ruminations upon a full day

It is amazing what you can pack into a day. Today has included practicing, lots of conversation (during the twins’ naptime, and while Hazel played at the playground after school, and then with another friend this evening), time with Hazel (we promised her a mango lassi when she lost her first wiggly tooth, but it got delayed by her birthday, and by both of us getting sick; but today I came through and got it for her), as well as teaching, and a host of other normal family related activity (including taking Ted to the doctor and the twins to a drop-in daycare). As I got out my computer and started thinking about the two really long conversations I had today I wondered how on earth I had managed that. The answer is, by not-practicing (in that particular chunk of time), and by not-sleeping & further not-practicing (I could have practiced after getting the kids down, but went out with a friend instead).

So, out of the total 6 or 7 hours I could have practiced today, I managed just under 2. This is a thing over which I would have previously beaten myself up. I have spent a lot of time in my life thinking that I should only do X thing I want to do if it doesn’t come at the cost of Y or Z. What I am coming to understand, belatedly, as an adult and especially as a parent, is that X is ALWAYS at the cost of something else, because there are always 16 or 17 important things I could be doing in any moment.

And having choices is good. Being able to make choices without self-flagellation is even better.

I’d also like to start cultivating times in my life (how, I only have fleeting and unformed ideas) in which the choices are few and time stretches out, related to the way it can during summer vacation when you’re a kid. It’s not actually possible to recapture youth, or to experience life in the way one did as a child, but I do think it’s possible to set up a week or two in such a way that the constant drumbeat of activity, electronic connection, and deadlines is set aside. I think that for my own sanity, as well as for my kids’ perspective, I would like to find time(s) during the year in which we disconnect, slow down.

Right now that’s mostly just a wish. But there’s a gossamer thread of intention running through the wish that feels strong enough to eventually sustain a plan and then follow-through. It’s my spider web.

One thing that Ted and I have talked about is taking the girls to a park regularly on Saturdays, to walk, to be outside. This is something that is harder here than in the UK (my other frame of reference), where there are walking paths everywhere, and a stronger cultural tradition of walking. But it is something we can make happen. And it is one way, I think. Getting outside is magic. It’ll be even better if we bike or bus to the parks we visit.

And then the other thing I want to do is embrace the reality that there are lots of good, viable, sometimes urgent possibilities in any given moment, and to cultivate gratitude for a full and varied life.


Disorganization reigns

I am wildly, unrelentingly behind. That is because I am insanely disorganized. That is partly because there is more on my plate than I am capable of dealing with. This was brought home to me (again) when I took Hazel to her roller skating birthday party on Sunday. When I initially sent out the invites I managed to put the wrong date on them, and the only reason I found that out is that people started telling me in person that they were looking forward to the party, 4 weeks ago. I am grateful for that, because it allowed me to avert the verging-on-disaster that would have ensued when a bunch of people showed up at the venue on the wrong day looking for Hazel. Head, meet hand. So I got that sorted out, and managed to get the deposit check sent off not-so-late-that-it-was-unacceptable.

I had chosen the party package that seemed reasonable. For some reason I interpreted “ice cream”, to mean, “cake and ice cream”, however, so once at the venue on Sunday when asked if I wanted cake server utensils, it managed to penetrate my overloaded neurons that presumably that question meant there was supposed to be a cake, and it seemed likely I was supposed to provide it. So, I got the kids going, got Hazel hooked up with one of her friend’s parents, and went across the lot to the Baskin Robbins and got a cake. And after I got the cake I realized I needed candles. I realized that before I’d left the store, so a separate transaction later, I was headed back to the rink with the requisite supplies.

I tend to respond to these sorts of happenings by feeling completely, 100% stupid, a Grade A dimwit. Tonight, though, when thinking about it, it came to me that I probably wouldn’t have made that series of mistakes back when I had only one child, before the advent of the twins. Back then, as busy as we were, there was still margin in the day. If I didn’t get something done, there was always tomorrow. But now, if there’s something that has to happen, there is just no room in the daily schedule into which to squeeze it. Ted and I needed to answer some questions our tax service emailed us, and after I forgot to follow up on that for a few days, I remembered again tonight. He was already in bed. But from 7:45 am to 10 pm tomorrow I will be busy, and I won’t see him. So I asked him if he’d get up, and we took care of that task.

And now it’s late, and we’re both too tired.

No margin.

I used to be reasonably organized. My short-term memory used to function better than it does now. I used to have a reasonable idea of the bigger picture as well as a pretty good percentage of the smaller details in any given week. I have to keep remembering, though, that it is not that I have become stupid. I have to keep forgiving myself for never having enough time, for making mistake upon mistake upon mistake, for losing my wits multiple times a day.

And sometime during spring break, Ted and I need to have a strategy session to see what we can improve about the logistics of our lives, because too much is on a downward slide right now. It’s all about the percentages.

One hopes that nothing super important will fall through the cracks that gape like an abyss. But then, it’s likely that something will. So we’ll continue to forgive ourselves, and continue to practice gratitude at the end of each day in which all 5 of us are accounted for, fed, clothed, and connected.

A divine day; music, a long walk, and a mediation class

This morning the violist in our quartet texted that she was going to a bakery on her way over, and did anyone want anything. I may possibly have mentioned once or twice how much I love my quartet. I decided to settle for a cup of tea, but the offer put a smile on my face. I brought the pot of tea downstairs, and it was sufficiently popular that I brought a couple extra cups, too, and we started our morning sharing tea & appreciation for the sunshine outside.

Then we had a long Haydn rehearsal. We are at the stage where we are starting to cohere more as a quartet, and we’ve worked on this piece enough that it’s really coming together, too. Everyone was sounding good, particularly the violinist who’s playing first on that piece. It is hard to adequately describe the high of making music like that. There is such pleasure in tuning the chords, getting them just so; in tuning the ensemble so that the right line comes out; in aligning vibrato and dynamics so we’re all contributing to the same emotional picture. The work is deeply satisfying.

In the middle of our 4 hour block, we went and had lunch together. We shared some more biographical details; where various of us had gone to school, and what some of our future plans look like.

When we got back we settled a couple extremely pertinent tempo questions, which is good, because I needed to know exactly how fast to work up the runs in the second movement of the Prokofiev, exactly how fast those triplets will go. Not that it’s possible to know exactly; in the moment, with the alchemy of nerves and excitement and audience, the tempi in a piece can do some interesting and unpredictable things. It’s part of the magic of performance, though it can also produce moments of terror.

After my rehearsal I had another in a series of close and connected conversations with my friend R, who is in jail. We talked about fear: the different sorts of things people fear; the ways in which people react differently to fear; the choices we make when we’re afraid, and when we’re not.

Once I was off the phone I went to find my kids, who were outside riding their bikes with the babysitter. I walked down the block with them, and then, since the day was so incredibly beautiful, decided to walk to the afternoon’s mediation class. I wanted to be outside.

It took me about 50 minutes or so. I used to be (before kids, I’d say) much more attached to driving than I am now. I have come to love walking. It is exercise, meditation, and appreciation all rolled into one. I had about ten minutes to spare when I’d gotten close to my destination, so I sat down on the grass in a park and watched a guy trying to make gigantic soap bubbles with a bucket of suds, a bubble frame and some rope. His bubbles didn’t last long, but they glistened beautifully in the sunshine.

The meditation class was wonderful. I love the class, and the people in it. They are so thoughtful, intentional, loving. After a long discussion of where we all are and how we are being impacted by various things in our lives and our universe, we did some practices together that served to help me feel both more connected outwardly and more centered in myself, a very good combination.

On the way back, I walked as far as a grocery store with my friends A & L, and then as far as a Car-2-Go, in which I arrived at home on the dot, a minute before our babysitter was supposed to be departing.

Ted and I did the bedtime routine with the kids, which involved a lot of snuggling, a lot of reading, and then a story about two kangaroos who wanted to escape the zoo and go back to Africa, a family which helped them do that, and a trip to find their family.

Of course, since DST puts fairly substantial hiccups into family routines, after we turned out the lights there was some up and down (literally – the twins have started coming downstairs when they don’t want to be in bed), but we eventually got them settled, and they are now peacefully sleeping, Hazel and Emily in one bed and Joanna in another.

Now, of course, it does not remotely feel like bedtime in terms of my sheer sleepiness factor, but it does feel like the peaceful end to a long, satisfying, joyous day. Given the time change, I think I will now get off the computer, take a shower, and read. Hopefully the lack of screen light will allow my body to perceive that it is nighttime, and I will be able to sleep. Gratitude often helps, and there is a lot for me to feel thankful for, especially after a light, music, and friendship-filled day like today.

Practicing cello, dinner with a friend

Today I had three separate practice sessions, and thought I might add a fourth after coming back from dinner with a friend. I was still mildly entertaining that idea when I received a reminder from one of the members of my quartet that tonight is DST, and to set our clocks forward. Somehow, seeing the time move from after 10 pm to after 11 pm removed the idea of going down to my studio to practice from the realm of the possible and pushed it some small distance toward the absurd. Nonetheless, given that my body thinks it’s only 10:39, and not 11:39, I may shortly wish that I was downstairs doing something productive rather than surfing the web. Choices, choices.

I have come to the conclusion that come what may, I need to find time to practice every night, even if it’s just 15 minutes after I brush my teeth and before I hit the sack. I need that degree of regularity, regardless of the amount of practice I’ve achieved earlier in the day. So, despite tonight’s choice, starting tomorrow I’m going to implement my new plan. Before doing the dishes, before reading, before anything else, as soon as the kids are down, I’m going to practice, even if it’s just playing scales or tackling one difficult measure. Doing so will be good for me professionally, and good for me personally. Practicing is part of how I am alive, engaged, creative, curious, productive. It’s certainly better for me than Scrabble, for example. I may give myself Saturday nights off, given the time of night I come home sometimes from hanging out with friends (not scandalously late, seeing as how I have three small children, but later than most other nights). And that will feel good too. Balance is important.

I have been working hard enough on the Prokofiev that now themes from the second movement are running frequently through my head. There’s a place where the cello part dives up into treble clef with passionate abandon. I spent a fair amount of time today working on the intonation on that run. It’s a funny contrast, the careful crafting that goes into music, so that one can play with the passionate abandon often required by it.

Then tonight, I got to have dinner with another college friend, whose kids are a decade older than mine. The parenting situations occurring in her life feel as distant as the moon to me, but I know that once I’m there, the days of preschool and kindergarten will seem almost like they happened to someone else. Yet I clearly remember the day I met R’s younger kid, when we met for lunch while R was still on maternity leave. Time and memory continue to bemuse and fascinate me. Sometimes I think that we really are a series of people as we grow and learn and change, and that the connections between periods of our lives are sometimes more tenuous than we might think.

It is wonderful to talk with other parents, especially people one knows and trusts, to see different ways of doing things, to learn and appreciate, to understand and be mystified.

Life is a thing I am grateful to have.

I am in that state of trepidation and excitement prior to our upcoming quartet concert that burnishes everything with internal sparkles. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s rehearsal.

I hope everyone survives Daylight Saving’s Time intact.