Something I truly don't understand about American "culture", if you can call it that, is rewarding self-harm achieved by overwork. If you're one of those people who falls asleep at night feeling good about having a productive day, I'm not talking about you.
It's like, we worship not having a life. I don't know how else to say it. Listen, I was a three-season art and sport extracurricular, plus honors student, plus crazy "how else can I fill my time" person in high school. I even had a part time job. That followed me to my undergrad, where I worked as a school accompanist, theatre pit musician, and eventually piano bar player while double majoring through the honors college. I kept gigging through my masters, too, sometimes playing til 2am and getting up at 7 to get to class. I did the thing. I thought I was awesome.
But the truth about that is that I drank too much, I cried wayyyyy more than I should have had to, and got enmeshed in really ugly relationships (platonic and romantic) to take the edge off of being sad. Or was it...tired?
With a year off of my bar job, I've had time to refocus my energy. I like to write. (I really, really like to write.) I like to take walks. I like to paint. I like to monologue at my gecko, Athena, who tolerates me but has become increasingly grumpy. I've had more meaningful conversations and less small talk.
John's grandmother bought me a book for my 29th birthday. It's called "A Cloud a Day" which is a collection of photographs of clouds and identifications of those photographs by a group called The Cloud Appreciation Society. I thought, wow, there's a cloud appreciation society? But as I've worked my way through the book, I can see the appeal. It's about the beauty of the sky, but also about the culture and activities surrounding one's ability to notice it. This requires long walks in interesting places, time to look around, and the curiosity to delight in your findings.
With our pandemic-inspired walks, I've gotten more interested in flowers, tombstones, architecture, and -- you guessed it -- clouds. I don't think I've taken the time to actually look at the world around me much. Sure, I've always taken trips, gone to the zoo, planned wild excursions, and that's all been amazing. I hope to do more of all of that. But in a year where most of that was off limits, I realized, my neighborhood is a museum. My condo is a blank canvas that begs decoration. My bay windows are a gallery. How flipping cool (and nerdy, but hey...don't @me) is that??
In The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, she says, "Sanity lies in paying attention." Even if we have nothing, we can always find the joy and beauty in the small things that surround us. I guess I never took the time to notice. My desk chair is oddly shaded based on how I sit. My two-runged succulent stand was oddly planted with all colored cacti in one pot, and all greenery in the other. It's drizzling now, but that'll likely pass in time for a walk because the clouds are moving fairly quickly.
I suppose, all of this rambling mess is to say that if you have a few minutes to look around at what you've got, I highly recommend it. The more I observe the simple things, the better I feel. It may not be much, but it's perfect for me. Oh, and take a day off now and then. Turn your phone off. Go for a walk. The main thing I admire these days is the capacity for someone to have a meaningful, thoughtful conversation, and I'm realizing that a big part of the ability to do so is in the power of observation coupled with being well-read. Not a bad way to spend an hour or two, I'd argue.
I just saw that The Cloud Appreciation Society has a Music tab. Guess I'd better get to writing some music.
Until tomorrow, stay well, stay safe, and stay kind.