In this new world of constant accessibility, where the ability to receive (and therefore deal with) emails, text messages and phone calls on the subway, in bed, walking down the street...everywhere and at any time, it is increasingly difficult to come up with boundaries, with unreachable time. I was thinking about this at Starbucks this morning, between meetings, when I was "just checking my email" for a half an hour, the ice in my coffee melting as my stress level rose. I suddenly thought that it would be wonderful to Turn Off for a while, just enjoy the coffee and decompress. Then I pressed Send--I've been too busy for too many days, with too much upcoming busy-ness to take that particular half hour to smell the coffee.
For so many of us, this compulsive attention to communication is both freeing and shackling. We are no longer tied to a desk to do our jobs or our homes to talk to our families and friends. But we are also, then, always available, and sometimes don't want to be. It can become manic. Annoying to spouses and kids. Unhealthy.
I have two times each week where I am offline; one through ritual, one through choice. Both are vital to my mental health for different reasons. The first is that I observe the Jewish sabbath. As such I don't do many of the activities that make up my week, including talk on the phone and use my email. What I do is rest--read, walk, spend time with my family and many friends, and generally recharge my batteries. If I didn't have those 25 hours each week, I would have burned out several times by now.
My other inviolate time is from 3:30-4 PM every Friday, when I take a drum lesson in between my daughter's and my son's. He's the family drum pioneer, starting more than two years ago. We got an electronic drum kit, so our grouchy downstairs neighbors would have less to complain about. And I found myself, almost every night as I went to say goodnight to him, idly picking up the sticks and tapping until my wife wanted to kill me. Finally I approached Joe's teacher, the amazing, ever patient Brad Meehan, and asked if he would take me on as well. While I played bad Talking Heads covers on guitar in a band in high school, I'd never played drums except on my steering wheel.
I loved it immediately. I was not natural. I took forever to learn a new beat, a new song. I never have time to practice (the neighbors are glad). But it's a half-hour a week of joy for me, when I don't need to think of the manuscripts teed up on my kindle, or the submissions I need to make, or the follow-up calls, or the bills to pay. Over the last year and a half I've learned Green Day and reggae, salsa and backbeat. My youngest daughter (the true pop star in the family--she dressed as Ke$ha for purim, god help me) decided to join the party, and now Brad deals with three of us every week.
For me, the drums have become a vital anchor to my week. I'm incredibly off-kilter when I need to miss time, particularly when it's unplanned. And if one of the kids can't make it, and I get an extra 15 minutes of playtime, it's like a snow day in elementary school. I don't need to practice two hours a day to achieve that happiness, either (though I'd be a LOT better!). Just that half-hour a week.
And last Sunday (sorry FB friends for the repeat), I got to play on a real set, on a real stage in a rock club, at Brad's students' recital. I did a Cowboy Mouth song from the late '80's, Jenny Says, right after Joe's Footloose and before Ita's California Gurls (and three after the 4 year old did We Will Rock You!). Here's a link.
Am I ridiculous? Possibly. But ecstatic--if goofy--and far away from the responsibilities and pressures of daily life. And that's healthy.