“I look back on my life like a good day’s work, it was done and I am satisfied with it.” Grandma Moses
Jethro* works hard. He is in a three year graduate program, has a church job as well and is spread thin most of the time. This is his second year in the program and he has yet to take time off, even during semester breaks. He has time blocked out each day for practice, studying, writing, teaching and choosing music for his church choirs but has no down time.
His former girlfriend graduated last year (also a musician) and moved on after graduation so his social life is non-existent. Any concert or lecture or church service Jethro attends is either for his grad program or his church job. He doesn’t eat properly, doesn’t get enough sleep and his apartment is a pig’s sty (his words). He falls into bed each night and is cranky. Jethro contacted me, essentially, wanting my “permission” to take time off from practicing and preparation. I’m sure he was surprised when I DIDN’T give it. But I DID ask him some questions about his life.
I wanted to know, since he scheduled time for everything else, why he didn’t schedule time for maintaining his apartment, going to the grocery store and for resting. He didn’t know what to say because he never thought about it. He told me he picks up his living room when he needs to find something for school or work and doesn’t do laundry regularly. He has been eating fast food and NOT going to the grocery store for the last six months. And he only goes to bed when he can’t stay awake any longer, sometimes falling asleep on the couch while studying. I told him he should think about getting his house in order—literally—before he thinks about “officially” taking time off.
Doing busy work having nothing to do with music can refresh us and while it MIGHT seem like a waste of time, it really isn’t on two counts. First, our living space is cleaned up! And second, if our living space is NOT chaotic, it’s easier to work and rest. I asked Jethro if he could block out an hour each day for five days in a row to clean. Yes, I told him, it will take time away from studying but it will be worth it in the long run.
Jethro and I began our correspondence in August, just as his semester was beginning and his choir began for the fall. He agreed he would try to do as I suggested when the semester settled down. And he did. He contacted me late last month, the week after he took my advice and says he feels better.
One of the things he shared with me was, as he straightened and cleaned; his mind became relaxed and wandered freely to his work. He set a pad of paper and a pencil on a table and wrote things down as he thought of them, as he cleaned. He set the timer on his phone to 60 minutes each day and then didn’t think about it until it went off. He actually felt refreshed after. And his apartment is better—still a bit messy–but better. On the sixth day, he went to the grocery store and filled his panty and frig with food he liked and could make quickly.
He’s decided to block out an hour a day, every day, to maintain what he began. While Jethro may not have time right now to “officially” take time off, he thinks the time he is using for straightening up and cooking is the mental break he needs. He thinks he might go home for a few days during winter break, after his church obligations are finished. He won’t feel guilty about it either, because he knows it will refresh him. And if he’s refreshed, he’s better able to do what he does.
During the last two Thursdays of November, please enjoy two often requested Choral Potpourri/Choral Ethics Blogs!