Quick preface to say: first blog post, woohoo! It’s only a few years late… heh. The idea of putting my thoughts and words into a public blog formation somehow seemed incredibly daunting, unless being asked by someone else (and being forced to follow through by virtiue of ~*~*deadlines*~*~ -- for instance you may have read my recent musings in Carnegie Hall’s “The Beat,” or the Carnegie Hall Playbill)… but alas, today was significant enough that I wanted to share with anyone who wanted to read. So, here goes…
One of my most favourite things about being alive is the richness of the world we inhabit. Every day, I wake up to the same world. Every morning, I travel the same paths that many have traveled before me, and even I myself have walked upon innumerable times. And yet? Every day there is something different.
Each week, I visit an elementary school in Brooklyn. Each week, this school feeds me in ways I cannot begin to describe. Each week, alarmingly, I notice something different on my simple 4-avenue walk to the subway station. (You’d think I would have done it enough times by now, and hopefully have been observant and present enough to take in my surroundings…) Two weeks ago, it was the glimmer from the first ray of sun of the day reflecting off the metal infrastructure of a building (school starts early meaning, in the winter, I have to leave my home before the sun has risen). Last week, it was noticing that there was a giant HOPE sign outside my subway stop (and I particularly appreciated that push of hope on that cold, low-energy morning). Today, the sun shone in such a way that it directed my attention to this mural:
A delighted child-like inner voice (which everyone who’s hiked with me has heard escape outwardly) exclaimed: “mountains!” An involuntary smile filled my face. Heavily jailed behind a thick-slatted wooden gate, making it barely visible from the sidewalk, this colourful landscape sparkled under the sun and sent me skipping back on my merry way, reminding me of the joy of the mountains – and the joy of surprise.
I thought to myself, let this serve as a reminder to be more open to the world around me. I try to remind myself daily to be present: to observe, to engage, to absorb; but even then, I think my habits betray me. I spend a lot of time looking up, gazing at clouds, soaking up the sun, letting my eyes dance with the stars, but in this, I’m also escaping. These are beautiful things to experience, and necessary parts of my personal daily nourishment, but I need to remind myself to absorb more of the world I’m in. I could be just as easily and significantly moved by the imaginative man-made wonders that fill a city at eye level. The beauty & feeling behind many simple graffiti tags on the sidewalk or on the side of a building; the brilliance of an underground world lying beneath our paths on the sidewalk, transporting millions of people hundreds of miles every day; the thoughtful ways you notice others interacting; the magnitude and efficiency of the architecture around me…
Patience is not my strong suit; I know this and it is something I am constantly trying to catch myself in and be intentional about. Interestingly, there are moments when I am patient. I find it easy to be patient with children, with animals, and whenever I’m present. One time, my best friend and I were hiking a gorgeous trail in Ucluelet, BC, and it took us over 90 minutes on the way out, away from the car. We stopped to admire the rugged coast, to breathe in the salty air, to indulge in the beautiful foliage, and absorb all of the surprising quirks of the trail. On the way back to the car, it took us less than 30 minutes. We were shocked – we had no idea how much time we had spent just taking it all in… we genuinely thought we’d been hiking that whole time!
Experiences like that make me reflect on my own impatience and realize where it comes from: a place of wanting to fit as much into my life as I can, and feeling like every second is so precious. When I don’t have any imminent responsibilities, I can slow down my New York City pace (come on, we all know that’s a pace of it’s own) and be a better engager. It’s hard to find the balance of experiencing the moment fully, and ambitiously striving to experience everything that life has to offer. Often, I feel the rush, and the desire to be efficient, and can become frustrated with people or things that force me to slow down.
But today, I was patient. When I got home, I noticed a man collecting his mail from his mail box as I got into the elevator. So, I waited. The man walked onto the elevator, startled. “Wow. Thank you so much for waiting for me.” (This doesn’t happen often in a city like NYC – I daresay not because people are selfish or malicious, but simply because everyone feels hurried and is focused on something else.) But when I stopped to notice the lobby, it seemed like a no-brainer to wait for him. What is 30 seconds out of my day? In this case, “30 seconds out of my day” brought a smile to both a stranger and me, and offered a moment of human connection that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. We exchanged names, talked about music (because my cello was, of course, on my back). I left the elevator feeling even a little lighter.
There probably isn’t much coincidence that this occurs one day after MLK Day of Service, or during a month where I have been unable to pursue my regular rigorous working schedule and have been filling my spare time reading more books (mainly about psychology, the science of joy, the reasons we make certain decisions), and going for long walks (trying to soak up some Vitamin D to be proactive against SAD and situational depression as I face my own inner demons and hurdle injury). It’s been a tough month – I have been recovering from an over-playing injury in my right arm, and ultimately had to cancel a couple of performances that I had really been excited about. I don’t like backing out of things or feeling like I’m giving up on anything – it’s not in my nature. I value reliability and commitment. It’s also never fun to not be able to play! Being forced to take days off and not be allowed to touch my instrument is not a good feeling. The frustration I felt at not being able to do what I love, coupled with the guilt and upset at having to cancel commitments, combined with feelings of inadequacy, physical pain, fear, and much else, has resulted in a cocktail of negativity that I’ve tried to mindfully push through. Thankfully, the time off accelerated the healing process, and I am able to play again, even if not as much as I’d like to just yet. Ultimately, though, I am grateful to have been able to derive many positive lessons from this whole experience. The extra time I was gifted was often filled with sunshine, kind and loving people, and introspective reflections on what joy means and how to manifest it in not only my life, but in the lives of those around me. As it turns out, perhaps dealing with an injury and coming face-to-face with my own mortality and limitations was a positive and inspiring kickstart to 2019 after all.