Old habits

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.

Bad habits.

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?

5 thoughts on “Old habits

  1. Wayne Zelenak says:

    Sarah, recently, I read an interesting article published in 2017 by Steven Bratman, MD, MPH, who discussed anorexia, orthorexia, obligatory exercise, and the pathological side effects associated with those disorders. I don’t know if you read his study, but it sheds light on your lifestyle behavior. It is online athttps://www.orthorexia.com/.

    Here is the central point: Enthusiasm for healthy eating doesn’t become “orthorexia” until a tipping point is reached and enthusiasm transforms into obsession.

    Orthorexia is an emotionally disturbed, self-punishing relationship with food that involves a progressively shrinking universe of foods deemed acceptable. A gradual constriction of many other dimensions of life occurs so that thinking about healthy food can become the central theme of almost every moment of the day, the sword and shield against every kind of anxiety, and the primary source of self-esteem, value, and meaning. This may result in social isolation, psychological disturbance, and even, possibly, physical harm.

    I’m really glad during the pandemic that you rekindled relationships with friends during socially distancing walks and conversations. This reminds me of the value of friendship: “Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief”
    ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

    If you decide to read Bratman’s study, let me know if it is helpful?
    W

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    1. chefdorch says:

      Thanks Wayne, I’ve read a great deal of ED literature over the years so I’m pretty saturated with information! I love the Cicero quote. Hope you’re well!

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  2. “What are your bad habits? Have they changed over the course of the last 14 months?”
    君がうまく行ってるいいな Sarah (I hope this is correct for ‘I hope that you are doing fine’).
    My major bad habit is having too much straight talking (franc-parler). I hate bullsh*t*rs and hypocrites. So most of the time I prefer to shut up, remain discrete and be lonely. My frankness didn’t change over the last 14 months. I’m a sociable guy but I hate superficial people.
    Your post was great and touching. I’m still amazed by your sincerity and your insights.
    I knew you would be back in business soon Sarah. Paul has a new job and Pink is still bringing you Love&Joy.
    I was told the OSM picked up a Maestro from Venezuela. I just want to say that it doesn’t change anything about the fact that I still believe in you. You remain La Maestra. Never forget that.
    About wine have you ever tried a biodynamic wine (vin biodynamique). I know it sounds esoteric but it tastes good. They are organic wines. You can check on http://www.saq.com. The SAQ (Société des Alcools du Québec) is our provincial government owned liquor stores. You could go to Atwater public market next time you’ll be in Montréal. You might have been there already. They have a SAQ store there and much more (fisheries, cheeses, breads, …). You could even bring Pink and Paul if he is with you. It is a lovely place. You’ll adore it. Check on Google maps. There is also Jean-Talon public market but it is a bit farther from downtown.
    One time I went to the SAQ at Atwater and brought with me a wines rating book. There was a section about biodynamic wines. I wanted to try one at least once. I showed the section to a clerk. He had a smirk smile. I told him I new nothing about wines. For me a wine is good if it tastes good. We have a term in French (France and Québec) for a wine who taste awful which is ‘ce vin est de la piquette’ -> this wine is (the la peecket in phonetic English). I bought a red biodynamic wine at +- 15 usd from France. I didn’t say anything to Channara and Myckael. They loved it and me as well. It was one of the best wine we ever drank. I told them after. My wife can’t drink too much because some red patches appear on her face and body. My brother-in-law (Sambo) has the same problem. He is a pharmacist. He told me that some asian people don’t have the enzyme in the liver who digest the alcohol. My son doesn’t have that problem probably because he is mixed.
    Voilà for my little novelesque story. As a last bad habit I love watches but diver watches. I don’t even do scuba diving. Lol! I like the bezel and the look. I love Seiko and Japanese watches because you have a good quality price ratio. My Seiko is an automatic special edition watch called ‘The Great Blue’. I bought it a the duty free shop in Stanstead (Québec’s border) on our way to do camping in Lafayette campground in NH in 2007. Channara didn’t want me to buy it in 2006. The only remaining same watch was still there in 2007. She was waiting for me and I bought it. Take care and get vaccinated.

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    1. chefdorch says:

      The closest SAQ is usually my first stop when I get to Montreal! I’ve had several biodynamic wines (they’re popular here in California) and some of them are quite good! And keep up the straight talk, I think that’s a marvelous habit.

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