For the past 12 years, I have claimed Tuesday nights as Mine.  It started when my oldest daughter was less than a year old – I started playing cello with the Austin Civic Orchestra.  I hadn’t played with a group in many years, and I found that I’d missed it much more than I thought I had.  Not too long after I started attending rehearsals, I started going out for drinks after rehearsal with some of the other orchestra members.  Although several people have cycled in and out of this group of revelers, the core group has stayed pretty much the same for a good dozen years.  There are about 4 of us, and I consider these guys (yes, they’re all male) to be among my dearest friends.

They’ve been one of the few constants in my life for all this time – through different jobs, through the birth of my second daughter and through a variety of challenges that parenthood brings.  Every Tuesday night, I know I’ll be seeing them – even if we don’t go out for drinks afterwards.  It’s comforting.  The face that I get to make music with these people I care so much about actually makes the music that much sweeter for me.

Last year, I added a new ritual to my Tuesday nights: my stand partner (whom I lovingly refer to as “the little brother I never wanted”) and I have started meeting for dinner before rehearsal.  We share a similar snarky sense of humor that I really love, and I’m glad that after playing on the same stand for several years, we’ve finally taken the time outside of rehearsal to get to know each other better.  We rarely see each other outside of this context, but occasionallly one of us will text or email the other with something random and funny.

Last night, the orchestra played for the Annual Great Waltz Ball held at the University of Texas at Austin.  Four hours of Viennese Waltzes, Tangos and Polkas.  I love this music, and I love watching the dancers sailing past the raised platform we sit on when we play.  Physically, though, it’s grueling.  Fortunately, the cellos don’t usually play much of the “pah pah” in the “oom pah pah” – that’s often left to the violas and second violins – but we do end up sitting in chairs that are altogether wrong for a cellist’s posture.  Yes, posture is that important for a cellist – bad posture leads to injuries and pain, sometimes debilitating.  It’s so important that some companies actually make chairs especially for cellists.  And another company makes pegs that can detach so a cellist doesn’t have to bend his or her head  in an unnatural fashion.

As I get older, each year the Waltz Ball gets more and more challenging, and I wonder at what point I’m going to have to draw the line and say I just can’t do this anymore.  Perhaps it will go better if I have a better chair to sit in – I’ll have to look into that for next year.  But for now, I’m glad I can play this music.  I really love playing cello, I really love playing this music, and I really love playing with this orchestra.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  So many people DON’T have something in their lives that they love, and that just doesn’t make sense to me.  I’m fortunate that I have many things in my life that I love – some of them are just for fun, and some of them make money for me – and I wish everybody could have that kind of experience.

So here’s my advice, if you care to take it.  If you don’t already have something in your life that you LOVE doing, find something.  Whether it’s a hobby, or whether it becomes a career, I think it’s very important to one’s emotional well-being to do this.  Find the time, make the time, carve out the time to engage in this activity REGULARLY.  If you have a partner and/or a family, be sure to communicate to them how very important this is to you, and stick to your guns.  It might go over better if you encourage your partner to find something they are equally passionate about, and support them in doing it regularly.  It might go over even better if you share the thing you love, or perhaps you each need that time to do your OWN thing, I think that’s a very personal determination.

But do it – whatever “it” is.  It could be stamp collecting or paper-making, it could be rescuing prairie dogs or glass-blowing, it might be a ministry of some kind, if you’re called to that kind of work, or sitting all by yourself in a darkened art-house cinema once a week watching something with sub-titles.  Whatever floats your boat.  Find your thing, and do it.

If you’ve already got something in your life that you LOVE doing, I hope you’ll share your story with me in your comments.

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