Hoping To Learn A New Trick

There have been many hobbies in my life over the years. Several new ones since retirement. Several old ones dropped when they were no longer enjoyable. Like sewing, something I had done since I was a teenager, but something that had begun to feel like a chore. God I hate sewing. And then there is writing, something I am doing less and less of these days–a situation I am hoping is COVID related. My hope is that my empty brain will be more stimulated when life becomes more stimulating. If not, my blog posts are going to get awfully boring. I say this hoping that they haven’t already.

When I am doing something, I become thoroughly absorbed in it. In the past, my talent for absorbing myself in one thing at a time has always helped me learn new things and meet job deadlines. The problem happens when I need to do more than one thing at a time, like talking and thinking or cooking and entertaining, which is pretty much the same thing as it also involves talking. I have this amazing ability to fuck things up badly when I am attempting to do more than one thing at a time, There have been many verbal faux pas and failed recipes to prove this point. It is why I tend to prepare food in advance when we have company, and why I prefer to be a hostess rather than a guest because it enables me to just flit between people and not really have serious conversations with anyone. Hey don’t judge, I have been successfully employing these tactics for a long, long time.  

So the new trick I want to learn is multitasking. This is a big deal for me because I was the person who couldn’t change a CD and drive the car at the same time. A single CD played in a loop until I was stopped and parked. Honestly, if my eyes left the road to glance down at the CD player (we are talking when cars had CD players), the car could end up in the ditch or crossing a line or hitting a person or another vehicle. The roads were not safe if I attempted to do this, so I never did. I couldn’t even change the radio station back in the era when you had to turn the knob and check the moving bar to do so. This would drive me nuts because The Doc could do all these things and spy half a dozen deer up on a ridge we were driving by at the same time. I have no idea why I can’t multitask–even just a little bit. 

Trying to multitask always stresses me out. I was over fifty before I could jump from one task to another and then back again without losing my momentum and creative thread. I only did it when it was absolutely necessary, which meant at work. I learned to do it as a graphic designer because, as an employee, I had no choice. Such jumping usually happened during the execution stage not the creative thought stage because I did most of my creative thinking at home and often while laying awake not sleeping at night. There were tons of emails sent from my home to my office detailing the creative side of my tasks. But I couldn’t, and still can’t, work on two things at the same time. It’s a lot more difficult than jumping between things.

So why do I want to learn this skill now? One word… piano. Playing the piano requires a person to do two totally different things at the same time. The right hand plays the treble notes while the left hand plays the base notes. I have attempted this off and on since starting lessons, I can play one hand or the other hand and sometimes both when they alternate in a very simple song like When The Saints Go Marching In. I should clarify things here as I can only play very simple songs so don’t think I have accomplished more than I have so far in this venture. But when I try to play both hands at the same time like I have been doing this week, I end up defeated and laying my head the piano keyboard as if I was Schroder after a frustrating moment with Lucy. Except Schroder could quickly return to playing as if he never stopped. I, on the other hand, totally lose my place and forget what notes I just played. In short, I fuck up more than I succeed.

As I sit willing my both hands to each press a finger on a different key at the same time, I wonder if it will ever happen. They say that it will. That all of a sudden it will happen and feel completely natural. That I will be noodling around on the keyboard and suddenly realize that I am doing this. I certainly hope so. I would love to prove to myself, and perhaps those in my small corner of the world, that I am not too old to learn a difficult new trick.

Thank you for reading.

Photo:  Jamie Street, Unsplash

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18 thoughts on “Hoping To Learn A New Trick

  1. I so relate. It has become increasingly difficult for me to multitask. It’s taking longer for me to do things in general. My fingers on both hands now refuse to coordinate when playing the piano. And I just can’t get excited about sewing again, though I got my first sewing machine at 8 and majored in fashion design and merchandising in undergrad. Kudos to you for persisting with your mastery of new interests. I’m enjoying your writing. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My ability to focus on even a SINGLE task has decreased considerably since I retired. (Prior to The Big R, I could multi-task the hell out of things.) For me, I think the main cause is the removal of any kind of “deadline”. Retirement is one big open field of doing whatever I want, within reason, and I’m generally not held accountable if I choose to do nothing or just little bits of everything. I definitely don’t want to go back to work, but it’s obvious that I need some degree of structure. Maybe someday I can figure out some way to get my focus back. We shall see.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to make that all about me, but your words just triggered a stream of thought. Which brings us back to you and the point I originally meant to make. I think your writing is terrific. It’s very thoughtful, contemplative, well-expressed and often very humorous. I realize I rarely comment on your posts (honestly, I rarely comment on most posts, so it’s not you, per se) but I always enjoy your posts and look forward to your latest pieces.

    By the way, I woefully regret never having learned how to play the piano. I think it’s a beautiful skill to have, and I admire those who have taken the time to practice such an art…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your wonderful comments. I never expect them and like you don’t always give them. I love your description of retirement as the big field. It is so nice to do whatever we want without deadlines. I also have no desire to go back to work or any other structured environment. I’ve spent the last couple of years learning new things and doing what I want to do. In doing so I have created my own structure by filling my days with a variety of enjoyable things. I am trying to make piano one of these things. If nothing else I do like a good personal challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A bit off-topic but all of a sudden I can’t type. I wasn’t ever super fast. but I keep reversing the order of letters in words so that I will type “pale” as “plae.” I’ll settle for being able to concentrate on doing one thing correctly.

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  4. I’m not a fan of multitasking. I’d rather give my full attention to just one thing at a time.

    I admire your desire to learn the piano, and I wish you the best. I tried to teach myself how to play the guitar a few years ago, and I gave up after a couple of weeks. I do want to give it a try again, when I retire.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m also a one thing at a time person. In fact, I’ve ready multi-tasking isn’t really possible, we simply bounce back and forth and it’s usually less efficient. Learning the piano sounds challenging and wonderful. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

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