Thursday, January 5, 2012

Practice Thursday

I intended to have today’s post title--Practice Thursday--mean that every Thursday I will write something about practice: what I've practiced in the week past, what I intend to practice in the near future, etc.  But looking at it now, the phrase seems an exhortation to practice Thursday, i.e: to practice being Thursday, to get inside the frame of mind of that particular weekday. And right now that seems like a much better idea.

Thursdays have always had a kind of insouciance about them: still part of the work-a-day world, but already leaning with sidelong glances to the weekend. Thursdays still work, still keep to the task at hand, but do so with a certain ease. Thursdays smile to themselves, say hello to strangers, hold elevator doors. 

Thursdays don’t take things so seriously. Thursdays know that days follow days, and what weighed on us so heavily at the start of a week just may evaporate by the weekend. Or if not, you’ll learn to live with it. Thursdays hum. Thursdays do a little salsa dance down the hallway.

Well, I didn’t too well at practicing Thursday today. Thursdays are technically my day off from being physically at work, but if today is any indication, Thursdays will look more like this photo, scattering in every direction. 

Or it's a judging day: Look at the way those coaches and team captains scrutinize every move, looking for flaws. I want Thursdays to look more serene, and maybe some days they will, but often our days "off" turn into simply a heightened version of being "on.”

 I started off with all good intentions. I woke early, ate my oatmeal, took my dog Abbe for a long walk in Cornwall park. I watched her plume of a white tail as she scampered ahead of me, or saw her tongue-lolling face as she sprinted toward me across the field. It's hard not to be happy in the presence of a face like this:

We got home in time for me to change into yoga clothes and head to the studio. And that's when things started to veer from that Thursday state of mind. Everything about yoga irritated me today: the too-hot room, the unfamiliar crowd, the nearly naked tattooed dreadlocked man who slapped his mat right in front of mine, his ripe odor filling my nostrils. In the first pose, his big bony foot hovered right at eye level. 

The teacher had us do all the hard poses, the ones that make me feel fat and awkward, not lovely and gracious and full of good will toward  the world. I had to keep folding into child's pose, listening as everyone around me bent into balancing chair. I left with a tweaked knee and aching back,  grumpy as a tired toddler.

I then took this grumpiness out into the world with me, as I went into high gear: answering dozens of emails,  shopping, reading manuscripts, eye doctor, Petsmart, groomer, food co-op, quick dinner: a day that could have felt productive and fine, but that had me squinting as I drove in the rain, scowling at people, my shoulders hunched up to my ears. 

Ah well, even through all that, I still know I have this girl waiting it out inside me, one who knows that it's all practice, no matter how often you fail (or think you fail.) 

In his book, Practicing: A Musician's Return to Music, concert guitarist Glenn Kurtz describes his first lesson in the New England Conservatory of Music. He goes, in fifteen minutes,  “from concert guitarist to beginner.” His teacher hears how Kurtz has honed his mistakes over and over through the years, and must now return to the basics of technique: scales. Doing so is torturous, because now Kurtz’s ear is attuned to every flaw: “Everything feels like a mistake,” I complained to Aaron." His teacher responds:
“Mistakes are never serious....The danger lies in repeating mistakes, practicing them.”
It’s easy to keep repeating our mistakes, to actually practice them. So now I aim to practice what’s worth practicing, to let the mistakes--or the bad days-- be “one-off’s,” as the British say. And as Kurtz’s teacher tells him: “Find out what’s important to you, and practice that.” 
What do you find yourself practicing: intentionally or inadvertently? Does this practice serve you?


  1. Brenda, I think of Robert Hass' stanza at the opening of "The Beginning of September":

    The child is looking in the mirror.
    His head falls to one side, his shoulders slump.
    He is practicing sadness.

    Maybe it was Practice Thursday after all--looking at grouchiness, irritation, knowing what it looks like.

  2. Beautiful, Sheila! So good to be reminded of Hass and the way he articulates the world.

  3. Hey Bloggy lady,
    Welcome to the blogging world. I love the idea of practicing Thursdays. Even on a Saturday, there's some wisdom to it.

  4. Great to read this, Brenda, and how terrific to find you blogging! Over this break, I have practiced a little meandering, and hope to find a little more of that in my day to day, as opposed to the long (really, unbelievably long) list-ing of my work-a-day life. I bet I will meander back here often!


What say you?