There are many ways COVID-19 has affected the trajectories of people’s lives. One way is that a whole lot of people have got a first, or a a second pet. There is nothing like a civil emergency to make people want cute, fluffy animals. I am not alone in surmising that there will be a crop of corona-babies turning up over the next year or so. There’s also nothing like a civil emergency for making people want to propagate.
In terms of my response to the pandemic, Chris suggested I have sped up the rate at which I live life. I disagree, on the basis that I have crammed as much into every day, week and month of my life as I can, starting from childhood. I don’t tend to leave many spare minutes in the day, and wonder why anyone would want to sit around doing nothing. I do understand the power and utility of meditation, and go to yoga classes as part of my physical activities. However, I cannot get my head around thinking of nothing as a purpose in itself. I didn’t exist for a long time before I was born, and I will not exist for a similarly long time after I die, and that will be enough time in the universe for thinking of nothing. The only reason to spend some time thinking nothing is to maximise my enjoyment and purpose in the times when I am thinking of something.
Chris’s suggestion was in part because, together with focusing on improving my surfing, I also have retaken up a musical instrument, namely the guitar. I played the guitar incompetently in my early twenties (having played cello somewhat more competently throughout my childhood). I wouldn’t deny that lockdown gave me plenty of time to think about things that I would like to spend more time doing, and one of those things was definitely to play music again. However, this is not a new thought, I have been thinking about acquiring a musical instrument again for about the last 5 years. I thought about playing the piano, which I also did as a child, and because I really like the physical instrument that a piano comprises. Their wooden structures are fascinating and beautiful. However, they are not at all practical.
When I brought up the idea of a piano for my birthday in 2015, both Chris and Mum dissuaded me on the basis that pianos are expensive, occupy a lot of space, require regular maintenance…in short they are quite a commitment (though not as much a commitment as a cute, fluffy animal, but I have no designs on acquiring another one of those). They suggested that I try an electronic keyboard. The suggestion was sensible but, try as I might, I couldn’t get enthused about an electrical keyboard stuck in the corner. They are not attractive and, although they can have fantastic sound (probably much better than a piano that I might want to afford), I don’t want an electric sound, I want it to be acoustically generated. I have no good reason for this desire, beyond wanting to separate much of my recreation from items that are plugged into power points.
The other barrier to getting a musical instrument was that I know I need a structure through which to learn. Anachronistically, I thought that must be lessons with a human in person. I searched for music teachers in the vicinity of Gibbston and there are very few of them. Not to mention that we travel quite a lot, therefore I would be as likely to miss a lesson as to attend one. However, lockdown made clear that there are many things in life that one can do over the internet, and lessons are some of them, as all of our school children and tertiary learners experienced. During lockdown, therefore, thoughts were bubbling into my brain about finding an appropriate means of learning, facilitated by the internet. I also pondered the guitar, as a portable instrument and one that can equally be played on its own, or can be a very social.
The conclusion of this process was talking with our friend Mandy who has been learning the guitar for the last 5 years. She and her partner Simon take off round New Zealand in their campervan at regular intervals, and her guitar goes with them. Mandy told me about an online tuition system called ‘Justin Guitar’. Justin is an enthusiastic young man who has developed an excellent, structured set of lessons which take one from beginner through to advanced guitar – here is a very good review of his site. He provides these as sensible packages online and he provides beginner lessons for free! He is a smart marketer so there are add-ons that one can purchase from the outset. However, the learning process can take place anywhere, anytime, as one wishes.
So Mandy and I headed off to the Rock Shop in Hornby, Christchurch. I think that Mandy likes the Rock Shop about as much as I like hardware stores. I acquired the package of things that one requires to play a guitar. This included marveling at how one can now tune stringed instruments using a little battery powered gadget that shows how close to in tune one’s note is. The days of having to hit a tuning fork on my knee to get it to vibrate are long gone, and I don’t miss that too much. The completely male cadre of salespeople at the Rock Shop, many with tattoos, long hair and dark clothing (I bet they love the multiplicity of guitar straps with skulls on them that they sell), didn’t quite know what to make of an enthusiastic woman who had cycled over the hills to come buy a guitar. No point in getting bothered by that, though! I have practiced for a week now, and am thrilled every time my fingers get quicker at changing between chords. There’s nothing like the satisfying feeling of learning and improving a new skill.
The need to practice, however, does hark back to Chris’s concerns – he asked how I was planning to fit in everything that I want to do (implying that the only way I can will be to speed up). It is true that I am now maintaining a blog that I didn’t previously do (and which takes a couple of hours a production), and needing to fit in guitar practice of 20 minutes a day. Some things will have to give. I figure that time watching NetFlix can give and no-one will be the worse for it!
Chris also suggested that I should be thinking about naturally slowing down because I am getting older – my 55th birthday is coming up in the next week. My answer to that is, I will slow down when my body says I need to; I am as aware as anyone that life is not infinite and that the time will come when my mountain biking, skiing and surfing will have to be wound back. However, until I feel the need to slow down, I intend to seize the day and do what I can, so that when the marching years catch up with me I will have zero regrets about the things that I didn’t do. I will have no regrets, because there was no time to fit anything more in!
In conclusion, the mantra that I distilled from lockdown, was “Live for the day, and plan for tomorrow”. Today I will do everything that I can because I have no idea of the number of tomorrows I will be allotted. And I will live today in a way that it will give me strength, skills, relationships and enjoyment that will help carry me through the less able tomorrows of the future. I will plan for that future, including through activities such as guitar and woodworking, that require less youthful physical capabilities. I also have no doubt that, when I get there, I will figure out how best to use my future years (in the hope that I have them), in as fulfilling a way as I try to live my life of today.