Consider this… let’s pause for a second… Hang on… Take a deep breath… Relax for a moment…
On this, the second day of 2016, and the second day of “JusJoJan,” let us pause. Let us think. Laissons-nous réfléchir. I really would like to begin this new year on a positive note, and consider how an ideal sort of year might begin.
The farther I make this foray into my forties, the more I am beginning to realize how very important it is to figure out how to lose tension in my life. Tension has never made anything easier, better, more fun, more successful, but yet we sure do have a lot of it!
I figured out recently that there are probably only 6 activities in my life that I really love. If anyone would ask me, “What do you like to do?” I could list these 6 things: Reading, writing, traveling, playing music, flying airplanes, and anything that has anything to do with anything French. Not necessarily in that order 😉 Pretty much anything I like to do will fall into one of those categories. And there is definitely overlap between most of them. So if these activities give me the most pleasure, why bring tension to them?
I found this wonderful quote on the webpage of the Michelin-starred chef Guy Martin: “Ce que tu fais, fais-le bien ou ne le fais pas.” which translates to “Whatever you do, do it well or don’t do it at all.” I don’t take that to mean that I need to be perfect or that I need to be the best in the world at something (although Guy Martin certainly rose to the top tier of “ce qu’il a fait!” ) What I think it means, for me, is that if something is going to be among the top 6 things I do in my life, I should make the effort to do it as well as I can.
I have recently started taking flute lessons again, in order to try to be the best I can be at an instrument I love. I know I’m not going to be a famous flutist, giving concerts or being in an orchestra or anything like that, but again, I feel like if I am going to do something, I should do it well! I needed to go back to the basics, to re-learn how to practice, and to learn, perhaps for the first time, how to make music. I have had the great fortune to find a teacher who seems to be just right for me at this time of my life, offering just what I need to make this return to basics and fill in those gaps that I have in my technique. So anyway, back to the bit about not having tension. I am beginning to understand on a deeper level how important it is to get rid of this in life. I am trying to capture this quality of the French school of flute playing which makes even the most basic scale sound like une oeuvre d’art, and which puts this incredible appearance of facility on every piece of music, simple or complicated, so that they all sound artistic and beautiful but they never ever sound as though they have to work at it! In fact, it is a lot of work, but it is important to never let the listener know this! My teacher told me this when I was tackling a difficult passage; he said, “Rappelle-toi vraiment que l’ennemi de la vitesse c’est la crispation et c’est la lourdeur.” (this is my transcription of his French; I hope it’s right…this translates to something like, “Remember that the enemy of speed is tension and also heaviness.” Actually, “lourdeur” is quite a complicated concept in French, much more nuanced than simple “heaviness” but it will do for a translation for the moment, I think.)
Another great teacher that I have known, a flight instructor who taught aerobatics among other things, is famous for having told an aerobatic student as he white-knuckled his way through a rather egg-shaped loop, “Relax! You don’t want to die all tensed up like that!” And in fact had the student relaxed, the maneuver would have been easier and would have turned out better. Profound, n’est-ce pas? Maybe not so comforting to the student, but I think it’s so true! Why die “all tensed up”? This sounds like the same concept as my flute teacher is trying to express, I think! Fortunately, no one ever died from playing the flute “all tensed up” whereas I am sure that many have died from doing so in an aircraft.
My husband does karate, and he is currently studying for his second-degree black belt. His teacher told him kind of the same thing, about the difference between a beginner and an advanced student. He told me that his teacher told them a beginner would think of doing a motion with 2 or 3 “points” to shoot for during a kata move, for example, where an advanced student would think of so many points during the same move that it would seem like a continuous line. Like thinking of all the motion in between the focal points of the exercise. It would be, in fact, more complete, more mature, if I am understanding this right – I don’t know the first thing about karate, but it struck me as being very much the same concept as the above examples.
In fact, the older I get, the more I am feeling this need to throw out as many worries as possible so that I may feel the freedom to be more relaxed as I do the things I love. Stress happens. But why invite it in to everything? I love creating “stress-free” areas as much as possible. That means I have to pause, and consider how to throw it out, how to get rid of as much of it as possible. I don’t do “resolutions,” but I do “reflections” before beginning a new year. To me, “resolutions” make stress, but “reflections” create pauses, and I think it’s good to pause. I think that maybe a lot of bad things that have happened in the world have occurred because someone, somewhere felt rushed. If only we took more time to pause.
Congratulations if you made it to the end of this long SoC! I have taken so many “pauses” in writing this that it is practically tomorrow! No matter. I will post it anyway, and I am determined (but not “resolved”) to “Jot” something each day in January, so I’ll be back after a little pause I’m going to take now in order to sleep, which is a very cozy kind of “pause.” 🙂 z-z-z-z-z-z…
This post is part of Linda G Hill’s “Stream of Consciousness Saturday” and it’s also part of Linda’s “Just Jot it January” also known as “JusJoJan” — Click and read, click and join in! Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “pause/paws.” Use one, use both, use ’em any way you’d like. Have fun!