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Have you ever made a mistake? How about a mistake in front of other people? How about a mistake in front of an audience?

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I don’t know about you, but making a mistake in front of an entire collection of people who have their eyes focused on me is not on the top of my To Do list. As a matter of fact, it’s on the top of my Please Let This Never Happen To Me list.

And yet it happened.

If you’ve read this blog for more than a month, you know about my sentences to piano prison. Piano prison is a special place, a place inside my mind. It’s where I go when I want to beat myself up after a performance on stage. 

Because, really, that’s my idea of a good time! Making mistakes on stage and then beating myself up for it afterwards!

Okay, maybe not.

The thing about piano prison is that it’s totally out of proportion. One teeny mistake turns into a gaffe of epic proportions. Like, Godzilla-size.

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But what happens when the mistake really is Godzilla-sized? What then?

That’s what I want to talk about.

A few weeks ago, I was playing the piano at Unity of Walnut Creek. Unity of Walnut Creek was the first metaphysical church I attended when I moved to California twenty years ago.

I can still remember how I felt when I first walked in those doors. It was like my heart had expanded to ten times its regular size. I felt like I had found my people, my home. I felt like everything made sense in a way that was beyond anything I’d experienced before.

It was the same thing a few weeks ago.

The minister started with a powerful opening prayer. He evoked the Divine in a way that was palpable. The room was full of love. Love was in everything – the chairs and the people and the flowers on the altar. I felt loved and loving in a way that I don’t always feel in metaphysical churches. We weren’t just talking about love. We were being love.

It was awesome.

And then, into this great, big soup of Love, came the thing. The awful thing.

Right before the minister’s talk, I was playing a song with Melissa Phillippe, my sweetheart, called The Healing Storm. It was, as it turned out, the perfect title for what was about to happen.

photo: Paul J. Everett on flikr

As some of you know, I started playing the piano again about three years ago. I’ve progressed to the place where I occasionally take solos when I play. This particular song was one of those Z-gets-to-take-a-solo songs.

Except when I went to take my solo, I didn’t have my music. I didn’t have the notes I was supposed to play.

I had seen the paper earlier that day. I knew it was on the piano somewhere. I just didn’t know where.

photo: z egloff

While my right hand was frantically rifling through the papers on the piano, trying to find my music, my left hand was banging out chords on the piano. Meanwhile, all eyes were riveted on me.

This was my big moment, my chance to demonstrate my prodigious piano skills. Instead, I was demonstrating how thoroughly I could wipe the top of the piano with random sheets of music.

It was a disaster. 

To make matters worse, the video crew had told me earlier that day that when the time came for my solo, they were going to do a close-up of my face and hands. Well, the operative word was hand, because only five of my fingers were making any contact with the piano keys. The other five were busily trying to recover a small shred of my dignity.  

As for my face, I suspect it looked like the proverbial deer in headlights. 

Except that this deer was also trying to play the piano. With one hoof.

Finally, after rustling through every inch of the piano for my missing music, I gave up. I muddled through what was supposed to be my solo by slapping out a few more chords and turning it back to the band.

But here’s the cool part.

After it was all over, and I went to sit down in my chair, I did not sentence myself to piano prison.

photo: Jason Rogers on flikr

Not even a little bit.

I’d like to believe that this is because I’ve learned to handle the whole piano prison phenomenon. That is, I focus on the positive aspects of my performance and this keeps me from beating myself up. And that may be so, at least in part.

But the bigger piece is that I was in love. Literally, in Love.

The energy in that room – in the community, in me – was such that I literally couldn’t beat myself up. I could hear the things I might have said to myself, had I been so inclined. But they were far away, like tiny whispers that had absolutely nothing to do with my current experience.

Mostly I just sat there saying: Wow. That was truly the worst thing that’s ever happened to me on stage. Like, really bad! But it’s okay.

It was actually funny to me, how bad it was. And I didn’t seem to care.

It was like being granted special X-ray-vision glasses.

photo: Adrian Miles on flikr

In this case, my special-powered sight allowed me to see myself as Spirit sees me. I got to see that I’m perfect, whole and complete, no matter what I do.

It’s one thing to know that intellectually. It’s another thing altogether to really feel it.

And I was blessed with that sight.

So even though it was the worst thing that ever happened to me on stage, it was the best thing that ever happened to me when I walked off the stage. And for that, I am grateful.

How have you been blessed by grace in moments of disaster? How has Love pulled you through?

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