Here are some things that are very important to me:
My amazing baby.
The oboe, and the improvement of my playing.
My own health and physical fitness.
The quality of my teaching, reeds, and general professionalism.
Why, then, have I spent the day catching up on emails and printing invoices and tracking down bank problems and being frustrated with Zoe when she wanted attention and playtime, and why did I sleep in and do a crossword instead of going running, and why am I now eating lunch and typing a blog post while she naps when I really haven’t practiced properly at all yet?
I talk about priorities with my students all the time. Not because I particularly need the oboe to be their priority, but because I know that everyone is overscheduled and no one has enough energy to be amazing at everything, and I want them to understand that they can choose how to spend their time. You can choose to prioritize homework, or sports, or music. There’s never enough time to do everything, but what you choose to do in a given block of time doesn’t have to be dictated by someone else but by what you feel you need to do and what is important to you. It’s a great speech.
Am I failing my own priorities lecture here? Or does life just intervene sometimes? Sometimes there’s no way to avoid wading through phone trees and explaining yourself over and over to customer service types in order to get your money to be where it’s supposed to be. But would a better musician or a better person have delegated that task or waited until after practicing? Zoe’s been very needy at night for the past few nights, and I’ve been awake a lot with her. Would a better person still have gotten up early and headed to the gym or practiced for an hour before breakfast? There’s only so much I can do sometimes.
I used to feel that I’d done what I needed to do in a day if I could work out, practice for two hours, and put in one to two hours on my reed business. Everything else was gravy, but good gravy – walking the dog, cooking good and healthy meals, baking bread and cookies, writing in my journal, hanging out with my awesome husband whom I like. And that was pretty easy to arrange. Not every day – sometimes a long gig commute or a dentist appointment or a bank problem would intervene – but basically it was not too hard to suit my actions to my own priorities.
With Zoe, though, everything is different. It’s not just that she requires a lot of time and attention – I don’t mind prioritizing her. It’s more that with that time gone from the day the mass of stupid tasks which have to happen and are urgent but not important seem to swell up to fill all of the available space, and at the same time I have less energy than I used to because I’m sleeping a lot less and eating a little less healthily and not exercising every day. So to change the catbox and water the plants, for example, I need to find 5 or 10 minutes when the baby is asleep or or at least calmly playing alone or at least not actively feeding or wailing or needing to be changed, and those are 5 or 10 minutes that I can’t be focusing on the oboe or anything else that is actually important to me. Those are minutes that I would never have noticed before every minute became precious. I don’t mind practicing in 25-minute spurts while Zoe doesn’t need me, but I never feel that I’ve gotten enough time in doing that and even late in the evening I feel nagging guilt that I haven’t done everything I can. That large parts of my day are spent in doing things that aren’t really important to me.
I don’t have a good solution here. All I can manage is one day at a time, and all I can do is keep trying to bring my actions into line with my priorities. Trying to keep the big picture in mind as I work through the stupid minutiae of actually being a grown-up. (And in the interest of the big picture I am NOT going to look up “minutiae” right now to see if I’m spelling or using it right. You all know what I mean.)