Today marks the last day of 365 days of practice. I've been expecting that something magical would have happened by now. As it turns out, no angels sang from on high this morning, but I know that if there are angels, they're smiling.
What we've got here is a girl who's got family in town and who's been sick for three days and so hasn't practiced, coming in on the final stretch. Somehow I lost count, because according to my last entry, today should be day 356. That's a lot of days to miscount on, but alas, today has to be day 365 because we started last July 1.
Well, folks, it's not over 'til the fat lady sings, and based on my steady consumption of the five bags of cider donuts my sister bought at Atkins Farm in Amherst last week, you might think that day is coming soon. But it's not. We shall continue. Are you with me?
All year, I expected that today would include a meaningful, moving recap of the last year. What you're getting instead is real life: the ten-minute recap, written quickly knowing that Soul Fry will be awake any minute now.
1. Consistency is everything. Picking a regular time to practice, always the same time, always the same place, has made a huge difference. For me, if it doesn't happen at that time, then it doesn't happen. We got lucky, because sometime in this year, Soul Papa built a soundproof Irish bar in the basement. We call it a practice room. And it is.
2. Family first. When you have a family, it simply may not be possible to practice every day. But practicing most days is a really good thing.
3. Having concrete goals are very important. But when you don't meet them, just keep trying. I still haven't managed to fit daily sax practice in with daily flute practice. That's my goal for the next year: play both, every time. (Maybe not every day, but every time. Or almost every time.)
4. Structure is very helpful. I have a basic plan of what I do every time I practice, and it makes it much easier. Practice goes best when I have a big show coming up; I work specifically on those tunes and feel good about it. When there isn't a specific concert, a recording, etc etc, then practice gets a little more squirrely, and I end up sitting down with a Catherine McEvoy recording and playing along.
5. Being accountable helps. Boy, it's made a big difference for me to know that at least two of you (you know who you are) are out there, practicing along every day. As far as I know, both of you have done every single day. You beat me! Sometimes I feel badly that I haven't been able to do every day, but then I have to remember that I've still got Soul Fry here in the house. She gets to be first. Second in line is making a living, and sometimes work deadlines require that I'm at the computer in the morning instead of the practice room. So be it. The roof over our heads is also important.
6. Sometimes by looking for one thing, one discovers something else. I discovered, much to my dismay, really, that I am as much a writer as a musician... As soon as I figured that out, I got writer's block for the first time in my life. But it lasted only a couple weeks, then it was over.
7. I need to disconnect the blog from my website. During the year, I read a blogger's comment on his own blog, and he said that more important than anything else in a blog is complete honestly. Well, I've had to sugarcoat the truth a few times, because this blog is connected to our website, and thus, I don't always tell the full story. This year look for the blog to be less prominently connected to our site. (This is a boring discovery only relevant to me; pardon my navel gazing.)
8. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Some blog entries are great, some are personal and self-serving (as above). Likewise, some performances are wonderful and others are uninspired. Some practice sessions are productive, others are just going through the motions. Whatever. Keep going.
Throughout the year, I've been reading books on Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese fung shui, as well as deep and inspiring American novels, and a little bit of beach trash. All except the latter tend to underline the fact that every single issue identified in my numbered list above is simply native to human existence.
The Buddhist philosophers would most definitely advise us all to stop counting the days, and just keep on practicing. As soon as we grasp on to what we're doing and start expecting some result, we predetermine ourselves for disappointment, disruption, or simply torture ourselves with an overexamined life. It was Socrates who said "An unexamined life is not worth living." Not sure if I agree with him.
Here's the big discovery:
Starting today, I'll keep on writing but I'm going to stop counting. It's really not about how many days one does it; it's about simply doing it, with focus, with intention, and with balance. As often as possible.
T. S. Eliot was more poetic, but I must adjust his quote. "Not with a bang, but a shrug."