My Washburn acoustic guitar is propped up in the corner of our second-floor bedroom. It’s a good-looking guitar, with a golden spruce top and dark mahogany sides and back. It’s a little dusty, a little out of tune, certainly, but quite handsome nonetheless.
Last summer I put new strings on it. Sounded great, from what I remember.
Every once in awhile I pick it up and play an awkward chord or two. Do you know that you can play a lot of songs simply by learning the G, C and D chords? It’s true. Three chords unlock a treasure chest of guitar songs like Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” or John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” or, if you’re in the mood for some head-banging, AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
Three chords. Simple. Not for me, of course, but for some.
The problem is, when I try to play my guitar my mind is willing but my fingers don’t cooperate. They don’t bend or arch or even land on the right strings. They don’t caress the guitar neck. Instead, much like a teenage me on a first date, they fumble and bumble and stammer miserably. I apologize to my guitar a lot.
It’s so bad that our dog, Henry, a grizzled old hound, leaves the room if I even make a move for my guitar. And he’s mostly deaf.
What my fingers do impressively while I attempt to play the guitar is hurt. The nylon strings are like pressing down on razor blades. The key, I’ve been told, is to practice long enough so that you build callouses on your fingertips. In theory that makes sense. In reality it hurts like a son of a gun. Turns out, my fingertips don’t want callouses. They’re happy being soft and wimpy.
I almost feel guilty for not being able to play a guitar I bought on a musical whim in the summer of 2004. I used to tell myself every New Year that I would learn. Some day. Somehow. And yet, here we are.
It turns out my guilt is misplaced. It seems I’m just like you. Four out of five of us who make New Year’s resolutions eventually break them. In fact, a third won’t even make it to the end of January.
That’s what the time management firm FranklinCovey found when it polled more than 15,000 customers about their planned New Year’s resolutions.
Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed attribute breaking their resolutions – to get out of debt, to lose weight, to exercise more, whatever – to having too many other things to do, while 33 percent say they simply aren’t committed to the resolutions they set. Experts say the real problem is people make the wrong resolutions. The typical resolution often reflects a general desire, rather than a specific goal.
I love my guitar. And I love the idea of being able to play it without actually suffering through the learning process.
So this year, I resolve, specifically, and with you as witness, to NOT learning how to play my guitar; to keep my fingertips callous-free and happy; and, above all else, not to annoy Henry, our trusty hound, with off-key twangs.
Besides, Henry is going to be plenty busy. This New Year, he’s set a goal to nap twenty hours a day.