I haven’t posted in more than a year. I’m ashamed to tell you how long it’s been since I’ve touched a musical instrument. And journalling? Hah. My best production is procrastination, and I’ve finally figured out that I’m not lazy: I’m scared.
There’s a lot going on inside me, and only one lifetime (or so we’re told). I want to earn at least three more advanced degrees, write several books, record at least one album of songs, and write more music. Happily, there are things which I’ve been invited to do (at least two concerts, one of the books). Fear of failure is easy to understand; fear of success was less so, until I found a parallel: For someone who has made loud noises for much of my livelihood, I have a fear of loud, sudden noises:
- As a child, I made my dad start side 2 of our “Fiddler on the Roof” album by dropping the needle in the middle of “Tevye’s Dream” so I wouldn’t have to hear Zero Mostel’s screams at the beginning of the track. It’s a wonder we didn’t ruin the record.
- I never want to be alone in a house of worship in case I’m not really the only person in the building and someone presses a loud, booming key on the organ or keyboard.
- I have never dated a bass or a baritone (Only kidding).
- The thing I have always dreaded most about any place I have ever lived is my doorbell (Not kidding).
So nu? I scare people. I scare myself. I’m afraid that if I dig way down deep into my well, I will mine so much ore that I may never climb out. You see, I’m a very friendly monster, but monster for sure. I can’t do things in a small way. When I’ve tried, disasters happen; such as missing out on a job because the gentle demeanor I wore for the interview was mistaken for lack of interest. So be yourself, some say. To which I say, Have you actually been around when I’ve turned myself all the way up?? It’s not for the faint of heart, and a lifetime of feedback ranging from the quizzical to the downright negative has trained me down into what, for me, has become strained minimalism.
I throw myself wholeheartedly into the serious business of motherhood, and it’s the one job in which active minimalism has paid off. For years I yelled and flailed. Now, I actively listen. I speak like a cross between my two favorite instruments (French Horn and viola, neither of which I play) to both stabilize and charm my children. And I manage to crack them up, but they still think I’m classy. Sort of. Yet I maintain the intensity of my love and passion for the two greatest individuals on earth. Could my mothering style serve as the model for maximizing my life’s other productions?
Tonight I attended a life-affirming concert of original songs by my rabbi and former classmate. As I do with all my creative friends, I marveled at L’s talent but more importantly, at his courage to dig into the resources of his heart and soul; to work with the material there deeply enough to re-emerge with the refined pearls with which he serenaded us into the second week of Elul 5776. And I wondered for the millionth time, “Could I…?” Then L shared some of the last wisdom of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. There was something about creating ourselves b’tzelem Elohim (in God’s image) by making ourselves our greatest work of art. So help me, I couldn’t find the quote online verbatim, but I did find the following:
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
It’s all right, then. Okay to be deep dark me; ok to have a lot of fertile clay to muck around in. It’s even okay to be afraid. I’ve got the opportunity to shape this soul-clay into some beautiful productions, and I don’t want to waste a dollop. Because when I climb out of it, I’ll still be waiting. And so will those who love me best. And so will God, who will have been with me all the time.
Just you wait…