Friday, June 29, 2012

Power Napping for Self-Improvement

I’m not asking for a thump on the head.   

But some guys have all the luck, don’t they?   

Maybe you saw that guy on CBS Sunday Morning who took a knock to the noggin and woke up with a talent for playing the piano.  And he can really play - not just “Heart and Soul,” either.   

He woke up from a mild concussion, felt the urge, sat down, composed and played like a son-of-a-gun.  He says now he sees the notes, not just on the page, but also in the air.  That’s a big payoff for a small smack.  Hooray for him. 

But it’s irritating to those of us who deal with the simultaneous impediments of trying to learn to play the piano past the point when our synapses have ossified, coupled with an aversion to taking a hit.  

My husband offered to help me out with this, but I think he was making fun.  Something in his eyes.  Too eager.  He salivated.  I can only hope he’s not planning an “accident” to do me a favor! 

Here’s the dilemma:  I want to play, but all that study and practice – whew!  I just don’t know if I have it in me. 

It’s like that quote I saw online the other day:  “I’ll do anything to lose weight – except diet and exercise.”  

Then there’s that other guy on the Science Channel who had a stroke and came back an artist.  

Since coming home from the hospital, this guy has painted every surface available to him.  Literally.  He’s on his fifth layer.  And he’s not using antique white.  He maps out poster-sized sections of walls, ceilings, floors, furniture and countertops, and creates.  His living room looks like a mob of muralists threw up on it.   

The mystic in me can’t help wondering if he ever wished he could just paint all the time instead of being a day trader or whatever his regular job was.  Rod Serling warned us about that sort of thing. 

Doctors speculate that his stroke created an imbalance between the excitation processors and inhibition suppressors in his brain.  Painter excitation is winning and this poor schmuck can’t stop himself from artistic expression.  I don’t think I want to go that far.  

Of course no one in her right mind would go to that length, even for her art.  But a slothful person does look for miracles. 

That’s why I read with interest the new research saying that imagining practicing the piano, or shooting baskets, or “virtually rehearsing” just about anything produces improvements in that skill approximating those accrued from actual practice.  Really.  If only that could apply to housework.  Cause I can visualize a clean house and it’s nice.  Smells good, shines and everything.  But I don’t like to visualize the actual cleaning.  That must be why we’re all caked over. 

To get the full benefit of your imagination, you have to visualize the activity for the same amount of time you would put in to doing it.  What’s the good in that?  If a person has to visualize practicing her scales in order to procrastinate practicing her scales, well, that little chore just lost its appeal.  That’s like the commuter stuck in traffic who takes a 20-minute detour to avoid a five-minute delay. 

On the other hand, innovative dream researchers have now demonstrated that reflection on a task while asleep and dreaming produces the same brain waves as actually completing the task.  So, if we dream of playing onstage at Carnegie Hall, it boosts our ability to play there one day.  This is the ultimate in multi-tasking.  Lucid dreamers hone their talents while catching their z’s.   

One can extrapolate that gainful achievements await the daydreamer, the blank stare-er, and the while-er away of time.  At last!  A regimen that plays to my in borne aptitudes.  I’m feeling excited about my potential accomplishments! 

I could start the day by picturing some time on the treadmill.  My chair at the computer is comfortable enough to accommodate reverie on the memoir I’m writing.  Next I’ll nap next to the piano.  Laundry?  A mental rehearsal!  Soon, it’ll be time to envision dinner.   

I’m liking this.  It fits my lifestyle.  It’s the next generation of armchair quarterback:  naptime artiste.