Thursday, May 12, 2011

Jack of all Trades, Master of None

When I was growing up, I remember my father telling me that I was a 'jack of all trades, master of none.'

He didn't mean it as a compliment.

I wasn't very interested in the academics of elementary school, although I did passably well. But what they called the extracurricular, well, that had my full attention.

I took violin lessons starting in fourth grade and joined the orchestra. You had to be a parent to love the recitals. I remember the realization that when I couldn't hear my own violin, that meant we were probably all hitting the same note. Unfortunately I was probably in my second or third year of orchestra before I understood.


I also begged for a piano and eventually one Christmas they relented and an old upright was moved into the basement/play room and lessons began. As the ultimate perfectionist, my father persuaded a concert pianist to give me lessons. My father believed that if you were going to do something, you were going to do it well. I wasn't her star pupil and although I played around on the piano, I don't actually remember practicing. It had to be painful for her.

Then there were the dance lessons. Years of creative dance through the YWCA.

And the horseback riding lessons, before I finally wheedled my own horse out of my parents, another great gift. She was a wonderful Appaloosa named Happy, and I spent many a hot summer day riding around a friend's farm and down to the lake to cool off, meandering through the apple orchard on our way.

Then the pressures of growing up started, my father passed away during my early teenage years, and I put my creative interests aside. I got multiple degrees, had children, had a successful career. And then I retired. And got time.

Four years into retirement, I'm beginning to think I'm going to need professional help to prioritize my interests. I simple can't fit in anything more and it might possibly kill me.

And Michael.

We landed in New York in early April and I immediately signed up for a quilting class from a fabulous, thriving quilting store in Watkins Glen, O'Susanah's. For four Saturdays in a row (plus plenty of homework during the week), we've learned how to create a quilt. I'm almost done with my first and I've loved working on it. It takes a lot of creative energy and it's soothing to the brain, having to fully concentrate on each step. Otherwise there is a lot of ripping out and re-doing. And I don't reverse and redo well, as many of you might imagine.

Then there are my music friends who are double and triple-booked with gigs and jams and, of course, I don't want to miss any music. But then you also have to find time to practice between jam sessions so that I can stand to hear my own playing.

And, of course, I'm committed to getting exercise so Michael and I walk almost day, exploring Watkins Glen and finding amazing historic homes, views that take our breath away. Although that might also be because everything is uphill from our place.

And I don't want to give up the exercise of dancing with my Zumba friends --- I love getting out there and dancing for an hour 'til the sweat drips off my pony tail. And now I'm trying to memorize some routines for an occasional team-teaching opportunity since I got certified last November.

And I can't wait to get the living room painted in our new house, find the furniture we want, get the wallpaper off the bathroom wall and re-paint, find a place for the jacuzzi, maybe build a deck off the front.

And I don't want to give up learning to speak Spanish, which requires study time. It doesn't just happen. I tried that approach.

And there's a piece of writing that I really, really want to do. All I have to do is plunk my butt in a chair and make the time to start writing.

I think you get my drift.

I've hit a wall, the wall of no more time in a day, no more energy to do what I want. And that's unacceptable.

Even I think that sounds crazy.

But here's the problem. I'm aware that I'm getting older. I now have to use eye drops because my eyes are too dry. I spend a lot of time with my favorite physical therapist and my favorite local massage therapist getting my neck and shoulder to cooperate with my lifestyle without a lot of pain. I get the occasional skin cancers removed. I'm not quite as perky in the morning (which my husband probably thinks, 'Thank you, God').

I feel the urgency of my meter running. I love doing all of this. I want to do more. I want to save every dog, drive the elderly neighbor to see his father's house before he dies, spend quiet time at the lake house, meet a friend for a movie and have dinner afterward.

And I can't. It's simply not possible.

So my thought this morning was to make a chart of all my interests and prioritize them (is that possible?), and put the rest of them aside for a while.

Last year I told my friends who hold Passion and Priorities Workshops that I didn't need to figure out my passions. I have plenty.

But --- aha! -- maybe it's time to figure out how to be happy doing less.

And maybe, like my father remarked, I can become a master of some. Maybe I can choose to do some things well and not try to do everything not-so-well.

In the meantime, gotta run. Michael is waiting for me up at the lake house so we can open it up for the season. And then it's time to decide between a movie with a friend or Zumba.