or: What I did for the last, um, month or so.
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First of all, some of you might remember that I signed up for “February Album Writing Month”. Well, I have three started songs, none of them finished. This had to do with several things. I jumped into that project a week too late and without preparation (no pre-assembled food this time), I was determined not to loose sleep over this one and, maybe the biggest obstacle, I have been having tonsillitis since the beginning of February now. I’m currently on my third round of antibiotics and hope to fend the bacteria off for good this time. Any good vibrations sent my way are deeply appreciated. My husband had another kind of bacterial infection, staph. Not pretty, highly contagious which sent us on a quest to wash every single thing he touched in the whole house while feeling queasy and weak from infection and penicillin. All that time we were worried that our son might get any of our illnesses, but no, he had chickenpox. And another ear infection on top of that.
Those are the few moments when I regret being self-employed. When the doctor asked me, “What do you do for a living?”, and I said, “I’m working as a singing and piano teacher.” and she replied “Not this week.” and I had to work anyway. I cancelled one singing lesson and had two students calling in sick, so all went well. But I’d rather have stayed in bed.
One other reason why writing 50,000 words in a month did work and writing 14 songs in a month didn’t was that I can write my 1,700 words in about two hours but a song takes much more time than four hours. I originally had planned to just record a couple of 3 minute long free improvisations and count those as songs but my sore throat made that impossible. Also I don’t really want recordings of a dozen improvs, I’d like to have a couple of songs.
But now for the important things like why I haven’t been blogging much lately. Well, to be frank, I fell in love. Oh, no worries, I fell in love again with my husband. We have been acting like newfound lovers, talking and talking to each other. It is amazing. I’m not quite sure if this is legal. It feels weird and surreal but very good at the same time.
About two weeks ago we decided to turn our lives around big time. You might ask why because everything seemed to be good before. Well, but there were two things a little off. One thing was that with all my improvements, plans, strategies and systems my life didn’t feel like I wanted it to. I thought I had to become even more efficient, more goal-oriented, more organized; always leaving space for a little fun or creativity of course because otherwise I’d know it wouldn’t work. My life became a series of thin slices of time. I would have loved to be able to slice time like these monks in the “Thief of Time” who were able to move very fast and accomplish things other people couldn’t but I had to fall back on giving myself little allotments of time. “So now you are allowed a little blog reading for ten minutes and then you have to make lunch. When you have cleaned up the kitchen you might have ten minutes for taking a shower and then you have to practice scales for three minutes before you have to teach. – And don’t dawdle!” Somehow that didn’t work as well as I had imagined it would. Instead I’d often spend all the time reading blogs then taking the shower and open the door to my first student with slightly damp hair. So, of course, I set intent to be even more structured and effective, to make my chores streamlined and efficient so that I would have more time for the things that I love. I complained that I did everything right but that life felt wrong anyway.
My husband on the other hand whom I deemed morally superior and successful with his “monolithic approach” to life had the exact same feeling about life. I think I have talked about this approach before but can’t find it right now. The “monolithic approach” means that you do a necessary minimum of housework, exercise, social contact and such and otherwise you just teach and make music. Nothing else. I always admired him for being able to do this but I knew this could not be my approach because every time I tell myself I can’t have something I immediately dash off to get it. Like when I set the firm intent to focus on songwriting only, and then immediately got myself a blog. Or whenever I went on a “diet” and then immediately spent the next weeks bingeing. But he has succeeded in making two CDs this way amidst house renovations and the birth of our son. Then, one day I talked to him about something De wrote about her husband reading her blog and we started talking about what all those new things I’m doing like blogging and writing mean for him. And he told me that maybe he wanted to have new and exciting friends too. Maybe even on-line friends. How he didn’t like my immersion in blog-land because he still was disappointed that I hadn’t made writing songs my top priority. And not because he was so attached to having a composing wife but because I said so. Ouch.
We started talking in earnest. I really thought we were talking a lot before, but as I said, now we’re back to the kind of talks people have when the meet for the first time and fall in love with each other. We have been living quite separate lives apparently. Every evening we would sit in our respective rooms and do something alone. I’d spend all my time sitting in front of the computer with my back to everyone while my husband was playing guitar in the next room. We already knew that we had had a tendency to polarize in the last years but we didn’t knew that we had taken it that far. He’d be the fuser and I the isolator. I’d be the one to constantly try new things and go places and he’d be the one staying home. I’d be the one to read comics and watch TV and he’d be the one quoting Hegel. I’d be the one with the midlife crisis and he’d be the calm one who already had gone through it.
And then we started talking about how he felt lonely too. And a little jealous. And how we forgot how much we love spending time with each other. And that it is not possible for one of us to have a crisis without the other being affected. And then he started reading my blog posts. And instead of just rolling his eyes when I’d say the word blog or blogger he really questioned me about it. “Why are you doing it?”, “But you already have a real life, why do you want to have a virtual one too?” “Is blogging really a valuable creative outlet?” and “Why do you need to sign up for something like NaNoWriMo in order to get something accomplished? Don’t you think your desire to write might be fake?” and the always dreaded “You know that you can’t have it all in real life, don’t you?”. And this time he didn’t ask to make me cave in and say that I only do all these things like an addict craving numbness but that there might be valid reasons for all those things too.
So we both made a commitment that our relationship and family comes first. To really be where we are at all times. Not sitting in front of each other nodding with a mind somewhere else. And you know what? I really enjoy spending time with my family. When I’m not constantly thinking I should be doing something else instead. We acknowledged that our lives are full enough as it is. Even if we were to do only our jobs, housework and parenting, life would be full enough. That doesn’t mean that we won’t strive to be creative but it does mean that we honor what is. And if I prioritize my life by spending hours and hours in front of the computer then I shouldn’t tell myself that I really want to be a songwriter.
When we made that decision it felt as if a tension fell off that had been there for years. For a week or so I felt totally shapeless. As if the pressure had been the only thing to give me structure. It still feels scary. Going into the unknown without a plan. But I decided to trust myself. That I don’t need to be an efficient goal-achiving machine to get things done. That not having a plan and a timetable wouldn’t mean that I would spend my days in bed reading, watching TV and eating while surfing blogs. I still have a little voice inside of me that is saying, “But you don’t get anything done. You should be cleaning right now.” but I don’t think the house will fall apart if I continue to not doing zone work for a couple of weeks.
I try to be label-free for now. No more thinking about whether I’m a write or a musician or both. I had to accept a couple of truths though that I didn’t like. It seems that I’m much more unreliable than I would have liked. And much more sidetracked. That my enthusiasm has to be taken with a grain of salt which I already knew. That I am much less patient than I would have liked. But that my husband is okay with that as long as I don’t pretend to be something that I’m not. And after crying and feeling awful for a couple of days (I really want to be reliable. Really. And I worked so hard on that one.) I feel relief. I can just let it go. Not that I want to become one of those people who say, “Well, that’s just the way I am, I can’t help it.” but to know it. So I can work with it instead of against it. Like I had to accept that I can’t be trusted around potato chips and chocolate and so I had to make up rules for myself.
I know this is a long post but there are still things I haven’t talked about. Sometimes life is so full that you can’t write about it. It fells exciting and scary. And who knows, my husband might even take up blogging. For now it feels weird but good to have a husband who not only reads this but actually tells me to go blogging already instead of asking if I’m still sitting at the computer. And it feels very liberating to let go of all those intentions and goals and plans and just do what I’m doing and enjoy it.