Friday, February 9, 2018

Doing Less

This was supposed to be a terrible week. I was going to have five late nights and 6 early mornings all in a row, and I had 17 students on my books and on three of these nights I was going to have to teach right up until the instant of my departure time, book out of the house or college, and drive like a maniac to be on time for my rehearsal.  Obviously, I also had to make and mail a hundred or so reeds over the course of the week, because that's always true.

I've lived this week before, plenty of times.  It's just the thing that happens when a particular kind of gig schedule bumps up against my daughter being in elementary school, and both coincide with the completely regular teaching that I have - and enjoy - and rely on financially for the off weeks.  I know very well both how frazzled and frantic I feel as the week is going on, and what a zombie I am by the end of it, running on insufficient sleep night after night.  I know how it feels to drag myself through the weekend concerts, playing defensively to keep from messing up instead of really digging into the artistry and working to excel. I'm used to it.

This is the first such week THIS year, though.  And 2018 is a year in which I had resolved to find better ways to balance my life. But (of course) I had not done anything proactive to improve this situation, going in.  Weeks like this are just par for the course, I thought.  I assumed.

But here's what happened.  Monday Zoe woke up coughing, and too sick to go to school. And Steve was working, so I canceled my college students and had a lazy day at home with her.  She rested, I practiced, caught up on reeds, wrote. I had three private students that evening before rehearsal, but one canceled because of the snow.  I did have a terrible, frazzling commute, and it did take me until nearly 1:30 to get home in the storm, but it had otherwise been an easy day.

Tuesday morning it was clear that Zoe was going to stay home again, and it was still snowing, so I canceled two more college students and slept in with her. Had a relaxing day practicing and making reeds, and even took a nap. In the afternoon, I was to have had three students at my house, but the first one called in sick and I proactively canceled the third so I could commute calmly and safely through the snow.  Rehearsal felt great.  I don't LOVE a Rachmaninov symphony, but I enjoyed myself a lot.  Day two of the cycle, and I was still striving for excellence.

Wednesday morning it was snowing and school was canceled altogether.  We slept in.  Zoe was still resting.  I should have had four students, but one called in sick and I canceled the fourth because of commuting and snow.  Wednesday night's rehearsal felt terrific.  I am not used to having real energy by this point in the week, and I was almost giddy with the pleasure of it.

Thursday Zoe went to school.  This meant that after getting to bed at 1:30 I did have to be up with her at 7 - but I'm getting addicted to this good sleep thing now, so I drove her in in my PJs and went back to bed.  It helped that I wasn't frantic about reed orders, because I was caught up from earlier in the week.  I practiced, I ate healthy meals.  I'm completely on top of my business right now, plus well rested and energized.  I've run on the treadmill three days this week.  I've practiced well every day.  I am writing.

Thursday's rehearsal was canceled for snow, which means that I was able to go to bed by 11 like the old civilized person I am, and be well equipped to rehearse and perform today assuming those things don't get canceled as well.

So.  Between the flu and the snow, I've had to take a lazy week - and it's been VERY artistically fulfilling and has felt VERY healthy and VERY comfortable and grownup.

This is exactly the feeling I sought when I resolved to find more balance in my life.  I needed my days to feel more spacious and relaxed, so I could be more creative, so I could be more productive, and so that I could give my full attention and intensity to the work I was doing.

I can't count on the flu and the snow to take care of me every week, though. The challenge now is HOW to make my life feel more like this more often going forward.  It must be possible - it was SO EASY to cancel things and make myself an easy week when circumstances forced me to do so.  I think I need to stop fighting this so hard at other times too.

Photo by Jonathan Knepper on Unsplash
I'm a collector of projects.  I'm a starter of things.  I like doing stuff.  Given a slow month, I immediately take on new students, or add commitments.  Given an empty week, I'll take a gig.  I like to work.  But I have to say I like the feeling of this past week a whole awful lot.

Maybe it's NOT necessary to teach right up to my departure time. Maybe late nights SHOULD be followed by extra morning sleep. Maybe we would all be better served by a week off periodically.

Maybe, just maybe, doing less is the key to being better.


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