Friday, April 8, 2011

Rhythm Is It

Sometimes I wake up early in the morning, take a shuttle to the airport, stand in the security line, sit at the gate, board a plane and emerge 11 hours later. If I’m lucky, my ride is there waiting for me and off we go to the hotel to get settled in. I might wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning new-time, read or write, sleep a bit more and then go off to teach a six hour workshop to adults. Afterwards, I go out to dinner with some of the folks and invariably, they say, “You must be exhausted!” And I reply, “This is nothing compared to one day of teaching at The San Francisco School!”

So I’m back in the workday world at The SF School and after ten weeks without a single Ibuprofen, I’m popping them again like daily vitamins. Each hour in the day has a name and face to it, the 3-year old class demanding something different than the 8th grade, all-elementary singing time, carpool or staff-meeting. When 3 o’clock hits, I’m already yawning and when I finally approach home, it is with that comatose feeling that has me itching for the couch and the nightly Seinfeld re-run. And each day also has its name and character, like a piece of music heading for the climatic release of Friday afternoon. And then each month as well, heading for the final chords of June.

The musical metaphor is apt because it’s all about finding the right rhythm, getting into the groove of a particular schedule so that it energizes rather than depletes. I hit school running and though so happy to see the kids again with their warm reception (in marked contrast to the adults!), I find myself in some nether-zone, “neither here nor there” as Bill Bryson would say. Of course, it doesn’t help that I had a dental emergency that sent me twice to the dentist (turned out to be a simple, but painful cavity) and my father-in-law’s somewhat sudden passing trumps all business-as-usual, as well it should. Just as I’m trying to feel the rhythm again, I’m off to Michigan next week for the Memorial Service.

Traveling and teaching has its own rhythm and in some ways, it has suited me better, found me more effortlessly happy at the end of the day, less tangled in the knots of things to be done and relationships to be attended to. It makes me wonder, as all my colleagues are retiring around me like some Agatha Christie story (“and then there were five”), whether my time at school is nearing its end after 36 years. Not only in terms of my own energy, but from the kids’ point of view as well. They are so kind to me, showing their sincere enthusiasm for our time together, but still, the number one rule of relationship is “Show up.” This middle semester time off is the most difficult, getting into a groove with each class from September to January and then leaving—and then showing up again in April! It’s weird. Not to mention the added pressure of “three weeks until the Spring Concert!”

Well, not the most fascinating story for a Blog-reader, listening to me wonder about such things and even dare to complain about an arrangement many people would give their eye-tooth for (if you do, I could use it! Talk to my dentist). But the more philosophical point is the importance of rhythm in our lives. It’s not about being more or less busy any more than music is judged by lots of notes or few notes—it’s how those notes are flowing in their dynamic rhythmic relationships, what contours the melodies take, how harmoniously the underlying chords are giving color and life. When we hit the groove and all the notes are lined up just right, we can accomplish remarkable things with less effort. When the rhythms and tones are wandering, searching for the right combinations, everything feels slightly off, difficult and exhausting. That’s where I am at the moment. I know no one’s sitting on the edge of their seat, but I’ll keep you posted anyway.


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