Falling Into the Routine
Nature follows a rhythm that humanity can never quite wrap its head around.
And yet all animals are intertwined in this magnificent and mysterious rhythm.
We breathe to it. We sleep, eat, work, play, love, laugh, and all of that within that rhythm.
Sometimes we are good at recognizing these patterns (sun goes up sun goes down, belly gets empty, bladder gets full, etc.)
Sometimes we are horrible at it.
It’s fair to say that everyone reading this missive is pretty good at attuning to life’s rhythms. After all you are currently alive and breathing, reading. You have internet access. Some would say you’re crushing it.
It’s probably Sunday, late morning/early afternoon (per the metrics). You’re scrolling Facebook. You remember something I wrote resonating with you a few weeks back and so you’re interested enough to click through.
I am honored to have snuck into some people’s weekly rituals.
Truly, truly honored.
There was a conceit when I was deeper in the musical world that you don’t do shows weekly.
The logic feels counter-intuitive, but human behavior is, again, consistent enough to recognize broad patterns. If I am performing regularly in the same town, the potential show-goer will usually think “Well, I can always catch him/them next time” and then never see you perform.
The most successful local acts know to only perform once every six to eight weeks (and bring a new thing to each show so the audience has a sense that they have to see you again if they enjoy your style).
I learned this lesson the hard way. At the tail end of performing with Sac Lunch we booked a weekly gig at a small club. Despite being a financially sound decision, we quickly learned that people knew we were ALWAYS gigging, so they were typically only likely to see us perform if they were already planning to go to that party/bar/event… It felt like we were losing fans even though we were consistently making money (and produced the LP off of band revenue)
I really like the musical concept of resonance. When an object vibrates in a certain pattern (frequency) and creates resonance, it physically causes another object to move in a similar pattern, a sympathetic force. The power of creating resonance cannot be understated. As the plot of Ocean’s Thirteen demonstrated, if you vibrate an object at the right frequency you can cause a skyscraper to shake.
On a much smaller scale, I like thinking about resonance when it comes to sharing ideas. I chase those moments. Seeking agreement (or at the very least understanding) of each other is kind of my thing…
Related to that point, an object vibrating alone cannot create resonance.
*** Last fall was tough. For all of us.
Kelly was able to find work that started in September. It was nice spending the summer with her. Sure, we were anxious about it the whole time, but we did so together, and luckily (at least I think) we ended up stronger for it. But then in September she started leaving the house, and I was left to my devices.
The biggest downside to unemployment was the lack of structure.
I wasn't a big a fan of ‘the grind’, doing the same thing every day, day in and day out. It’s why I sought increasingly complex roles and projects in my previous career, to make sure I am always growing and learning.
Constant discomfort was my calling.
That said, having a job helped tame my instincts to rebel from structure. I have to get up and shower and get dressed, I had to do certain things on certain days. There was a systemic force motivating me forward.
And I’d never lived without that force in my life.
At first I felt guilt. Like I’m supposed to feel that grind in order for me to be a productive human being.
Then I felt angst. What exactly is it that I do with my time? How do I create my own structure? How do I build the discipline to treat my career search in a similar way to how I would treat a job (Lord knows I wasn’t able to perform an effective career search while working…)
And then one day a good friend threw me a lifeline.
I can’t remember exactly when, but one morning I was thinking about my friend Carol Ann and reached out. We’d talked infrequently prior to that point, but I was always close friends with her and her husband Ben. Ben works as a physician and Carol Ann works part time in a bakery while also raising two young boys (she’s a ridiculously good baker and also quite a dope artist, but I digress…)
That morning we talked for quite a while. My angst about Covid resonated with her, I also related my angst about being out of work/listless/adrift/worried.
So she shared a word puzzle.
The NYT Queen Bee puzzle, to be exact.
I think she pays extra for the puzzle on top of the NYT subscription, but anyway she sent me a screen grab of the puzzle and the few words she’d found up to that point.
The rules of the puzzle are straightforward. Each letter can be used as many times as you want, but each word must contain the center letter. Each word must be a minimum of four letters. Oh, and there’s always a word that can be created by combining all seven letters in the puzzle: the coveted pangram.
So I grabbed a pen and copied the letters onto a pad of paper and began finding words. I clicked a screen shot and fired it over to Carol Ann. She was thrilled. I found the pangram and enough words to give her “Genius” points.
Little did I know, I would do this puzzle every morning for the following year.
It became part of the routine. It was often the first text I got in the morning, a pic with the puzzle and a text with the ‘genius’ score for the day. (We would later learn there is a QUEEN BEE score where you find all the letters the puzzle makers thought to score.)
It actually even got a little weird one morning where Ben had jumped onto the puzzle before Carol Ann woke up and basically finished it, which meant there were no words to find by the time she sent the puzzle over. I was strangely stricken by the idea that I might have lost this piece of my routine and that it was all going to come crumbling down (stupid catastrophizing brain), but Carol Ann was also vaguely annoyed lol so we ended up working out a system where all three of us could work on it together, which was even more fun, while it lasted.
The puzzle was more than just an exchange of words. It grounded me. It also probably indirectly sharpened my vocabulary. And I got to keep in touch with close friends during a time when connections were desperately needed.
And it gave me a routine. And somewhere in this routine I also got some music made. I focused my efforts (and reached out and asked for tons of help) in my job search. I kept up with therapy. I chased back the pandemic-fed increase in booze intake. I rewatched every MCU movie.
I found my own structure.
I began writing about myself, for myself.
I began talking more about my new career interests in cannabis, and networking earnestly in spaces where I could get my foot in the door.
About five weeks ago, I missed two days in a row of the puzzle.
I actually felt bad for missing it. I had gotten too busy. I was preparing for my new job, getting ready to celebrate my birthday, reconnecting with friends after being vaccinated… I shared this sentiment with Carol Ann one day, and her reply really resonated: “Meh, seems like we don’t need it as much as we did.”
I still check the puzzle when it comes, when I can.
As I settle into the rhythms of my new career I aim to thread the needle of remaining unabashedly myself while also representing the best interests of a major cannabis retailer. I am elated that I feel like I am finally walking towards something and not walking away from something. The future is uncertain (and with up to 100 new dispensaries coming online this year alone some interesting developments are coming and FAST) but the path is no longer so muddy and unclear as it is spidery and circuitous.
And I’m on it.
Be well, friends! Jonathan “Doc Wattson” The Native Stranger
p.s. A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY to this lady right here, my big sis Joanna. Hope you rang it in in style!