As the music industry inches towards recovery after a devastating year, my work, too, is inching back towards pre-Covid levels.
Financially, this is a boon, of course, and it excites me immeasurably to work with the musicians and friends I’ve been missing for these many months. And, yes, being immersed in music, live music, making music; to be completely submerged in sound, engaged in creativity – magical, life-affirming.
That’s not to say that my previous work schedule was necessarily life-affirming. In fact, the 2018-2019 season saw me in frequent breakdowns, jet-lagged beyond belief and completely consumed with traveling, learning music, performing music, packing the next suitcase and traveling again.
If you’re like me, you’ve developed coping mechanisms to deal with challenging times. Many of those coping mechanisms may have actually come into play during the lockdowns. That was certainly the case for me as well, but I would say that for the most part, those new behaviors supported my mental and physical health. My habits from my crazy-travel days were another matter.
Constantly crossing time zones is tough on the body, and my solution to perk myself up when I was exhausted, or put myself down when I was sleepless, was coffee and wine. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either, in moderation, or even in the occasional extreme. Rather, I was reliant on both to keep me going, and that was a troubling trend; I reached a point in which I couldn’t even begin to wind down at the end of the day without a glass of wine, or three. It felt compulsive.
My eating schedule, by necessity, was chaotic, but I would often make it worse by skipping meals, or delaying them dramatically. Because I like to have a meal after performances, I pushed back my food intake more and more, and by the time I ate I was so hungry that I would consume everything in sight. As a recovered anorexic and someone who has struggled with disordered eating for much of my life, this led to periods that felt dangerously close to bing-restrict cycles, and it made me miserable. Yet I felt powerless to break the cycle.
Exercise and I have had a complicated relationship (I’ve lived with orthorexia and exercise addiction on top of the EDs). And in my busiest of times, one the ways I exerted control over the chaos of my schedule was to adhere to an ironclad fitness regime. This often entailed hitting the hotel gym at 4:30 am, running in the midst of a snowstorm, or bowing out of social engagements so I could squeeze in my obligatory workout. Ultimately, not healthy behaviors!
Because of my prolonged absences, my social life became an afterthought, and I rarely had time to connect with my friends at home in San Francisco. Neither did I really have time to hang out with my friends in cities around the world, because I was frankly too tired, and I found myself isolating myself more and more. And the more I stayed away from an active social life, the harder it felt to socialize at all. I felt stuck.
I’ve been reading articles about the maladaptive coping mechanisms that many people have adopted throughout the darkest days of the pandemic, and while I feel deep sympathy, I realized that I didn’t share those particular experiences. Ironically, the many months of lockdown subtly shifted many of the behaviors that were hindering me.
While those first few months of lockdown were fraught with uncertainty and fear, it did force a certain mindfulness; I was home, 24/7, and with time to really revisit every daily activity and the reason I did the things I did. And that led to shifts to those bad habits.
Coffee, while delicious, need not be constantly consumed, especially when I got enough sleep. And even if I didn’t sleep well, coffee didn’t need to be the only crutch I turned to – stretching in the morning, some gentle activity, or a 15 minute rest in the afternoon fit the bill. When I didn’t consume gallons of coffee, I was more apt to be tired when sleep time rolled around, so wine didn’t feel like a necessity. And after spending several weeks without my nightly glass, I realize dhow much better I slept without alcohol in my system.
Exercise became more mindful. Without a gym to go to, I started exploring other ways to move my body. During the lockdown, I certainly kept up with my running, but I scaled down, and as I only had the option to run outside, I mostly stopped the high-intensity intervals I did indoors on a treadmill. Rather, I started finding interesting places to run throughout the city, enjoying new scenery and discovering new neighborhoods. HIIT and heavy weight sessions at the gym were replaced by long walks with friends in the neighborhood, and Zoom yoga with friends far away.
And, despite the forced physical separation, I’ve never felt so close to so many people. Friends I hadn’t spoken to in years, and those to whom I was close but only talked to a few times a yea…I spoke to and saw (on screen) so many of them, rekindled relationships, and developed an intimacy borne of the shared challenge of these unimaginable times. I spent much, much more time with my in-town friends on long, socially-distanced walks and hikes, then picnics, and eventually evenings on outdoor decks. I’ve felt more deeply connected with the people I love than I have in a long time.
This is not to say that the pandemic didn’t bring with it a slew of new questionable habits (like my addiction to watching Love Island on Netflix nightly). But by and large, the new behaviors seemed an improvement on, or at least progress from, my past bad habits.
What are your bad habits? Have they changed over the course of the last 14 months?