Time For Me

Lately, I have been running out of time. Not just losing track of time -I am doing that, but actually finding that there are not enough hours to get everything done. It all came to a head this week, when I found that I wasn’t able to complete some projects that had a deadline. This is unusual for me.  No matter how tired I am – or how busy I get, I always manage to complete things on time. Turns out I can’t do that anymore. I’ve also noticed that I have started cancelling appointments, and sighing with relief when other people cancel on me. I find myself falling into bed completely exhausted and actually sleeping for a few hours – this is the one positive thing that has come from all this over-scheduling.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine about this- and she had a brilliant idea via Michelle Obama (not that they are friends or anything – she went to an event/lecture by her). Mrs. Obama talked about how when she is constructing her calendar, she schedules in her must do things (for herself or for her children) first, before scheduling other meetings/events/appearances.

I was listening to this, thinking I have a very different kind of life than the former First Lady, but I definitely have a scheduling problem. So, while I have a completely insane schedule for the rest of February and March (which includes working 7 days a week), I can try this out for April and the subsequent months.  Now, I already have a proposed calendar – but I have managed to do a bit of moving things around and I think I have come up with a plan. It feels like I work 80+ hrs a week. What makes it seem like I am always working, is that I don’t ever schedule in things like billing, or scheduling, or lesson prep. I do those on my own time.  And so I am often sending out invoices from my phone, while I am waiting for a movie to start on a Sunday night. This is unacceptable.  But if I take a careful look at my calendar, I notice that I have a 2.5 hr block between lessons on a tuesday, where I can do my invoicing and follow ups (and so Im going to schedule in some admin time – DONE!). I shouldn’t have to look at that every week – which gives me a few extra hours a week for practicing, and checking in with parents, and maybe even do a bit of marketing.  So instead of using that time- for scarfing down dinner or madly preparing for the next lesson, I can invest that time back into my own business.

The one aspect that my calendar is missing is time for me.  I have already made lunch hours a time to get a bit of exercise (me).  I have an entire freezer full of already prepared dinners, so I don’t have to worry about cooking for the next 3 weeks, but I rarely schedule fun.  Mostly because by the time I get around to it – Im fast asleep.

Here is what my average week looks like:

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Work = 40 hrs
Ensemble Rehearsal = 7.5 hrs
Lessons = 15.5hrs
Admin = 2.5 – 5 hrs
Practice= 10 hrs

And if you add in the volunteer hours I work, you can add in an average of 2 hrs a week. That brings me up to almost 80 (hah! so I was right).  But there is definitely time for me.  In fact, I am quite surprised at how much white space is in my calendar.  I don’t feel the need to schedule every single minute of my life – but I like knowing that there is room for almost everything I want to be doing.  And now that I have realized that I can reschedule things, in order for me to have a  more balanced life, I feel like I won’t be missing deadlines, or forgetting things. In fact, I feel like I have quite a lot of room to breathe. Maybe so much room, that I should take on another project. Or maybe just schedule in some fun things, until I start feeling like me again.

*I purposely don’t put my practice hours into my calendar because right now, I am feeling the need to be flexible with my playing.  Also did you notice – no therapy sessions for March! Time for a bit of a rest.

Who Needs Sleep? 15 Things You Can Do Instead

 

I have bouts of insomnia throughout the year – but January is when my insomnia game is the strongest.  I don’t know if its the pressure of starting a new year off right, or what. But when January comes around, my circadian rhythms decide to pack a bag and go on vacation.  Over the years I have come up with a way to deal.  It doesn’t involve tossing or turning, or laying in bed waiting for sleep to come, or even watching netflix documentaries.

Here is my list of 15 things you can do to stop stressing about your lack of sleep and have some fun.

  1. Get some crayons, paper, and maybe a colouring book or two. Go to town. Colouring is a great way to relax and destress – and it engages your brain just enough to help you forget the stuff that is actually keeping you up at night.
  2. If you aren’t a classical musician, I would suggest listening to some music written before the romantic period. If you are a musician – may I suggest listening to ambient music written by Brian Eno (or someone similar), Music for Airports is my go to work for nights when I can’t sleep.  And if I’m still awake, I listen to Keith Jarret’s The Koln Concert. Here is  a snippet of him talking about some of the problems that came before the recording. *Not so fun fact- Keith Jarrett has lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – and so he knows insomnia.  Why not commiserate together.
  3. Make art. Try to make art without using any electronics – the light that comes from that equipment is not your friend. Find other means.
  4. Clean. Get up and sweep floors, wash dishes, scrub your bathtub, make your bed.
  5. Write mantras in lipstick on all of your mirrors. Use sports quotes – In the past I have used quotes from Wayne Gretzky (but you will need a big mirror – he is wordy), words of wisdom from grandfathers work well, as do bon mots spewed by members of the Algonquin Round Table. This morning I wrote a bunch of hideous lipstick mantras about how failure makes you great – and that its healthy to fail – and then I cleaned my mirrors. Wiping out words about failure made me feel powerful – which is something we don’t often feel-when we can’t sleep. And fear of failure could also be the reason why you are still awake at 3am.  *side note – only use lipstick that is so hideous looking that you can’t believe you ever bought it.
  6. Resign yourself to the fact that sleep isn’t going to happen for you. Get up and start your day.
  7. My favourite insomnia activity (best done in the spring and summer) is to go outside with your camera every hour on the hour, and take photos of your street – notice how the light changes, if the cars have moved, wave to your neighbours, capture the trees blowing in the wind, or the crows digging for worms.
  8. Do some yoga. Im new to yoga – but am finding a lot of peace and enjoyment out of sun salutations. A couple of these will totally wake you up – and you will be ready for some coffee.
  9. Call a far away friend.  Just call someone that is several time zones ahead of you. Don’t interrupt someone else’s sleep – that’s a bit rude.
  10. Read a book. May I suggest opening an actual book made of paper – remember screens are bad.  I read 110 books last year, mostly during hours I should have been sleeping. You can find what I read here. Try reading the book backwards – read the last word first and make your way to the front of the book. This will help tire your brain – and you may find yourself back in bed sooner than you think. Hat Tip to Casper for this.
  11. For me, simple math is hard. And when you are in the throes of Chronic Fatigue – doctors will often ask you to start at 100 and count backwards by subtracting by 7.  Try doing these exercises – if you are anything like me, you will give up and fall asleep long before you get the final answer (its 2).  Its way better than counting sheep.
  12. If its safe to do so, go for a walk. A little bit of fresh air and exercise might be just what your body needs. I usually walk just before 5 am, head to Starbucks (because thats the closest place that is open) and walk for about an hour or so- but only if I am restless.  I won’t go earlier than that because when streets are too quiet, I find it a bit too scary to stray far from my home.
  13. Organize a closet. There is a strange clarity that comes at 2am that you don’t get during the rest of the day. Its an optimal time to do a clothing purge. Be quiet though, if there is someone else is sleeping in your bedroom.  Best practice would be to weed out a closet in a room where no one is sleeping.
  14. Make coffee, cinnamon rolls, and bacon. It’s a gentler way to wake up the other person/people in your house, if you are feeling a bit lonely and want someone to talk to. Chances are they would appreciate this method a lot more, than being pestered to wake up by being poked and nagged.
  15. Practice. Surely you have something going on that needs to be worked on. For me its guitar. But for you in might be a keynote you are preparing, or math problems, or getting ready for baseball season. Whatever you are passionate about find a way to work on your craft.  If you can practice full out – great! If you are sharing your space, find a way to practice quietly.

What do you do when you can’t sleep? Do you have an insomnia regime?  I know that the usual form is to do something to get you back to sleep. That rarely works for me – so I find ways to distract myself. But I would love to hear your tricks. Please share.

The Power of Believing (or lack thereof)

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This is me. I don’t always look like I this, but I pretty much always feel like how I look in this photo. Scared, exhausted, and like I have just gotten my ass kicked. Also I pretty much always feel like I am six years old.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a great deal of change in the way I see myself. I have had a great deal of help from both professionals and friends- and I have come along way. But there is one area that needs a great deal of work still. I don’t actually believe that I am deserving of a good life. Professionally I mean. I have made great strides in my personal life – but I kind of forgot that there is a whole other part of my life that needs attention. And so recently I started thinking about this area.

I am a classical musician – but due to injuries I am unable to play music. I have had a teaching practice -that I have set aside for awhile, since it wasn’t working out the way I had planned, and I am was a member of a quartet, that has just started to do a lot of performing. Since I am  unable to play (until at least July 1) I had to find a replacement.  I have a lot of practice ahead of me, if I am to come back to where I was as a musician  -and we don’t quite know yet if I will get there, even with all that work.  My musical life is the only place I feel validated.  When I play music I feel like I am contributing. I feel valued and respected. This is all on hold now, while I heal. And all of these feelings have gone away.

I also have a day job. And this is where my problem lies. I have dreams. Professional dreams. I want a job that is creative. I want a job that makes me happy. I want a job that challenges me. I want to be able to feel good about what I do. And I want to enjoy going to work everyday. I have none of these things. Why? Because I don’t actually believe that I should be allowed to have them.

I had great role models growing up. I grew up in a house, where not only did my mother work, and work hard, but she was incredibly successful. She made sure that I knew that I could do anything I wanted. She instilled a sense of independence in me. That stuck  -I am incredibly independent. I don’t need help from anyone. I can take care of myself. And I do. But I am unhappy.

A long time ago, someone treated me like a garbage can (actually worse-but its too painful to talk about). And that feeling stuck. I have never been able to shake it off. I don’t believe people unless they say terrible things about me.  I just don’t think they are truthful unless they are telling me I am useless. Probably why I can’t actually count on anyone to be sincere, unless they are angry at me. I feel better when I have goaded someone into telling me that they don’t like me. I have done this to my own family, more times than I can count. I know this is self destructive behaviour. And I have worked so hard in order to move past it. I have successfully culled toxic relationships, and built healthy supportive ones. For the first time in my life, I have a support system in place. And yet I am still broken.

I work hard.  But I am unable to ask for simple things like a raise. Or for a job that I would be better suited at. I can’t even quit a job that I don’t enjoy, or one that I am not good at. I am not afraid of rejection – I have had plenty of rejection in my life.  But I can’t even bring myself to be put in a position of rejection. I am unable to do anything – because I am terrified. Paralyzed. Afraid of being happy.

Because I am a garbage can. Suited only for containing trash.