Looking for the Goldilocks Zone


February 1, 2016 by Jean

October 10, 2013 Holidays | ��mlaut OOmlaut �mlaut!The “Goldilocks Zone” is a term scientists sometimes use to describe the earth’s place in our solar system – not too close to the sun and not too far, not too hot and not too cold, but just right. I am still searching for the Goldilocks zone in my commitments to outside activities. Last winter, I had too little outside contact and suffered from social isolation. This year, in an attempt to avoid repeating that experience, I’ve been taking on more commitments. But, oops, I may have overdone it and gone from too little to too much.

The first commitment I made was a weekly dinner with my next-door neighbor. That feels just right. But I also applied for the Master Gardener class run by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service. This is a big commitment, a three-month college-level horticulture class that meets for 3 hours once a week with homework in between. But the application process is competitive, and I realized that I might not get in this year. A few weeks ago, I also contacted the artistic director of the Maine Music Society to inquire about auditioning for the Maine Music Society Chorale. I was enticed by the prospect of singing a concert of Billy Joel and Elton John tunes, scheduled for late spring, and I didn’t know how long it would take for there to be an opening. I wasn’t prepared for a return email asking me to be at rehearsal in two days! Oops, another big commitment. I joined at week 3 of rehearsals, not of Billy Joel and Elton John tunes, but of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, the most difficult music I’ve ever sung. (And I last sang music approaching this level of difficulty in college, almost 50 years ago!) After three rehearsals, I’m starting to get the hang of it, but I’m still playing catch-up and needing to practice at least two hours a day to be ready for the concert in early April.

Then, while I was sitting at my computer practicing music a little over a week ago, I got a phone call letting me know that I’ve been accepted to Master Gardener training, which begins in late February. This is both good news and bad news. The course is something I’ve been wanting to do for many years. However, the classes are the same day as chorale rehearsals, which means 3 hours of intense science education each Thursday afternoon followed by 2 hours of intense singing in the evening. Yikes! Have I taken on too much?

To top things off, I received the spring catalog for the local Senior College on Friday. I had been planning to take a course this spring, but I’m already feeling overcommitted. At first, I wasn’t even going to look at the catalog, but I couldn’t resist. And it turns out that there are several classes I would really like to take. Particularly appealing is a six-week course about Maine trees. It begins on Friday, April 1 and is taught by the same Maine Master Naturalist who taught the Fields and Forests course that I took last spring. This was very tempting, especially since I think it would complement the Master Gardener class. But, even as I considered it, I knew that April 1 was a familiar date and that I was already committed to something else on that date. When I looked at my calendar, however, I realized that my commitment was just to attend a late-afternoon art opening reception, which happens to be in the same building as the afternoon class! I could do both. And the Beethoven concert is on April 3, after which the music commitment will get easier. So I’ve decided to register for the course.

Am I trying to do too much? Probably. I will have one month (March) of breathless over-commitment. In addition to the Master Gardener class and increasingly intensive (and frequent) music rehearsals, there will be a series of Wednesday afternoon lectures at the McLaughlin Garden I want to attend. I have given up a tentative plan to go away for a week in March; that would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back rather than fun and relaxing. Fortunately, the Master Gardener course is a one-time undertaking; once I have completed the course, my responsibility will be a much more manageable 40 hours per year of Master Gardener volunteer work. Maybe next year, I’ll get my commitment to outside activities just right.

9 thoughts on “Looking for the Goldilocks Zone

  1. Stacy Moore says:

    Oh, I had to laugh at this, Jean, especially when you found yourself in the middle of the Missa Solemnis instead of Billy Joel! Not that Joel/John are simple—just that Beethoven is in a category all his own. I suppose if there’s one month to be over-committed in New England, March would be it—in VT I always felt like March was the true test of character.

    • Jean says:

      Stacy, Several people in the chorale have commented on my timing, and everyone sees Beethoven as in a category of his own. Our director sometimes introduces difficult fugue sections by saying, “Okay, this is Beethoven being really mean to singers” or “How deaf do you think Beethoven was when he wrote this part?” 🙂

  2. Diana Studer says:

    I went thru a patch of – everything was on Wednesdays.
    Strange how that happens.

    • Jean R. says:

      It is strange how everything we like to do is on the same day or the same week with lots of down time in between. It happens to me all the time. March will be an ideal time to be over scheduled, if you turn out to be. At the end of the winter you’ll enjoy it more than any other time of the year and a little later your gardens will be calling you. I always manage to over book myself in March because everything looks great after being snow bound so often.

      I about lost my breath when you said the Master Gardener requests 40 hours of volunteerism because I read it as per week a few times before I got it right. You sure have some interesting things lined up and you can easily overlap your singing practice with gardening when you can get going outside, entertaining your neighbors at the same time. LOL

      • Jean says:

        Jean, Some of this is probably a result of people considering similar constraints (like “we don’t want this too close to holiday x” or “a lot of people go away that week/month”) when they’re choosing dates for an event. When I was teaching, students often complained that all their professors had tests or papers due in the same week. I told them that if they sat down to design a syllabus, given the parameters of the semester’s beginning and ending date and school vacations, they would end up with their tests or papers in those same weeks.

    • Jean says:

      Diana, I’m happy that the Master Naturalist teaching the Senior College course that I’m interested in prefers to teach on Friday, rather than Wednesday or Thursday.

  3. pagedogs says:

    This post made me smile. I too am trying to find the sweet spot of scheduled commitments and wobble between, too much, too little, and just right. There are so many enticing activities, projects, and learning opportunities, it’s difficult to pace myself. Such a nice dilemma. My March will be filled with beekeeping classes, orcharding workshops, and yoga, while also starting seeds, clearing land, setting up more raised veggie beds, and finishing off sewing projects. And I am already making a list of things I want to do next winter!

    • Jean says:

      Brenda, It is a nice dilemma. I’m definitely not complaining, and I wonder how anyone can be bored in retirement. Your March activities look really interesting — although if weather turns to more normal winter patterns, clearing land and setting up raised beds will probably get pushed back to April or even early May. (That late March/early April weather the first week in February may have fooled us all into being a bit too eager for spring. 🙂 )

  4. I am under committed this year. I do not want much on my calendar. i am still rebelling after being over committed for so many years. I almost applied to the new Master Gardener classes here but I cannot give the 200 hours of volunteering and then 50 hours yearly after that. Although finally they made the classes convenient. Maybe next year.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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