Monthly Archives: May 2015

Need more time?

“I need more time.”

“I’m swamped — too many things to do, not enough time.”

You’ve heard these complaints often — from friends, co-workers, neighbors, family members. You’ve probably said similar things yourself, when you’re overwhelmed and frazzled.

We say yes to too many things.  We say no to too few.  We often measure our importance by the number of our activities.  We fritter away time with activities of little merit.

News flash:  you and I — and everyone on our planet — have exactly the same amount of time every day.  The universe is an equal opportunity provider: twenty four hours for every human being. No one is more privileged than you when the daily hours are doled out.

How are you spending your daily gift?

  • Who and what are most important in your life? Are they primary in your days?
  • What steals time from your most important pursuits and passions?
  • When was the last time you assessed your days, asking, “Where does my time go? What is it I really want to be about? What adjustments and refocusing can I make?”

But lest we slip into our super achiever personality, I am suggesting that we gather our fractured and distracted selves, eliminate the activities that sap our strength and steal our time, and  begin to live our days with clarity and focus.   Our hours are not meant to be filled to overflowing.  They are gifted to us to be lived with passionate simplicity — a simplicity that allows us to:

  • give full attention to the child who needs our connection
  • savor a summer nap on the patio
  • be present in conversation with a friend or spouse
  • enjoy a distraction-free hour, or afternoon, or whole day when we unplug our electronics
  • restore and affirm our souls
  • reorder the mundane necessities of your days

Be intentional with your twenty-four hours this day, and tomorrow, and the next. When they’re gone, they’re gone — never to be relived. You make the choice for your hours.

Until next Tuesday. . .


Unlikely Connections

A few months ago I heard a performance of Toru Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II. Before playing, the pianist explained that the piece was written in memory of Takemitsu’s friend Olivier Messiaen.  “In this piece you will hear the rain — and the tears,”  she explained. The composition is contemporary, dissonant, and impressionistic all at the same time.  It’s the one piece I remember from a program filled with classical music.

After the concert, I ordered the music from Amazon.  Had I been able to view the pages of music I might not have purchased it. The notes and accidentals are overwhelming, but I know it’s possible to play it. I heard it once.

Along with the music I also purchased A Memoir of Toru Takemitsu, by his wife Asaka.  I was curious about Takemitsu’s life.

Sunday in church, the prelude was Serene Alleluias by Olivier Messiaen, a piece whose dissonance filled the sanctuary, causing me to listen carefully. Messiaen is not a composer I’d ever heard of until I heard Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II and read his memoir.

They were connected, through very different cultural and spiritual traditions, from Japan to France, with great respect for each other.  Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time premiered in Japan.  Takemitsu’s A string Around Autumn premiered in Paris, with Messiaen in the audience.  He praised Takemitsu’s orchestration.

I’m not a music historian or a composer, but I’m interested in how creative people live and work.  Messiaen and Takemitsu found community over the years and across the continents.  They shared a resonance.  They learned and borrowed from each other.

An unlikely connection?  Perhaps not.

We, too, often form unlikely connections.  In our first encounter in a writers’ group, Charlie and I discovered our mutual love of horses and our quirky sense of humor.  Since then we’ve formed a strong friendship built on trust and respect. We’ve been writing partners for years.

Decades ago I sat next to woman in class. In our opening get-acquainted chit chat we learned we were both newly single and each the mother of two teenagers.  We’re still close friends twenty-five years later.

Think about the connections you’ve made in your life: the chance meetings, a kind offer from a stranger, a moment of vulnerability, a shared circumstance. . .

Such unlikely connections expand our world and open our hearts.

Tomorrow I’ll start learning Rain Tree Sketch II. Now that I know about Takemitsu, I want to know his music.

That’s the way it is with connections.

Until next Tuesday. . .



Playing at Your Local Theater

I’ve often read that our life is like a movie — and we get to play the leading role.  Not only are we the star, we’re also the director of the action. Of course there are other actors with secondary parts, but they are stars in their own movies.

Playing the lead role is daunting, perhaps even scary.  We feel unprepared; we get stage fright.  Perhaps we’re uncomfortable with such an important part — center stage with everyone watching. Our voice goes weak, our knees shake, our stomachs knot. In spite of that, the film must go on.

So as leading actor and director, I have options and opportunities.

  • I can write my own lines. My voice is uniquely mine. No one puts words and thoughts and ideas together like I do. The energy and emotion of vocal expression are mine to create, to share, or to silence.
  • I can choose my actions. My actions can move my story ahead or maintain the status quo. I choose how to deal with distractions and detractors and events that take my story off course. I can allow my passions a central place or I can relegate them to the sidelines.  I decide how I will continue to grow and develop as the main character.
  • I can edit the footage. Is my story moving forward or has it stalled? What scenes show me at my best and what scenes aren’t working? Can I leave unimportant scenes on the cutting room floor? Where have I tried to play another actor’s role, rather than my own? Where is there a need for creative self-expression? Can I change the story I tell myself about scenes from my history? Can I understand these difficult scenes from a new perspective in order to move forward?

My movie needs a little work these days.  When I review the footage, I see too many scenes of me playing games on my computer, too many scenes of me piling things here and piling things there, too many scenes of excuses for not finishing my memoir or getting to the piano to practice. Computer games, clutter, and excuses have to go. I’m keeping the scenes where I’m sharing meals and conversations with friends, progressing with my music, and creating moments of literary insight. I’m at my best when I’m pushing to learn, distractions are few, and I have plans that move me forward.

How about you?  How’s your movie playing these days?  Are you stuck in a loop?  Have you reviewed the footage of yesterday or last week or last year?  Can you see how or when or if you’ve drifted off course?  Can you recognize when you’re at your best? What’s your plan for improving your movie?  Do you need to create new scenes?  What can you leave on the cutting room floor, so you can move forward?

“Life as movie” is a powerful perspective.  Embrace your role as star and director. Act with integrity and thoughtfulness and intentionality. If you abdicate your leading role, you become a bit player in someone else’s movie.

It’s your movie.  Stay in it.

Until next Tuesday. . .

Pool Pondering

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know by now that I am a ponderer.

Yesterday, I pondered for thirty minutes while I was swimming laps. Being submerged in water shuts out everything but my breathing and the motion of my arms and legs against the water, leaving my mind free to float about.

Here’s what I thought about:

  • Starting is the hardest.  The water is always cold, but by the end of the first lap my body is accustomed to it and I’m no longer aware of the water temperature.
  • First efforts are often disappointing.  When I started six months ago, I discovered that one shoulder didn’t rotate without pain.  I could only swim the breast stroke and elementary back stroke (similar to breast stroke but on my back), neither of which requires shoulder rotation. My beginning efforts were less than I had hoped for.
  • Persistence counts.  After two months of swimming slow, steady laps, I tried again to rotate my shoulder.  I discovered it fully rotated without pain. I added an occasional lap of free style to my routine.
  • Gradually increase your efforts. With an improved shoulder I added one lap of free-style for every three laps of breast or back stroke.  After a few weeks I changed my routine to alternating one free-style lap with one breast or back stroke lap. This month I am swimming two free style laps in a row, then two breast or back stroke laps.
  • Have a plan.  Every month I change my routine, with the goal of increasing my stamina.  Next month I’ll swim three free style laps punctuated with one resting lap of breast or back stroke.

Today I am using swimming for my illustration.  However, the process is the same for my piano practicing and my writing.  Starting is always the hardest for me.  Once I’m sitting on the piano bench or have my writing pulled up on my screen I am good to go.  After I’m started, I commit to small steps:  just working on one difficult musical passage or writing one paragraph.  Gradually I create a plan for doing a little more in a few days.  But in the beginning I take persistent small steps.  Increased efforts come later. Progress is the natural outcome of beginning, persisting, and planning.

So what about you?

What project or creative dream continues to elude you?  What do you wish you were able to do, but seems impossible from your current perspective?  What have you been afraid to try for fear of failure or embarrassment? What are your reasons for not starting?

Yes, the water will be cold. Get in anyway.

Yes, you will be disappointed with your first efforts.  Keep trying.

Yes, progress will be slow.  Be persistent.

The only measure of success is your comparison with where you started.

Show up.  Do your work.

Until next Tuesday. . .