thanks to taking up the piano, i gained a deep appreciation for professional pianists that transcends any explainations i could offer in words. even simple embellishments (trills, grace notes, dynamic shadings, attack) bring life to what would otherwise be just depressing keys in some orderly fashion. now that i don't play as much i don't "get into" recordings as much as i used to, since "an ashkenazy" makes it look so easy to play. and similar things occur with guitar music- the ability to attack the strings cleanly while playing fast, complicated music, or slow passages (perhaps even more) is overwhelming after my clumsy attempts.
after having disparaged my abilities so thoroughly, the ability to create a musical phrase that belongs to me alone, as well as the intimate pleasure of listening closely to the sounds real instruments produce, make it all worthwile. and sometimes, after a few days of practice in a row, i seem to be able to come MUCH closer to playing what comes into my head spontaneously, and like riding a bike, you rapidly pick up where you left off. then, after expending some real effort in the practice room, i can put on a cd and enjoy the performance 1000% more than i could listening with a general passivity, like saying "well OF COURSE these guys can play Mozart, as much as they practice, etc." NO, it's more than just being good enough to play mozart- it's being good enough to RE-create a masterwork as if it had just been written yesterday.