Monday, February 11, 2019

Repetition and Variation: A Good Week-End

I confess that I did not stay up to watch the Grammys.  This year, as with many years, I read the list of nominees and thought, who are these people?  Often I find out that I do know them, usually from spin class.  Very rarely, something breaks through so much that I hear about it, like the Childish Gambino "This Is America" video, and I search it out.

I used to hear more music because there were radio stations that played a mix of music, and during my childhood, my mom had the radio on for company through the day.  Now I tend to listen to NPR in the car and nothing at the office.  Once NPR didn't play news shows all day, so I'd switch to radio stations that played music when I was driving in the car.  Or I'd pop a tape in the tape player.

Now I've been listening to CDs, CDs of music that's getting to be very old.  The other day I was playing Paul Simon's Heart and Bones, which came out in 1983.  I sang along, trying to channel my inner Diana Krall.  Now that would be an album I would buy.  Diana Krall sings the soundtrack of my college years:  U2, the Police/Sting, Paul Simon, David Bowie.  Wouldn't that be sweet?

I spent the week-end reading books.  I devoured Mary Pipher's Women Rowing North, a book that made me feel optimistic about the aging process.  She's been making the NPR rounds, and often when I discover a book that way, I find that I've already heard the good parts by the time I get to the book.  That was not the case with this book.

Here's one thing from the book that I want to remember:  "Repetition gives us security, while variation gives us zest.  We want a balance between regular habits that are deeply satisfying and spontaneity with its freshness and excitement.  We want a good strong comfort zone and we want to be able to push ourselves outside it on a regular basis" (p. 128).  This advice is good for humans at any age, but even more important as we age.

Yesterday I read much of Roxeane Gay's Hunger:  A Memoir of (My) Body.  I liked its short chapters and the fact that I could read it while my spouse kept the TV on.  I had heard Gay talk about much of the book, so there wasn't much to surprise me.  Her analysis of being a larger woman in the world was also familiar to me, but it was interesting to read it in depth.

So far, I am having better luck finding interesting books to read in 2019 than I did in 2018.  Is it because I am making a more concerted effort to read more and thus I am more likely to find good books?  Am I just luckier this year?

I did read good books in 2018, of course, but my disappointment in my reading is what I remember when I think about the year.  It's probably not the fault of the books, but my expectations.  For example, I read Timothy Snyder's book, The Road to Unfreedom, and while it was interesting, it wasn't the book I was thinking it would be.  As I look at my list of books read, I see lots of books that interested me at first, but then became a slog as I kept reading.

I always get concerned when that happens regularly.  I worry that I'm losing my ability to concentrate.

This week-end was a good mix of relaxing (reading) and pushing myself (the spinathon).  I don't know that I followed Mary Pipher's advice exactly, but I came close.  The reading was the comfort zone and the spinathon was the variation.  I was fairly sure I would like the spinathon, which meant it wasn't way far out of my comfort zone, but it was something unusual for me.

Now to get working on the work week.

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