Wednesday morning: pink fog for a moment, so briefly that by the time I mentioned it to someone it had shifted to gray. Mushrooms-like-flowers in the lawn. Ripe tomatoes and eggplants on the counter, and a recipe for black bean chili. In my head, alternating currents of Beethoven 7 and the Romance from Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2. I get to play both this fall. Also in my head: projects—some unfinished, some un-started; the emails to friends that are as yet un-typed; the endless connections with friends, acquaintances, loved ones waiting un-made; the endless (urgent!) daily things to attend to. It is all water streaming through my fingers. I cup my hands to drink and my feet, the ground—everything around me—gets soaked. Is it a fight for you, too, to focus on how cool and sweet the water is? Even on my feet the water feels good, if I let it.
* * *
I wrote that paragraph more than two weeks ago. All of it is true. But I haven’t been able to finish what I started writing because of the other narrative in my head—because this is also true:
So now tell the rest of the story. Tell how the water spilling onto your feet metaphor breaks down—how sure, those missed opportunities are signs of the richness offered, and maybe you can absorb a little of it as it falls—but it’s not that simple, is it? Tell how what gets your feet wet is all the ways in which you have failed family and friends and students. How unfair it is to romanticize that. Tell how you constantly feel like a failure. How you are haunted by the fear that those you love will stop loving you because you cannot manage to be good enough. How, even after you learned to fight for yourself, to not bury yourself inside pleasing everybody else, the fear remains. You have ways of fighting it now, but the truth is you mostly only hold it at arm’s length. It is a permanent resident in your life, following you into whatever you do.
* * *
I was going to tell you how it seems that the thing to do is to get comfortable with both the fear and this feeling of not-done, not-as-good-as-I-wanted-it-to-be, not-sure-I-can-handle-this-next-thing failure. How getting comfortable with these feelings is no compromise, but survival. I was going to tell you how violin is what taught me this, that all those years of practicing, little by little working my way through techniques, through etude books, through concertos and sonatas and partitas proved to me that each day’s drop in the bucket matters, that the bad days don’t steal as much as you think they do, that in the end it really is the trying that matters.
Maybe all those years of trying in the practice room—maybe one of the most important things I was doing was one of the invisible, inaudible things: learning to never quit working towards a goal that constantly shifted out of reach, to push for perfection knowing I would never get there, if only because it always proved to get me somewhere.
I don’t know that I have the courage to show you how messy my office is (putting things that are “in progress” away is almost equal to giving up on them,) or how I don’t stay on top of the laundry, or how quickly all my attempts to get organized fall apart. But I can tell you that it is as easy to be overwhelmed by the great beauty I get to see every day as it is to be overwhelmed by all the rest.
Sometimes spilling and bucket-filling look a lot alike. I keep trying to make these crazy days into more than that, but maybe it’s really that simple. No more beautiful and extraordinary than that, but also no less. See how our wet hands shine.
And by the way? Yesterday: more pink fog—jeweled, this time.