looking through me

Tag: practice

ingrained

I tapped my car keys against my leg in time with the ice cream truck’s music. I’d never noticed that “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” have the exact same beat . . . or that my feet hit the ground on the beat of the ambient music.

It’s been eighteen years since I was in marching band: I still step with my left foot first; I still have an exaggerated heel-to-toe gait; I still fall into step with people walking near me.

Muscle memory? Maybe. Or maybe some experiences become so ingrained, I can’t not do them.

I can’t not eat my vegetables first.

I can’t not double-check the door is locked.

I can’t not root for one team over another in a game.

Some things go beyond habit and imprint on my wiring. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. But what happens when it’s not an inconsequential quirk?

I can’t not compare myself to others.

I can’t not set impossible self-standards.

I can’t not over-think situations and conversations.

Subconsciously walking in step to the ice cream truck’s jingle has no great impact, but labeling—and believing—myself a failure for missing unrealistic expectations has profound consequences. And still I do it.

I do it because it’s easier to accept my flaws as permanent than pay attention to them and do the hard work of refuting lies with truth. I do it because while I don’t enjoy my unattractive character traits, it’s a lot less work to call them hard-wired than it is to call them out.

Maybe today is the day to take another listen to the rhythms I move to and step off in a new direction . . . right foot first.

 

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slow learner

I am a slow learner. A forgetful learner. A partial learner. A re-learner.

I find words I’ve written—pen strokes made with my very own hand—stating a lesson learned . . . but too often it’s one I find I’ve unlearned in the intervening minutes and days and years.

So I learn again. I read the words. I remember the impact of the realization. And I pray I might internalize a fraction more of what seemed impossible to forget the first time. I press into the practice of re-learning.

I’m a good student. Given a concept packaged with a syllabi and homework and tests I will demonstrate mastery. But I’m not a good learner. Slip the lesson into life, and I will make a mental note . . . and minimal application. As oil and water separate, new lessons and old habits kiss and part ways.

I need repetition: the same truth encountered in lesson . . . after lesson . . . after lesson. A constant stirring and blending of known and new.

The rhythm of practice builds my memory. I fielded ground balls over and over during softball drills to make the play routine in the middle of the game. I ran through scales over and over in band to hit the notes in the show. But in life the minutes of the day cannot be parsed into practice and performance. Each moment is learning and re-learning, practicing and executing.

And with the extension of grace to my forgetful self I see fragile growth. Muscle memory develops beyond the physical and spreads to the mental and spiritual. I am learning . . . slowly . . . with hiccups and hesitations and unexpected gains.

I record the lessons in their various iterations—slightly rephrased as new facets flash in the light of re-learning—grateful for each lesson learned that finds its way into the regular routine of the day.

 

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