I have always functioned best in every area of my life when I have a set routine. Free time is difficult for me, as I float from task to task, getting absorbed in details or lost in my thoughts and dreams. Total INFJ. However, give me a schedule and a set of objectives and I am a productive machine. Add stress to the no routine equation, such as- oh, how about a global pandemic and teaching on-line for the first time in my long career, and it causes me to freeze.
Classes begin on-line at UAB on Wednesday, and there is no time for me to freeze; my students and my department need me at my best during this chaotic time. As I encouraged my students to do, I created a new routine, a detailed schedule of what I will do each day, starting from waking up at 6am until ‘me time’ starts at 5:30pm. I even ordered colored pencils to help with visual organization. I didn’t just include lessons and office work; I included taking care of the animals, meals, daily exercise, my personal practice sessions, time to relax with Dan, to garden, read- and time for a daily shower.
It sounds silly, but with no real structure, it’s easy to get to the end of the day and realize that you’re still in your pajamas wondering where the time went. To be my best, I need to make time for the teacher me, the musician me, and the personal me. To do that in a time where the whole world feels upside down, I need to start by scheduling things that I normally wouldn’t think of having to schedule. Taking care of all parts of who I am will make me better able to stay afloat, better able to help my students and myself navigate this extraordinary time in our history.
I’m grateful that I began intermittent fasting at the beginning of December and developed healthy eating and exercise habits (down thirty-seven pounds so far). Having my health as an anchor to keep me focused is something that will be a great help as time passes. I have promised myself to come through all of this healthier; I am watching less television, reading more, getting back to kickboxing and yoga in my gym, writing more, planning new teaching strategies and new practice routines for my own playing. I’m making a point to reach out to friends and family to check on them. And- I’m counting my blessings that I have a job, a safe, comfortable, and peaceful home in which to work, wonderful students who are flexible and eager to make this happen, dear friends and neighbors who look out for each other, and a husband who is supportive and loving (and makes me laugh when I get stressed out).
I worked in my home studio/office all day, cleaning, organizing, and getting set up to teach and practice there for the foreseeable future. It is one of my favorite places in our hundred year-old home; back in the day it was a sleeping porch, a low-ceiling room at the back of the house on the second floor with six windows to let the cooler air in for sleeping on hot Alabama summer nights. Now, it is the perfect practice room and office. I am surrounded by trees and the beauty of our back decks- and the best part? Marley can sit at my feet as I work.
I will do the best I can for my students. Teaching by example is one of the best pedagogical methods there is. If they see that I am doing my best to keep structure in all areas of my life, practicing what I preach, hopefully it will inspire them to do the same so that they are able to have a strong finish to this incredibly strange semester. We are all going to learn so much as we struggle with the newness of everything. And, if we’re lucky, we may come out of this sad time as stronger, more grateful, and more compassionate human beings. Beauty rising from the ashes of tragedy.
Be well, everyone.