If Music Be the Food of Love: Managing the Mundane

It’s been a month since school began, and the family continues to both embrace and resist the structure and schedule in a kind of awkward dance.  (Everyone but David, of course, who only embraces it.)    I have decided to stay at the school while the children are there four days a week–helping to correct papers and cover incidental needs, subbing as needed.  School is only 8-12 and runs very conservatively on staff and budget, so they need the help.  I also watch a little six-week old boy while his mother does a fantastic job of teaching math and science to the upper grades. They have helped our family so much, I’m glad to be useful for once.

But on a more selfish note, it has forced more structure into my own life.  I can bring my computer in, write, deal with family business, and take care of things in between the times I’m needed.  That keeps me off the computer in the after-school hours where my attention really needs to be on house and home and parenting. 
That is the rough part, when the structure ends.  That daily grind where roses are supposed to be blooming beneath my feet with all that love at home.  However, I too often fail to see any. 
The past several weeks have led me to much thinking about how to manage the mundane–the stuff that 99.9% of life is made of.  I have spent so much energy trying to avoid it, by living in the future (or the past, or on the internet) distracting myself with other possibilities that would surely be much more interesting.  The perennial motherly temptations of something more meaningful or important–which of course do not exist. Conference was such a blessing, and as I listened with these things in mind, I heard a lot about simplicity and how to find joy in the everyday.  I’ve been really struggling to bring the promptings and inspiration I received in those two days into the reality of my post-conference life.
But even before conference, I had consciously come to (what seems now) an obvious conclusion.  I struggled with the same questions many do: How would I survive the crushing weight of my own thoughts when life would now be comprised almost entirely of menial tasks?  How would I stay engaged and not allow myself to be distracted or discontent with my terribly uncool reality?

Easy–I just needed a cooler soundtrack. 

The obvious next step was with Pandora–in my mind, the greatest invention the world has ever known.  Constant, free, almost ad-free internet radio completely customized to myself?  Yes, please.  Bored with the endless cycle of dishes?  The Postal Service station is the answer–because now I’m a sassy indie hipster finding only slightly pretentious beauty in the everyday things.  Feeling a little blue and don’t want to be cheered up?  Definitely the Patty Griffin station–where the despair can become accepting and transcendent instead of dragging me into a dark place.  Chores with the kids?  Twist and Shout radio seems to get them going pretty well.
Generally, I don’t use music to feel better when I’m down or to change how I’m feeling, but to help me feel how I’m feeling in a more beautiful way. Whatever the emotion, however uncomfortable or painful–music seems to color it in a way that enhances the inherent value of the human experience.
Making music, for me, is even more powerful.  I was so grateful recently to get into the Utah Chamber Artists, who are argued by many musicians to be one of the finest vocal groups in the state.  I am overwhelmed by my emotional response to creating this music.  I guess I’m just a rookie, but I’m still having to hide tears during rehearsals just from the beauty of it all.  
And, instead of just carelessly pounding my way through primary like a muppet (I’m the pianist), the upcoming program (and lots of fancy piano arrangements) are requiring me to practice every day–and I am noticing that practicing time resets my emotions in a very positive way (often needed after helping my own children practice their piano).
On that topic, I feel the same effect on my children.  At the risk of overscheduling them, I have just given in to their requests to join a children’s choir–and my generally whiny, negative, squabbling older children turn into happy, laughing buddies for hours after coming home (plus this great choir often gets to sing for amazing people like the Dalai Lama, visiting dignitaries, church leaders, etc.)  They are playing the piano in their free time and finding joy in what they can do now (thanks to the most amazing piano teacher–ask me if you need one!)  They come to my concerts and actually enjoy them–not openly weeping like their sissy mother, though, not yet anyway.
So, whatever other things I need to understand to enjoy the practice of daily living, music, for now, is making all the difference.  It doesn’t make me a better parent, but it is just a bit harder to yell at them over Pandora.
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