The swimming pool at Rose Park was not heated when I was a child. I could see the mountains from whence the water came–Rock Creek joined the Yellowstone River as it flowed past Billings, and I knew from many hikes that snow lingered in the Beartooth Mountains throughout the summer. I never wanted to dive into that pool, but eventually something–or someone–made me take the plunge. I think perhaps I really feared that moment of being in the air, when it’s too late to change my mind.
Then, of course, once I was in and my body had adjusted to the temperature, I never wanted to get out.
I still approach tasks this way. If I were a sensible human being, I would exercise for an hour every day, practice music for two hours, write for two hours, do thirty minutes of Latin, and clean one or two rooms of the house. I would stretch a novel over a period of several days instead of devouring it in one four hour stretch. I would even see the wisdom of working on Christmas gifts in July.
I haven’t posted to this blog since August, so here I am at a writing retreat dedicating a full weekend to nothing but writing. I forgot to pack the Aspercreme, but I did remember Advil.
Last Monday I picked up my baroque flute to relearn an aria from Bach’s Coffee Cantata. Three hours later the frustrating passages were not much better, since I could barely move my fingers. The music, however, continued to play incessantly in my brain and came much more easily the next day. This would also happen if I practiced each passage for a few minutes each day and ran the CD in my car, which would all be much less painful. I know my cats would prefer it that way.
I love to walk, once I get started. I have no problem with a full 10 mile hike on a Saturday; the routine 30 minutes a day in the park by my house recommended by anyone who knows anything about weight loss almost never happens. Neither does the weight loss, because after all a 10 mile hike earns a milkshake on the way home from the mountains.
I did in fact begin work on a cross-stitch Christmas stocking at the cabin last summer. I stopped when I could no longer see across the room. Three months and several binge sessions later I finally finished Santa’s puppy. I’ll probably have to pin the unfinished work to a store-bought stocking this year.
As for housecleaning, I tried to really clean the bottom of the shower recently. After four hours of incessant scrubbing with many toxic chemicals, I gave up, squirted some toilet bowl cleaner on it, and went to bed. The next morning, halfway through my shower, I remembered. The shower was actually clean. My shoulders hurt for two weeks.
Peer pressure got me into that swimming pool, and it’s still what keeps me going. I joined a walking club, the Fair Oaks Sole Mates. Music is always with friends, and I can’t let them down by not learning my part. I come repeatedly to the Write by the Lake Retreat because I sign a vow to accomplish a task and have to report my progress to my host, Jennifer Sander. I have to keep up with my most advanced Latin student, and I participate in online study groups. The house gets cleaned when guests are imminent. And I don’t want to let down my son, since the stocking is meant to welcome his new wife into our family.
For better or worse, I think I have accepted the fact that I need both support from friends and uninterrupted time for concentration to really accomplish my goals. I’m just not a Daytimers sort of person. Just make sure I come out of the water before my skin turns purple.