I stopped complaining about how busy I was a long time ago because I realized that I wasn’t really as busy as most people, especially parents… and especially moms. I have no kids to drive to soccer practice, I have no lunches to make, I have very little laundry to do (comparatively), I enjoy my job, I have an easy commute…
Organizationally, my life is pretty good and I’m grateful for that.
Sometimes, I forget and I take on new commitments, work extra late at school, and take on new composing projects. And some times are just busier than others, right? That’s real life. I often feel like that’s my whole life, then I have to remind myself of this post’s first paragraph.
Yesterday, I had some contract work that I had to finish. I had been working on it for ten weeks and I was at the end of my rope. It had to get done that day. No more extensions, no more self-deceptions, no more excuses.
Buckle down and get it done, Kenley.
After about three hours, I finished it and was quite happy with it, but I was so resentful that I had to do it on my Sunday (even though I’ve had plenty of other Sundays to get it done). I puttered around and cleaned the house, still miserable. Finally, I made a bagel, frustrated that it wasn’t cut all the way through, I held it in my left hand and hacked into it…
… and through it…
… and into my pinkie.
Let’s start with honesty: Blood everywhere. Kitchen floor, hallway, up the stairs, into the bathroom… everywhere. I didn’t know that a hand had that much blood in it (but the more that I thought about it, it’s full of capillaries, what else did I think would be in there?). Off to the emergency room and, three hours later, I had four stitches in my hand. Something like this…
Something like that, but bloodier and on my pinkie. That’s not my finger, it’s someone else’s.
As I got home, I was still bored and grumpy and just went to bed, but my wife had the laptop so I couldn’t watch a show as I fell asleep. I grabbed my phone and, for some reason, listened to my inner Michael Brandon and tried to meditate via Meditation Oasis. As I listened to the string loops and soothing voice of Mary Maddox, I realized that my mind was racing. It’s thoughts like those that often prompt a meta-voice that thinks over your storm of thoughts, usually with something along the lines of “what the hell are you so worked up about?“
Then, somewhere between those two voices, there’s the distance where you actual have a bit of clarity and you get to work through some problems.
It is the space between thoughts.
It’s the space where you cut your finger because you acted emotionally, rather than rationally and with a measured reason. You worked at a coffee shop, Kenley. You know how to cut a bagel. When you act emotionally, you do stupid things.
As you stand above your thoughts (figuratively, of course), you get a chance to look down and see what’s actually kicking around inside your head. There were some troubling facebook statuses that you were thinking about, hoping the people were okay. There was your hand, and how dumb you felt after you realized that you could have avoided it had you actually thought like a reasonable human being. There was getting your oil changed, which you still haven’t done. There was the chord changes in the music behind Mary Maddox, and if that extension was a 9th, or just the fifth of the V chord held as a pedal above the other chords. There were the cadences that you hoped your students remembered after the weekend in Fundamentals of Music. And, among many other thoughts, will you actually teach the isorhythmic motet in Music History, or will you just teach it as a precursor to metre in common practice music?
As you look back up to that meta-voice in your head, it answers with its common refrain: Do you really need to think about all of those things right now? Did you really need to have ALL of those thoughts kicking around your head all weekend?
And my common answer: No, not really.
The problem is that we (myself included) get so busy that we rarely listen to that voice, or even take the time to look down at our thoughts and see what we even have kicking around our head. As a student, how many times has your teacher walked in and looked like hell, yelled disproportionately in class and left in a worse mood than they did when they walked in (which was pretty bad to begin with)?
Teachers, how many times have you done that?
Kenley, how many times have you done that?
Oh right, I’ve got it pretty good. Sometimes I forget that. When I’ve had teachers, students, or fellow workers (at any job) like that, I remember thinking: “Whatever’s going on with you, don’t take that out on me. Sort yourself out and we’ll talk later.”
Whoever is reading this – teachers, friends, students, compatriates – this week’s homework is to actually look down at your thoughts and see what you’re carrying around in there. Find the space between. What needs to stay? What needs to go? You can’t get out of your mortgage or car payments, but you can probably stop stressing about things you can’t do anything about until tomorrow. Your marking won’t get done if you’re lying in bed and you can’t rehearse your band while you’re out for drinks with the guys. Let it go.
Before I wrote this, I was in a disproportionately frustrated mood. Not for any reason, but a measured and rational bit of writing did me good and I feel a lot better than I did an hour ago. I invite you to do the same. Meditation Oasis is also pretty great 🙂
PS: Thanks to Sarah for kicking my butt into getting back on these. Even teachers need a kick sometimes…
PPS: The stitches pic came from here.
PPPS: This week is the one year anniversary of my radio play, The Constant. Feel free to check it out!