Saturday, August 21, 2010

Habitual Habituation (?)

It is said that it takes at least three weeks to establish a pattern in our lives and another three weeks for it to become habitual. I know from experience that it takes a great long time to break habits.

For many years, I smoked cigarettes. Occasionally, I would smoke a pipe because I loved the rich smell of the tobacco. (I still do) Several years ago, after an extended period of not smoking at all, I started smoking cigars, and became somewhat of a connoisseur.

During my teens, when I began smoking, I also began using (and eventually abusing) alcohol and non-prescription drugs. As a musician, I felt it was necessary as part of my “image” to fit the stereotype.

Over time, my habits became addictions, and the struggle to break free began.

Today, I have eliminated many of my addictive habits from my life, and can live quite well without them. I still love coffee and chocolate, but compared to some things I have ingested, those are pretty mild.

One habit I have tried to establish is a more active lifestyle in order to lose weight and lower my blood pressure as well as reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. I have always enjoyed cycling and hiking, but this year I attempted to do more of each. I think the cycling has worked out relatively well, having logged nearly a thousand kilometres (over six hundred miles) on the Devinci. While that is far less than I had the opportunity to ride, it is still exponentially more than ever before in my adult life, and I still have at least another month and a half before the weather becomes prohibitive. I have lost about seven kilograms (fifteen pounds) and appear much trimmer. Again, I could have done better, but there were days when the heat and humidity would have made such activity more stupid than admirable.

As well, I have returned to playing my drums as a means of financial support and mental/Spiritual therapy. Drumming it seems, is always who I have been so to speak. But to go from a four year total hiatus to performing at least once a week, has placed demands on my body that surprised me. Even minimal effort now causes muscle fatigue and soreness. For that reason, I have taken time away from cycling to partake in some practice in order to rebuild my former strength and speed. I also carry fewer drums with me due to restricted vehicle space, so I’ve had to rethink my playing style. This too required actual physical practice to make sure my ideas could be executed onstage.

Some habits are formed from compulsion as well. Today, I got up, caffeinated my brain into some semblance of functioning activity, and then moved the coffee table, rolled out my mat and did Yoga for the first time in over a year. Now, I am sipping green tea that has steeped in a terracotta teapot that at one time used to seem glued to my hand.

The Yoga and tea are two things I hope to re-establish as habits in my life. I need twenty more days to establish the pattern, then another twenty one days to make it a habit.

Can I do it?

~Still Wandering…

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Power of Memory.

I’ve never been one to collect a lot of photographs. I tried; for a while in the early days of my musical career, I carried a huge SLR camera and several lenses on my travels across North America, but invariably, it sat in my hotel room while I was out walking or sightseeing. A number of years ago I went digital, but that camera too sits more often on my table than in my knapsack or bike’s trunk bag. Photography just doesn’t seem to be my way of gathering memories.

I have another way to collect my memories... I use rhythm, lyrics and melody; I use music!

I mentioned in a previous blog how music stirs great emotions and memories for me. In a recent conversation, the discussion turned to older songs and how they seemed to have more substance than today’s music. Titles began to emerge: Songs by Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Joe Cocker, (I’ve mentioned them all before) and I said, “Every song a memory.”

I’ve been blessed with what seems to be a remarkable capacity to remember. I can remember events that occurred when I was three years old. Since that conversation, I’ve been remembering songs, occurrences associated with them, people, places... everything! I’ve just reached my mid-fifties, and I have many memories. Memories of boyhood adventures with my friends, memories of drives in the country with my Dad, memories of learning to play music and the early days of performing in school and then dance halls, memories of romance and heartbreak. Already I have so many memories and yet I have the capacity for so many more.

I think often of my parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, older cousins and others I have known who are older than I. What memories they must have. As a young man in my early twenties, I asked my grandfather about the changes he must have experienced growing up, being born in the latter days of the nineteenth century and passing away in the eighty-third year of his life. He had been born when transportation was by horse, light had been by oil lamps and candles and heat had been produced by wood and coal, and had witnessed the introduction of telephones, automobiles, and electricity. He said the changes didn’t seem too big a deal because they had come gradually. At first, someone in the community had a car; someone else had a telephone etc. Eventually more and more people had all the amenities and so it grew from there. And yet, looking back on his life, he lived to see not only aeroplanes fly, but the lunar landing in 1969, and he watched it on a colour TV!

I think of my mother, now approaching her late eighties, and the life she has lived. She too grew up with horses in the barn although she was very aware of cars and wasn’t too old when her father got one. Yet she lived through the great depression, WW II, the Korean war, and outlived two husbands. Last year she left the house she and Dad built and I can only imagine the pain she must have felt as each memory was packed away to be moved to another location or sold at a yard sale. I share her regret that Dad hadn’t lived to see her retirement from her job and the many other magical moments in her life including her grandchildren, my niece and nephew. Her life has not been an easy one and yet I know she has loved it and has few regrets.

Mom’s siblings, all but two, are now all gone as is my father and his siblings. I never met either of my grandmothers and my maternal grandfather died when I was very young, yet I can still taste the candies he slipped to me when Mom’s back was turned.
I also remember more recently the many wonderful people I met through my Taiji and Reiki experiences and even more recently Velo Cape Breton. I have made some terrific friends, made wonderful memories, and expect to make many more.

Who are you making your memories with? Are they the lasting kind, or are they fleeting? Will you look back in forty years with fondness on these days or with disdain?

My hope for you is that your life be long, your days be fair, and your memories plentiful and joyous.