I was a backward kid. Well meaning . . . not quite fitting in. An odd teenager, for sure. More serious about more things than I should have been, probably. But sometimes when I look back on those years I think, "I could take a page out of that kid's book again. She lived fiercely. Everything was a mission. Every daydream had a purpose." This same quality makes me horrible at all small talk. It's almost impossible for me (anybody out there saying "amen"?)
When I was 15 or so I found her - Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I read all about her life. I read everything I could get my hands on. I wrote paper after paper - any assignment I could bend to be about EBB became a tribute to EBB. And I have these sonnets. These poems she tried to hide from the world are almost uncomfortably honest. That's what I really liked about her - her uncomfortable, specific, descriptive honesty.
She says, "Let it pass" . . . and I get it. Life is hard. Whoever you are, wherever you are - something about life is difficult. Something about loving other people is difficult.
Writing music is difficult.
Teaching music to children is difficult. Not because of the children - but because of the circumstances that complicate their shiny new lives. Because of us - the grownups.
Today I was sitting in my classroom, down on the floor with the kindergarteners. We were sitting in a circle, singing lullabies. I took out my guitar and played "Fais Do Do" for them and had one of those moments you know you'll remember forever - I was looking around the circle, making eye contact with these kids and I could see all this possibility. I could see all of this beautiful humanity. I was so immediately thankful to be teaching public school.
I'll say it again - I am thankful to be teaching public school. Yeah - I don't have unlimited resources at my disposal. Yeah - my students are not a homogenous group. They're diverse and vibrant and are walking miles and miles in different pairs of shoes. And I am so thankful for them.
But all day long, on a regular basis, I fight the urge to "let it pass." Because life is busy and commitments are overwhelming, I find myself tempted to gloss over the details. As if turning a blind eye could make anything easier. I guess looking away from the brilliance of these precious moments seems like it might take less effort than facing them?
EBB, my old friend. She never leaves me hanging.
Sonnet X goes on . . .
Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed
And worthy of acceptation. Fire is bright,
Let temple burn, or flax; an equal light
Leaps in the flame from cedar-plank or weed;
And love is fire . . .
She goes on. And on. And all of it is beautiful. Eyes meeting and being understood by another person. Conversation and meaningful silence. She lays out all of these life experiences - things many of us have experienced before . . . and she acknowledges their holiness.
I want to live my life with that sort of crazy intensity. I really do.
I'll sacrifice the ability to small talk and deal with the social awkwardness so that I can appreciate the holy moments better.
Holy moments I've witnessed: a child crying because a song was so beautiful. A man dying with his wife at his side telling stories about their 50+ year marriage. The beginning of my son's life. The first time I made meaningful eye contact with my husband (years before we went on our first date). The writing of a new song (mine). The writing of a new song (someone else's). A one take, perfect recording of a new song - no do overs. The blinding light of the sun . . . over the hill, across the cow field, through trees, in the morning, in the evening. Collaboration at the piano. Vocal collaboration. Chamber music rehearsals. Divinely orchestrated reconciliation. Birds leaving a nest. Corporate prayer. Friends singing just for fun. Children singing songs at summer camp. Bubbles from the sink floating all over while doing dishes. Waking up - EVERY SINGLE DAY.
There's no separation for me - these holy moments are the music and the writing. They are the impetus to create anything. They are the grounding force that helps me to overcome my fear - horribly debilitating fear of making mistakes or sounding wrong. These moments begging for our attention . . . they come from God. They are from God.
We want to "let it pass" because we're tired and afraid. It's ok to be both of those things.
But that's not the end of the cycle. There are more sonnets to be read and written. We can say it because we feel it sometimes . . . but that's no way to live.
Get out there and pay attention to your life. Even when you're tired. Really appreciate the details. Look for God and you will find God. Every time.