The good news, since you always want to start with good news, is that I’ve been able to complete a lot of the stuff on my to-do list this week.
I memorized the bit of Ravel I wanted to memorize, I polished the 16 measures of Mozart I aimed to polish, I’m currently in the process of learning and memorizing the recapitulation section of the third movement of the Mozart (which means that I’ll have the entire K332 sonata memorized fairly soon, and two of the three movements close to performance-ready), I finished reading Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, I am currently using the techniques in Make it Stick in both my piano practice and my chess study, and…
I mean, the bad news is…
I HAVEN’T STOPPED OVERCORRECTING.
Perhaps one cannot stop overcorrecting in a single week (when I read this to L, he said “that in it itself would be an overcorrection”). Not even if one puts one’s mind to it.
And the thing is, even when one does put one’s mind to it, overcorrection happens without thinking.
That is, overcorrection happens even when you’re trying to think about avoiding overcorrecting, because you’re not actually thinking critically about the thing you’re about to overcorrect.
You’re thinking in a more general “thou shalt not” sense, and not in a specific “what, in this moment, constitutes an awareness-based adjustment vs. an overcorrection” sense.
This week, my tendency to overcorrect manifested in the form of people-pleasing — or, since overcorrection doesn’t actually work, an attempt to people-please that didn’t end up pleasing anybody.
Especially because I can’t keep a secret to save my life, and my own displeasure at having done something that turned out to be somewhat futile quickly became apparent.
Since I can’t keep a secret to save my life, I’ll have to tell you what it was.
Basically, I spent yesterday afternoon making a cake instead of practicing the piano. I was trying to practice in the moments while the cake was baking, except I had never made this cake before and had adjusted the recipe based on a gift-of-the-Magi-esque misunderstanding (I thought L didn’t like his cakes too sweet and L thought I didn’t like my cakes too sweet, and so I spent way too much time chopping up dates to use in lieu of sugar when both of us would have been happier with the cake in the recipe), so I would practice for five minutes and then go check on the cake (still mushy in the center) and then I would go practice again and then go check on the cake (still mushy, and now the center’s collapsed a bit) and so on.
So I was annoyed because this cake that I didn’t actually want was getting in the way of what I actually wanted, which was to have spent a good hour learning Mozart.
I was annoyed that I felt like I had to performatively eat a slice of this cake, even though I didn’t really want any cake (and even though it did in fact give me indigestion), because if you say “I don’t want cake” — well, it certainly puts into question why you spent the afternoon making one.
And then I was annoyed because I wasn’t the kind of generous person who could make and present a cake, freely, to the person she loved — except it turned out that L didn’t really want the cake either.
He had only mentioned it in a general sense (“I liked that carrot cake your mom made, maybe we should make one the next time we have a bunch of shredded carrots”) and didn’t want to eat an obligation-cake any more than I wanted to make him one.
We talked about that for a long time last night.
What was the overcorrection here?
First, assuming that having extra shredded carrots meant that I had to make a carrot cake right that minute, even though I had already had plenty of other plans for those minutes. (We could have put those extra shredded carrots into salads or something.)
Second, assuming that I had to come up with a dates-instead-of-sugar recipe, although L and I both admitted that we had played ourselves on that one (that is, we’d both said “it’s good that these desserts aren’t too sweet” when it would have been very, very good if they had been sweeter).
Third — and most importantly — giving up something I wanted in order to give someone else what I thought they wanted.
How is that last one an overcorrection?
Because the correct path is the one that gives you what you want and need, which frees you to give the best parts of yourself to someone else.
L didn’t get the best parts of me last night, because I swerved away from them.
Today, I’m going to keep my little metaphorical car pointed towards the person — and the life — I know we both love. ❤️
After I read this to L, he added both the following insights and permission to share them:
When we put ourselves at a deficit for any reason, we make ourselves less of the person we want to be, and less of the person who is in fact a loved one.
What is the best gift we can give for people? The example of our happiness — not just our happiness, but our excitement for things. Our enthusiasm. Everybody’s supposed to be what they are, because we draw strength from one another and we draw the most strength when we know what people are.
Your number one thing is not to do a bunch of stuff for others, especially if it puts you a deficit. Your number one thing is to be what you want to be. We want to be part of a group of good, happy people, because that’s when we’re at our best.
Gosh I love that man. ❤️❤️❤️