BECOMING BETTER

Jean Croker Petke


Now what?

Now what?

For the last four springs I’ve played a recital in my home for friends. The first recital was attended by a few close friends and family. Now I do two recitals to accommodate the nearly forty people who want to come. The musical afternoons are filled with composer stories, conversation, tea, and cookies.

Recital preparation begins in January with the selection of pieces, and the daily practice required. In the weeks prior, dozens of cookies are baked and invitations are sent out. Friends are enlisted to help with the logistics on performance day.

The recitals have come and gone. I accomplished what I set out to do. The event that has driven me for months is finished. 

Now what?

A gap has opened up in my days that I hadn’t anticipated. Preparing for the recital doubled my daily practice time, so just working on lesson music now is less demanding and certainly less consuming. And, for me, it’s too early to start working on music for next April’s recital.

Now what?

Maybe I just need to breathe for awhile. Take a few days off. Catch up on the little things I’ve let slide in recent weeks.

My usual behavior, when one project is finished, is to move right on to the next one. Setting a goal and directing my energy to meet it is what I do. It’s how I do my best work. It’s how I grow. It’s how I become better.

But the time after accomplishment is a strange period. I don’t want to rush into anything. I don’t want to create another plan too quickly. I don’t want to be obsessive about my need to accomplish.

I recall an article I read some years ago about the importance of fallow time for agricultural fields. Fields are left dormant, unplanted, for a period of time, to allow the soil to recover and regenerate. It appears nothing is happening in a field where crops are not growing, yet there is unseen earth restoration that will produce better crops next year.

I suspect, in our need to always be productive, we plant too soon. We rush to the next project as soon as we finish the last one. The concept of idleness doesn’t sit well with us. Like periods of silence, idleness makes us anxious. We think we ought to be doing, or speaking, or working, or writing, or practicing, or whatever it is that generally fills our time.

In the writing of this blog, my answer to “now what” has come. I’m going to lie fallow for a while. I’m setting aside thoughts about next year’s recital. I’m setting aside thoughts about other projects I ought to be working on now that I have more time. I’m allowing the muse to roam without my direction.

I’m going outside to watch the wind blowing through the trees.

Until next Tuesday . . .

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