2018. The year I…
- got engaged to Ryan, my partner of 12 years
- completed my second AIDS Lifecycle
- conducted 94 of my incredible students at Carnegie Hall
- attended my first conducting symposium
- was introduced to the power of meditation and mindfulness
2018. Also the year I…
- made some of the most difficult professional decisions in my career
- felt defeated and unsure of my skills as a teacher
- was lost as to the direction of my life
- experienced the crippling and accelerating presence of anxiety in my daily life
- dealt with panic attacks that caused me to feel like my world was falling apart
We spend a lot of time putting our best foot forward to the world. Through the curated digital life I create for others (and myself) to see, I have built an imbalance that I am working to reset. Sharing here is a starting point towards clarity; writing is cathartic and it’s helpful to pull back the curtains to make sense of the messiness. Maybe this will help you to think about how to care for yourselves, too.
When your passion is the problem
As a band director I find I am able to feel secure and valuable in the non-stop busyness of my daily work schedule. I thrive in the 12-16 hour days of teaching, making music, planning, trouble shooting, problem solving, and generally being “on.” Driving home I decompress with phone calls, usually to other band directors, to talk about my day so I can arrive home to Ryan with a clean slate, ready to do it all over again the next day.
Wash, rinse, repeat x 250 days.
But what about the other 115 days? Cue the second list I detailed above.
And you know what? In talking with many of my teacher friends, I’ve learned I am not alone and that this is something that we should be talking about more. In the absence of daily and monthly schedules that have driven my purpose and my identity, I collapse emotionally and physically from the inside out.
My thoughts catch up to me. My feelings catch up to me. My lack of exercise catches up to me. My screen-time catches up to me. All the old tricks to keep me from myself are no longer working.
Ready, Set, Action
So it’s time to get clear about what I need to help myself. This transcends resolutions (though they are a great starting point). Self-care is a very popular buzzword at the moment but it rings true in it’s intention. If you give everything to something or someone else you don’t have anything left for yourself.
Things I know help me that require little effort for me to do:
- Moving (yoga, cycling, running)
- Meditation/mindfulness activities
- Alone time (daydream, write, read, go for a drive)
- Putting my phone down
- Focusing on my breathing and having body awareness
- Releasing the physical sensation of holding on, clenching or tightness
- Creating something beautiful (floral arrangements, decorating, photos)
My relationship to my anxiety (and the related panic attacks) is new but one that I am developing an understanding of how to handle. I recognize triggers and signs (both physically and mentally) and am learning how to get in front of caring for myself in advance of and through anxiety as it manifests.
As teachers we are charged with caring for others. It takes work and bandwidth we don’t always have to care for ourselves. So what if I approach this work like I would help a student with learning a new skill?
By showing them:
So my request of myself (and maybe you, too, if this resonates!) is to take time to listen to my body, my breath, my mind and to cultivate a deeper relationship with that little voice. The one that is tugging at my proverbial pant leg telling me exactly what I need to do to be balanced, to listen, to pay attention and to take action when necessary.
I’ve moved past the idea that any part of me needs fixing. As a band director I am a fix-it person by nature. But years of working through my own struggles to come out and live with visibility have taught me that trying to fix myself implies that who I am is broken. I’m coming to an awareness that my body is sending me signals that I’m not broken, just out of balance.
One resolution I have for 2019 is to write more. I am thankful for the opportunity to share with you and for your time reading. May you find balance in your life in 2019.