On Ongoing Priorities

I can feel the first breaths of summer. It’s been a long monotonous winter, another one to tie into last year’s where we thought it could never get worse. Turns out it could get worse, we could do the exact same thing again but without the novelty that got us through the first one.

To be fair, I’ve been pretty happy this lockdown. I’ve got enough on my plate to keep the weeks rolling past. I’ve been exercising and eating well and spending enough time catching up with friends on the internet that I feel connected. I’ve been reading and listening to new music and doing practice, although not as much as I’d have liked to in hindsight. But that’s how it always is.

Steve told me the other day that this might be it. This might the last month of lockdown passivity we might ever live through. We might never be given this much free time in our adult lives again.

Remember as kids when you’d hit the summer holidays and time was a vast endless plain, stretching to the distance? I spent literal years playing Age of Empires, losing myself in the Dragonriders of Pern, jamming along to Sum 41. If time is a construct, I’d successfully constructed myself an infinity to lose myself within.

I realised around Year 9 how to make time stop moving. I remember sitting in the back of a Biology class, staring at the clock, wondering how it was the time was moving so slowly now when the childhood weekend sleepovers would tick past in the blink of an eye. Turns out our perception of time is tied to what we’re doing with time. Not revolutionary. Everyone has experienced this. But for me this was the ‘oh’ moment, where it made sense. If I want time to move quickly, lose myself in the moment. If I want time to move slowly, give myself a sign-post in the future and watch as it ever so slowly comes in to focus. I’ve talked about this in the past. Many people much wiser have talked about this. Dive into Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s FLOW for a deeper view of it.

But it struck me that for the last ten years I’ve felt like I’m always chasing my tail. I’d tell myself I should make time for various things, reading has been the predominant one, but I never would because life would always get in the way. Then the pandemic rolled through and it gave me unending blocks of time to fill in. It’s been good. I recorded an album. I made weekly Youtube videos for most of last year. I wrote and read and ran more than I ever have before, albeit with a sneaking suspicion that life was passing me by in the background, but it was ok because life was passing everyone else by too. There is no FOMO in a world where everyone is missing out.

Now as I start to eye off the future which looks like it might be closer the far past than the near past I wonder what parts of the pandemic I want to take with me.

I think I’ll leave sourdough behind. That was a nice phase, but being able to commit to weekly bread-time is a lot.

I will take my evening reading with me. There’s nothing better than finishing off a day with an hour of uninterrupted book time.

I’ll leave most of social media behind. What’s the point of an interconnectedness when it doesn’t make you feel better? Or at least find a way to manage it healthily.

I’ll try and keep exercise in there, maybe not quite as frequent as I have this year, but surely I can invest three or four hour long blocks a week to run. It’s nice to tie this to a long-term goal. The marathon still looms in the near future, but recently I’ve been watching videos of ultra marathon runners on Youtube…

Daily practice is a must. Giving space to music is important, and it’s the little check-in every day over a long period of time that provides the strongest development.

Speaking of checking in – making time for friends and family needs to be up the top of the list. The beauty of being part of the music scene is also its curse – I see enough people regularly at gigs that I trick myself into thinking that I have deep relationships with lots of people, but the reality is that as soon as the spontaneity of regularly accidentally seeing friends ended, those friendships paused. So making time to talk to the people I want to talk to is important.

I think more important than all of these little things, the thing I want to prioritise most is the feeling of lockdown. Not the stifling nature of feeling like I can’t go out and see friends, but the vision of an open endless future with time available to dive deep. The feeling that I can wake up in the morning and read for an hour without being rushed into the next thing.  Or spend eight weeks practicing brushes without needing to put something else on hold to get there. This concept of exploring something – an album, a book, a run, a meal, a friendship – and just letting myself be there in the moment is key. This is how I felt in my teenage years when summer first reared its sleepy head, it’s how I want to try and live going forward.

PS. I bough a secondhand camera on a whim in the middle of lockdown and took photos of the entire neighbourhood (case in point above).

PPS. It’s been 53 weeks since Dylan and I covered Lily and King.

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