Til I Hear You Sing

Tuesday evening, Hubby and I did something that we haven’t done since I can’t remember when: we went to a movie. And not just any old movie that’s currently playing at the local multiplex. It was a film of the Sydney stage production of “Love Never Dies”, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to “Phantom”. I must admit up front that I have never seen the original stage production of “Phantom”, only the 2004 movie. I understand, from those that know about these things, that the stage production is somewhat different from the movie. Well of course it is; movies almost always change something about the books or stage productions they are based on. At any rate, I love the movie, and am pretty sure that stage play fanatics would be derelict in their duties if they didn’t point out the differences between the two. Please, do that. I’m clueless.

The sequel is called “Love Never Dies”. If you want more information, you can check this out. The theater was practically empty, and if you ignore the college-aged “arts” students, the number of us “normal” types was probably 20 or so. (Did I just say I’m “normal”? Snort.)

The story is gut-wrenching in the end. The music was Andrew Lloyd Webber:  Enough said, as far as I’m concerned. I did hear someone say afterward that there wasn’t “one good stand-alone song” in the whole thing. I’ve also read critical reviews that complained about Webber borrowing heavily from his earlier works. Well, of course he did. All composers do. That’s one of many things I adore about Webber’s music. The main thing I adore about his music is, well, his music. Its ability to reach the hidden places in his listener’s hearts, its innate beauty, its raw passion.

I kept a tissue wadded in my hand throughout the whole thing, waiting for it to rip my heart out. And it did, but I kept it all inside. Until yesterday, when I found the soundtrack on iTunes. I listened to the entire thing, twice. There were references that I couldn’t quite grasp during the film. Listening to the score again yesterday left those details engraved in the palms of my hands. And the tears…….oh my goodness, the tears.

I read something last week about taking your “greatest wounds” and turning them into “your most defining gifts.” Sounds all new-age and touchy-feely, doesn’t it? I scribbled down some questions I was supposed to consider, and some suggestions for silencing my inner critic. The inner critic part wasn’t hard to address.

This is my inner critic:

Celia Lucinda, my inner critic

(Oh, in the annoying category, why does Google show me pictures of Daisy Duck when I search for Daffy’s girlfriend? For Pete’s sake, Daffy and Donald aren’t related, and their girlfriends have never met!

If you recognize Celia up there, then you know how she talks, sort of breathless Marilyn Monroe-ish, but not quite. One of my tasks in defining, and silencing, my inner critic was to name her and draw her picture. Done. Another was to give her a cartoon voice, so that when I hear her droning in the background of my consciousness, she sounds like…you guessed it…Daffy’s girlfriend. The other tasks were to: a) stop grappling with her, b) simply notice, but do not acknowledge, what she says, and c) if I must talk back to her, be snarky. OK, got that. Things have been snarky around here lately, and I guess it’s better for me to be snarky to an imaginary cartoon character that lives in my head than it is to be snarky with Hubby or Kate, or even Wubby.

The rest of the “turning wounds into gifts” exercise was a bit more demanding, and frankly I’ve had a difficult time answering its questions:

  1. When do you feel most alive?
  2. What would everyone you know say was the one thing about you that draws them to you?
  3. What is something you have been doing, with ease, for your entire life?
  4. What is the opposite of your wound?

I couldn’t look at question number 1, so I started with number 4 and worked backwards, which pointed out to me, in great detail, that the wound or wounds needed some definition. Seriously, how can you define the opposite of your wounds without first defining what those wounds are?

The first thing that came to mind was “loss”. What have I lost? Where did it go? Did I lose it on purpose, or did it wander off because I neglected it?

Good grief, more questions. We all lose a great many things as we grow up: intangibles like innocence, wonder, playfulness. Tangibles: beloved toys, mementos of long ago occasions, small tokens from friends that we swore to ourselves we would long cherish, only to wake up one morning twenty-five years later and ask ourselves, “Wonder what ever happened to that St. Christopher medal Kevin gave me before I moved that time?” Because I moved a lot, I think of the people who came into my life, and then disappeared when I moved away. Then there’s the devastating losses we all go through as life marches on: grandparents, parents, siblings, life-long friends. That cumulative sense of loss that grows over time into loneliness, that sense of abandonment that we know isn’t REAL abandonment, but sure feels like it when we are most vulnerable to it.

Since I was a little kid, abandoned toys have always made me cry. I see a discarded doll at the thrift shop and wonder, “Did someone ever love her? Why is she here?”. Or the obviously well-loved teddy bear: “How did the child that loved that bear part with him?” And let’s not talk about the Velveteen Rabbit, OK?

Then there’s the “wound” of hyper-responsibility. I had a psych doctor tell me once that he fully expected me to take full responsibility for the famine in Ethiopia. I noticed just how many times the phrase “I’m sorry” came out of my mouth during the trip with CG and company to the horse party. “I’m sorry it’s cold, Kate.” as opposed to, “Yes, Kate, it is cold. Maybe you should get another blanket.” I’m pretty sure that those words “I’m sorry” were spoken in a breathless, Marilyn Monroe-ish voice, and the speaker looked a lot like Daffy’s girlfriend.

So, what is the opposite of “loneliness,” or “hyper-responsibility”? Still thinking about that. Thesaurus.com says the antonyns for “loneliness” are “befriended” and “loved.” I know I am those things, but sometimes the head knowledge gets tangled up in my brain and then can’t get down to my heart where they belong.

And most of  the antonyms for  “responsibility”  have negative connotations: excess, refusal, broken promise, contradiction, ignorance, neglect, carelessness, thoughtlessness.

Wait, what was the original assignment? Find the opposite of my wounds, because they can be my most defining gifts. Excess, refusal, broken promises, contradiction, ignorance, neglect, carelessness, thoughtlessness…these are gifts? I don’t think so.

Let’s look again; there must be some positive antonyms for “responsibility”: relief, aid, freedom. Here’s the web page; check it for yourself.

Time for question 3: What is something you have been doing, with ease, for your entire life?

Well, lots of things. Remember the first line of Hubble’s short story in the movie “The Way We Were”? I do: “In a way he was like the country he lived in. Everything came too easily for him.” I look at those words and so many things come to mind. Reading, learning, playing / interpreting / loving music, adapting to new demands at work, etc. There’s a great deal of discussion these days about our country and how everything has always come too easily for us, and about what’s going to happen when things get hard. And our kids, generation iY, how we’ve made everything so easy for them that they don’t know how to do anything for themselves. But that’s not what I’m about right now.

I look at those “wounds” again, loneliness and responsibility, and they don’t look quite so bad now. I’m turning “wounds” into “gifts”, right? So my gifts are: friends, love, relief, and freedom. That looks like a list worth keeping.

Question 2: I can’t answer that one, because it’s asking me to interpret what my friends would say in response. I don’t know that, and furthermore, the pool of candidates available to answer it is small.

Which brings me back to question 1, the one I didn’t want to look at in the first place. When do I feel most alive? I thought the answer might have something to do with the piano, but it doesn’t. Not really. I can’t play like I used to, and never will. You know, “we ain’t spring chickens any more!” Well then, does the answer have anything to do with music? Yes, and no. Part of the answer came to me Tuesday night. It’s complicated, and I have places to go today, and I can’t remember the last time this many words came out of my brain, through the synapses to my fingers and out onto the keyboard.

So, for now, enjoy this and know that it is, indeed, related to the answer:


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