On this beautiful fall morning, my precious dog at my side, the world is reduced to the crunching of leaves underfoot and Marley’s gentle, rhythmic, panting as we walk the cracked sidewalks of our old Southside Birmingham neighborhood. Every morning, this is the start of my day (typically along with a side of kickboxing), and it has become a meditation of sorts during these turbulent times.
I am working to reintroduce meditation into my daily life after a too-long hiatus, trying my best to gather the mix of tools that will help me survive the mental toll taken by the pandemic and everything else that is swirling around. My mind is like a beehive right now, humming with questions, with worries and fears, but also with hope.
I know that I share with my musician colleagues a feeling that our identity has been taken. Concert halls are silent, university campuses are quiet, teaching is so very different between computer screens and Covid instrument bags and masks. A year ago, I was in London and Bath, England, performing with the UAB Chamber Trio, a semester filled with exciting travel and performances. That is all gone; traveling to the grocery store is as exotic as it gets these days. I miss the hustle and bustle of my normal career activity, I miss the artistic outlet and challenge, I miss interacting with audiences and with my chamber music colleagues, I miss going to the office and interacting with my colleagues and our students.
Today was stressful for many reasons, both personal and professional. Nothing went according to plan, and I was left just feeling spent. I got to the end of the day thinking I was going to give up and go to the couch, but decided that what I really needed was a good bike ride on the Vulcan Trail. I’m finding that cycling is another form of meditation for me. I feel such freedom on my bike, feeling the unfettered freedom of childhood as I pedal fast and feel the wind on my face.
I’m not giving up on finding peace and leading a happy life during this incredibly chaotic time. It will take work, but I am worth the work, my life with Dan and our home together are worth the work, my students are worth the work. I have learned over my fifty-seven years that exercise helps to calm me, writing helps, talking to Dan and my closest friends, spending time with our animals and in nature helps, focusing on the things I can change helps. There will never be a perfect world; my job is to make better whatever I can make better, to breathe, learn from, and walk away from the things that I cannot change. I will continue to meditate on the positives…and hopefully learn from the negatives.