’m doing. Right now things don’t sound all that great – it will be a long time before I’ve developed the muscle memory and finger dexterity to actually play a song the way I want to.  Still, I plug away at it almost every day, trusting that eventually I’ll get there!
I’m also studying Spanish, with similar results. Both are a lesson in staying with my present experience. I one day hope to speak fluent Spanish and make beautiful music, but to get there I must tolerate doing both very badly, for a very long time. Oddly, I’m loving it.
I’ve always been a mostly future-oriented person, setting goals, thinking about the next step and what I want to accomplish. I’ve been impatient with the time it takes to reach those mythical “finish lines,” and inevitably find that they have either moved or are quickly replaced by something else even when I do manage to reach them. I’m not usually content with doing things badly, but that’s changing.
In so many ways I’m learning that it doesn’t really matter what we do, but only how we do it. I’m still making music when I practice changing chords endlessly, if I do it mindfully and with pleasure. I’m still stretching my brain and opening my life to another culture when I haltingly translate new verb tenses. The outward forms are important to the ego, but not to the soul.
The world (which is a reflection of the ego on a grander scale) only values and rewards the accomplishments themselves, not the time it took to reach them—hence our fascination with stories of “overnight” success. The ego wants to leap from peak experience to peak experience, skipping the mundane plodding along the way. But in reality, most of our lives is mundane plodding—even for the most successful people!
We all spend hours of each day sleeping, eating, bathing, dressing, getting from one place to another. How we experience this “mundane plodding” is far more important to our quality of life than how we experience our occasional highs. Whether or not I ever reach my goals of playing the ukulele well or speaking fluent Spanish, I can truly enjoy each moment I spend doing these things badly.

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