Our prolonged pandemic puts everybody’s daily schedule in semi-permanent shake-up mode. It’s forever Blursday, the 85th of Whenever. Mind you, being retired, that pretty much describes every day for me, and that isn’t even that much of a change from my years of managing my own time as a freelancer. Once you’re no longer tethered to a time-clock, you’re on your own figuring out how to structure your time to get things done without just drifting through the day, day after day. A set of specific activities to engage in daily helps. I like to think of my “daily doin’s” as rhythms, not routines but I sure have a few.
My morning rhythms start with coffee, of course, both in my cup and in my social media. See, I post a coffee meme every morning and people enjoy this. It’s a simple shtick, but once you get a shtick and you get known for that shtick, stick with your shtick. I post coffee memes every morning. Ask anybody online.
Then, I make note of who needs birthday greetings for their special day. Years ago, the steady stream of birthday wishes coming in all day while I was feeling particularly blue really boosted my spirits that September 24, 2010. So, I pay that feeling forward every morning with a quick “Happy Birthday!’ to today’s celebrants — with a meme, of course!
Once those two online tasks are done, it’s on to my morning freewrite. I sit and write a thousand words of whatever comes tripping off the fingertips, a wake-up call for the semantic brain to rev up the circuits between thought and brain and fingers and written word. I used to think of it as a warm-up, but it’s not really connected to any further writing. I tried that and it ruins the spirit and rhythm of the freewrite in that it’s no longer open-ended. Somehow, I feel any warm-up should connect directly to some bit of targeted writing — the precise expectation and pressure that I seek to sidestep with the morning freewrite, where anything goes.
Other daily doin’s revolve around taking care of our pets, including taking Stella the dog for a walk. Add in meals and naps and that’s about enough structure for the average day for me. I don’t mind drifting through some days.
But that time-drift sometimes brings to mind some dormant habits. Specifically, I’m talking about doodling and playing the piano. Long-time readers here on the back porch might remember how I often wrote about doodling and shared quite a few doodles here along the way. Nowadays, I find that I rarely doodle.
What happened? Well, my doodling habit grew out of taking doodle-notes at meetings and conferences. Guess what I have not been going to recently? Oh, sure, I can — and do — doodle notes for some online presentations. But it’s just not the same. And like any muscle left unused, my doodling muscles have atrophied shamefully. I hardly doodle at all any more, even though I miss doing so.
The other dormant habit is one I probably haven’t even mentioned here. I’ve generally played piano only for myself, and rarely at that. But I always did love having a piano in the house. It just lends itself to sitting down and trying a tune or two. After years of childhood lessons, I can fake my way around a few songs and enjoy doing so. But the piano did not make the move to Colorado with us. Given we have no good place to put it, I don’t much miss it. But without the physical presence of the piano, I stopped playing altogether.
Sure, I’ve got a portable keyboard that’s got multiple voice settings and some amazing functions beyond simple keyboard. I bought a stand, figuring that maybe setting it up so it was always there, like a piano, would prompt me to play it some. Except that it really isn’t the same at all. A piano is a sturdy piece of furniture that can stand up to some banging on the keys. The stand shakes a little, so the keyboard moves slightly under my touch, something I am still not used to. The feel of the keys and the response are just fundamentally different than a piano’s response. At least two of the frequently struck keys are dead, which always throw me off. In short, I have found it difficult to deal with. It stands there, just a few feet away, almost taunting me.
So, I have determined to restore those two habits. I don’t have to play full songs at first. I don’t even have to play with both hands at first. Get used to playing melody lines with the right hand. Work in a few chords. Maybe add a bass note sometimes. Slowly. No expectations.
And pick up the pencil and doodle something!
Postscript: Just writing this blog post resulted in me playing a quick Beatles melody on the keyboard and draw this quickie cartoon, so, who knows? Maybe we’re on our way back to happy habits of daily doodles and playing the keyboard.