It feels totally abnormal, but since our little sweets came along, I actually have picked up a new hobby and am holding on to an old one. As a new Mom, it feels a bit wrong to take time away from my baby and my business to do things that “aren’t productive” (aka don’t bring in any money or take care of anyone else but me), but I think subconsciously I know it’s more important than ever.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my hobbies that absolutely pertain to my career:
Do what you want. My uke teacher left me with these words at the end of a lesson a couple months ago, and they’ve been sitting with me ever since. Ya see, I’ve been in lessons at least monthly for over a year, and on and off for before that for even longer. While I taught myself the basics when I first picked the instrument up in the summer of ’11 (thanks, Internet!), I was nervous about “learning it wrong” and “getting into bad habits.” But when I worked on this song with my teacher, we spent a lot of time on the strumming and tempo, and then he said, “Michelle, just do what you want.” That simple sentence gave me permission to drop the “shoulds” and play around with it in the way that was a reflection of my musicality. I don’t get caught up so much in The Rules anymore.
Setting an intention helps. On a training run I did a few weeks ago, I had to do intervals – meaning there were certain points in the run that I was supposed to run faster than my usual time. The training program specifically said, though, not to sprint, but to think of it as running smoother. When my RunKeeper chimed that my fast interval had started, I focused on “smooth” and found myself with my head picked up, taking longer strides and using my arms in a way I hadn’t before. I now set the Smooth intention for each of my runs, and when I find myself with my head down and/or running in short steps, it’s a way for me to reset myself.
The hardest part is starting. Getting my ukulele out of the closet is the hardest part of playing. Getting out of bed when the alarm goes off and getting dressed is the hardest part of my run. And the first 5 minutes of both of those activities has me at my slowest and sluggiest. But after I start, I’m pretty damn sure I’m gonna make it to the finish line.
It’s all psychological. Can I tell you that I honestly thought that I was just one of those people who couldn’t run? The 2ish miles I was used to running before I started my current training were so hard that I just never thought I could run any faster. I was never an athlete, and as many years as I tried (let’s try, oh, close to 20!), I was never a dancer. I was told by a trainer once that I was the most inflexible person he’s ever seen. I really thought my body was different. Less than. Broken. But when I ran 10 miles this weekend – and realized it’s only been 33 days since I first did a 4 mile run – I realized the whole damn thing is mind over matter.
It gets easier with practice, and small pockets of time are (the most) valuable. Imagine that! Ya know, for a few weeks I was playing my uke almost every day, taking it out with the baby (she loves turning it around and banging on the back of it, or plucking the strings and shrieking) and playing for her as long as she would have it. Sometimes it’d only be 5 or 10 minutes, othertimes 30. With that, I noticed that my hard songs felt easier because I was playing them more often. That I felt the songs in my body and didn’t have to think of them so much in my mind. And that the strums I was learning that felt impossible at my lesson came very possible if I just worked on them 3-5 minutes a day. That was actually better than trying to find, say, a 20 minute block once or twice a week. When my hands and brain were away from it that long it was much more of a struggle to get to the same place that I was when I was in it each day.
I’m a bad ass. I. ran. 10. miles. this. weekend. and. I. am. still. standing. I can pretty much do anything, you guys.
I’m such a proponent of Play, and making sure our lives are focused around doing the things that bring us joy. When we give ourselves the time and permission to do that, then we don’t have to live for the weekends or retirement. It turns out that, with the lessons that we learn, we’re more productive than we realize!