A million or so years ago, when I was much younger and I had some piano students, I never instructed them to practice for a specific period of time, much to the chagrin of their parents. Instead I assigned them to practice each part of their lesson a particular number of times each day. For example, I might say, "Play each of your finger excercises five times with just your left hand and seven times with your right hand and then three times with both hands together. And then play this section of the song twelve times very slowly and then 5 times very fast. Then play the entire song twice. Then play the last half six times." At the next lesson I would, or course, switch things around. It's a matter of fooling their perception of time.
It was more interesting to the kids, less onerous, more fun and bonus points, drove the kids parents crazy! They still learned and more importantly, they enjoyed learning. That is one of the biggest hurdles to climb to get anyone interested in doing something that, at least at the beginning, feels more like work than pleasure.
I honestly believe that is one of the mistakes that schools make immediately. They make learning a miserable experience. If learning were more interesting, more exciting, more engaging, kids would be more inclined to dive in. And that goes twice for reading!! Why force them to read books that most people would rather eat lima beans than waste their eyesight on when there are so many really good books out there? It's a mystery to me.
But I digress.
Coming up with that idea for the piano kids not having a specific period of time to practice each day thing is a result of what I've learned about myself. I often have to trick myself into doing things that are good for me, but I really don't want to do.
I enjoy walking. I know that's exercise technically, but for me it's also my primary form of transportation AND entertainment. But I mean real exercise. I take Mat Pilates classes twice a week and I go to the gym with Tim once a week, but two other days I just exercise at home. And I have to force myself to do it. I figured out a long time ago that instead of doing, say twenty planks, I do ten, counting one , two, three, four etc. And then I do ten more but counting backwards, 10, 9, 8, 7 etc. It's the same number in the end but it felt like less. I fall for it every single time. I can do ten of anything. Except chin-ups. I just dangle like a Christmas ornament when I try to do chin-ups . But for everything else, ten is the magic number. I can fool my own perception and end up accomplishing more.
Any big task that seems overwhelming, I tackle with my total focus on just the one thing I am doing that moment. I don't think about how many other steps lay before me. Just that one. Years ago I read a book by Anne Lamott called, "Bird by Bird". The reference was to her young son choosing to write a report on the Audubon Society. His mother, concerned that her son had taken on too big a project for the time period allotted asked him how he planned to do this. His answer was that he would tackle it bird by bird. I love that and have thought of so many times.
The day after Thanksgiving when I begin my annual cookie baking marathon, which I love doing, I could allow myself to be overwhelmed by the idea of churning out 15 or so different kinds of cookies in three days. OR I could start with one kind of cookie, finish it and then move on to the next one. Which is what I do. And it works, every time.
Another weird perception that I have is for some reason, is strictly a time-thing. And that magic number is 25. If we are going somewhere and Tim says, at some point, that we are twenty minutes away, that feels like nothing. If, however, he says that it's twenty-five minutes away, that feels like forever! It's five minutes different!!! And yet, in my bizarre-brain, those five minutes may as well be an hour. Obviously, I have a strange perception of time. We often take road trips and I enjoy them enormously. Just don't ever tell me that something is 25 minutes out. I stop enjoying myself and start feeling like a five year old strapped, unwillingly into a car seat, with tummy rumbles of hunger, nothing to do and a desperate need to pee.
I can't be the only person who does this. When we lived in Connecticut, our home was in a town called Mansfield Center. A charming, once rural, historic place with lovely old homes, loads of trees and an astounding number of ponds. In fact, the original name was the town was "Pond Place". There were two main North/South roads roughly flanking the town. The one on the west side of town was Stafford Rd, the other on the east side was Storrs Rd. We lived on Storrs Rd. If a person wanted to drive from Storrs Rd to Stafford Rd it was a matter about 10 - 15 minutes depending on weather, traffic and the number of errant escapee cows one might come upon along the way. AND YET, I heard people say all the time things like, "Yes I'd go to the tearoom but it's on the complete other side of town!" As if they had to hike across the desert to get there. Crazy! Again, perception.
When I work at the museum, as long as I'm busy with guests, or tidying, or restocking, or whatever project they have assigned me, the time flies by. An hour feels like five minutes. But if nobody comes through the door and the phone doesn't ring, and everything is clean, and no shelves are empty and I (gasp!) forgot to bring a book to read in the down time, then five minutes feels like an hour. Once again, perception.
Do you remember that old joke about how long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you are on? Not really a joke. Or at least no laughing matter.
Well, I know I have lots to do today and I'm sure you do too. As per usual, there is never enough time in which to get it all done. I guess I'll just jump in, get started, focus on one thing at a time, bird by bird and get it done. And as long as it's not a 25 minute window, I'm sure it will be fine.
I'll time myself.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.