Music education always & always looking forward.

Self-Care September

Good evening and lots of love to my readers and friends. I am well aware (because the numbers tell me so) that you are likely not reading this blog for my personal revelations on teaching & life in general, but rather because everyone started wondering what time signature The Stranglers’ “Golden Brown” was in. I have taught at least a dozen lessons about time signatures that involved bouncing tennis balls in a room teeming with elementary school students in the past three weeks, so I understand your curiosity.

Rather, I come to you on this Sunday evening, while a massive, record-shattering hurricane creeps horrifyingly close to the Florida coastline, with a message.

Take care of yourself. And I don’t mean just take care of yourself as getting pedicures or eating chocolate or binging The Good Place or a television equivalent.

Full disclosure: I got a wonderful pedicure yesterday, partially because I was stuck at the mall due to rain, and I just busted into the hurricane snacks. Yes, I bought a pack of fun sized Milky Way Midnight bars & have descended into a habit of evening snacking that I was sure I’d kicked.

I mean, actually take care of yourself. If you have the capacity to do so safely, go for a walk. Drink more water. (Drink much more water.) Drink less soda. Eat less fast food. Buy fewer things. Develop a hobby outside of your profession. Reconnect (& stay connected!) to your friends. These all seem like very obvious pieces of advice, but they can be very hard to enact. Especially for music teachers.

In the past, I’ve gotten too ambitious with my self care. Is that really a thing? Yes. I attempted several weeks of sugar free eating in past summers, which you can read about here. Trying to make borscht at 11:30pm on a weekday, even during the summer, is a bad idea.

If you’re attempting to stoke your self-preservation, and taking the incredibly sage advice of the Goddess Lizzo, sometimes you have to start small.

I’ll give you three examples of things I’m doing this September in the interest of self-preservation.

1) Trying to virtually eliminate fast food from my diet. This was an issue of proximity for me for my entire teaching career. I was a vegetarian in college, for three years, and then a pescatarian for three more years, until I started teaching. People ask me what made me stop, and the honest answer is Checkers chicken sandwiches. I had terrible eating habits, and terrible habits of planning my meals and taking care of these sorts of things for years and years. The fact that I worked right next to Checkers (and Miami Subs…later Wendy’s & Taco Bell) did not help that fact. I’d not eat a proper breakfast or a proper lunch, then binge like bonkers in the evenings. It led to years of unnecessary weight gain, and now with a new job in a new content area and a totally new routine, I’m only starting to undo that damage.

Time management has always been a struggle for me. But what I am only now starting to understand is that time management is not just getting done all of the things that need to be done for other people, but the things that need to be done for me. 75 mile round trips to teach lessons on Monday nights, after tutoring math at my school, punctuated by two separate Taco Bell trips, was not good time management in any universe. I had nothing left for myself, and it showed up in many other areas of my life. What I eat is important, and as much as I now sometimes look longingly at the Taco Bell en route to my kid’s pre-K, I need to stay strong.

What helps me a lot is also that I am required now to pack a lunch for my kid each day, and so I also pack my own. I have fooled my new (wonderful!) co-workers into thinking I eat healthy. Maybe I will be able to trick myself into the same thing?!

I also have only had a single soda in the past three weeks, so there’s a lot to feel good about there, too.

2) The second one has to do with spending money. I’m not a great saver. One thing that I intend to do, mostly for sustainability purposes but will also help my bank account, is not purchase any new clothes for the remainder of 2019. No more impulse purchases, no more new cheap shoes, no matter how cute. Nothing.

That doesn’t disallow the possibility of going vintage shopping with my friends, but I want to take a break from contributing to the sustainability disaster of the clothing industry, so secondhand is the way to go. I’ll never had a truly capsule wardrobe, nor do I want to, but I am streamlining the clothes I own and trying to make my wardrobe at least make sense. Honestly, that sort of planning & structure feels a lot like self-care to me.

3) I am going to force myself, upon penalty of I don’t know what, to write for at least an hour every night. You may have been able to discern based on the sheer volume of entries on this blog that writing is a hobby to me, even if its essentially writing about my job or things pertaining to my chosen field. But it works. Writing things down helps me to process them. It’s why you’ll always find my taking notes at meetings and at conferences (even if it’s on my phone instead of a Moleskin — don’t judge!). I have loved to write my whole life, and even if it is the form of blogging about teaching music and rad pop key changes, it helps me. It calms down my brain, and helps to sort out my emotional state.

Even if it’s just one thing that you’re doing to increase your level of self-care this month, what is it?

I might possibly post about my efforts via my social media outlets — @rebelmusicteach on both twitter & instagram — so I’d love to hear what you’re doing, too. Or write about it in the (not at all hopping, thank goodness) comments here.

Also: listen to music that you love. Not just music that you’re assigned. And no, I don’t just mean assigned music in terms of class listening. I mean, don’t just listen to music because you feel obligated to do so. If it means that you listen to Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” for the 1,000,000 time while writing blog entries, so be it.

All the best to you.

And to anyone about to face the monster that is Hurricane Dorian. This site contains old information on the needs of folks in Bahamas, but they will surely need much of the same in the horrible aftermath of this oncoming storm.

An In-Your-Face 50s-Style Love Ballad: Symmetrical Compound Meter in Lizzo's "Cuz I Love You"

Stop Teaching the Controversy. There Is No Controversy.