Thursday, March 19, 2009

it's hard enough even trying to be civil to myself

When I went to the other night's Civic Orchestra concert--Strauss' Dance of the Seven Veils from the opera Salome (RIP Oscar Wilde), a new piece that I was too tired for and so allowed myself to drift away from completely, and Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta that they carried off quite admirably--I experienced an emotion that I always feel when watching Civic perform: extreme jealously. It's very difficult for me to watch that orchestra perform, because the whole time I'm thinking I wish I was down there, playing Bartok like a giant accordion of shifting parallel pitches, I should be there, I've been there before and I want to feel like a participant instead of a listener and on and on. It's tiring and distracting, and I always leave the concert hall feeling just the slightest bit bitter. For me, playing will always be better than listening, I think.
I bring this up not so much to talk about my jealousy issues as I do to meditate on something that's been taking up some headspace lately. I've mentioned that I have a tendency to overbook myself, but recently I've started wondering if there isn't more to this than meets the eye. I stack my entire week full of lunches and dinners and coffees and yoga classes and rehearsals and work and then spend all of my free time at home cooking unnecessarily complicated snack food (you should see my planner, omg), and I'm starting to wonder why. I realized the other day that virtually the only time I'm sitting still and just being is when I'm on the bus.
Ever since I moved into my own place, focus has become an issue for me for basically the first time in my life. I can't sit through movies by myself. (Netflix is robbing me blind.) I check my email waaaay too often. And this is the worst part: It's hard for me to read. I just finished a book two days ago, and I swear it was the first full book I've read in maybe two months, and that terrifies me. I, who love to read, love books beyond all things, can't sit still for long enough to get through a book.
Partially, I think I'm just truly participating in my life for the first time in a while. After graduation, it was relatively easy to become a passive observer, to let life drift by and spend my evenings drinking beer on the porch with my neighbors and ignore the fact that I wasn't doing anything much most of the time. But I'm going overboard. I have a tendancy to be an all-or-nothing sort of person, and right now I've been going full on for weeks. This week and next week are my weeks off from orchestra, and instead of savoring the days where I have nothing at all to do (something that occurs roughly once a month or less when orchestra is happening) I've been running harder than ever before. I'm exhausted, and cranky, and depressed, and having a hard time coping with much of anything, honestly. Nothing I'm doing is irritating or bad (I'm mostly just meeting friends, things like that), but it's overwhelming.
So today, I cancelled a plan. At the last minute, I told star in a paper cup that I wasn't feeling well and I couldn't handle even something as enjoyable as vegan chocolate chip cookies and walking in the sun. I explained (although not in so many words) that it wasn't a physical ill, just a feeling that if I did one more thing I was going to have a complete breakdown. She, because she is awesome (thankyouthankyouthankyou), kindly told me that it was fine, and we'll meet up next week instead to watch a movie. As soon as I cancelled my plan, a huge weight lifted from my brain. I was able to laugh again, and look forward to dinner with friends tonight with anticipation instead of anxiety. I can't even describe how much better I felt.
I'm going to try hard to be better to myself. When the thought of meeting a friend causes that degree of stress , it's time to take a step back. Now I will do my dishes, pet my cats, fold a few cookbooks, and listen to good music and feel happy with these simple necessary things.


StarInaPaperCup said...

aw, next time I see you, I'll hug you.

Don't feel bad about canceling things. I actually briefly considered texting you & canceling myself because I thought that I wouldn't be able to finish my paper on time.

Sometimes it really is just good to do nothing - take a nap for several hours, lay in the grass and smell the dirt, etc. Everyone needs some down time to just relax and simplybe.

hannah said...

There is nothing that terrifies me more than losing the time that was my own. I hope you find a good balance.

I have an unrelated question for you, for next time you have a moment free...

I am an obsessive cookie/bread maker most of the time, but here in Israel I am living with what is known as a "non-american kitchen" - no oven. Do you have any thoughts on simple (my kitchen isn't very well stocked either) deserts or bread-like things I can make stovetop? todah raba,


Lauren said...

it's really difficult to find balance and to make time for just being. sometimes i feel like *i* do too much of that, though. but i hear you about how one of the scariest parts is finding it hard to read. I've only read maybe 3 books this year, and that is no good.

but on the plus side, we got the cookbook and it looks amazing!! I'm so excited to try it out!

Alicia Dabney said...

I do the same thing: over-book, over-do, over-everything. I go in phases where I can't sit still, can't read, can't watch an hour-long TV show. Forget a movie!

As years pass, though, I find that I wax and wane in cycles, and my activity level comes in bursts and episodes before I slow down for a (very short) bit. Taking a day or more off is good. Cancellations are good. :)

Rosiecat said...

I'm sorry; what did you say? I stopped reading after the second sentence. ;-)

I suppose at some level, I use my job as an excuse not to overbook myself. There isn't much temptation to make plans during the week because of my work schedule. It saves me a lot of grief! And I don't really feel bad for not calling people back during the week, especially if they continually call me during the day, a time when I never, ever answer my phone.

It is perfectly acceptable to take an Ammie day--you can and should spend time by yourself. It's self-nurturing!

ammie said...

You all are pretty awesome. Thank you. Sigh.
Things have still been pretty runrunrun since then, but tomorrow I have, miracle or miracles, an entire day off! I actually wrote in big capital letters in my datebook "DON'T DO ANYTHING" and underlined it until there was no room to write anything in. Hooray!
And Hannah, I'm still thinking, but I'm sure there is something and I'll pass it on to you when it appears.
Thank you!