Tuesday, June 9, 2020

An inadequate musical composition

The thick, maroon curtains are closed, but the background stage lights provide just enough illumination for me to keep working. I’m sitting at a black, baby-grand piano, creating a symphony reminiscent of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

It’s a feverish business and the countermelodies fit more intricately than any novel I’ve ever written. It’s a puzzle that grows and crescendos with each passing eighth note.

Then suddenly, I’m thinking of people who might hear it and how it might show my worth.

We’re only on this earth for a short time. Will they remember me when I die? What will I be remembered for? How long before the memories will fade on this earth—and what makes my life matter?

Still holding the sheets of music in my hands, I remember the people who have judged me.

When I was a pregnant teenager, before getting legally married, someone told me I was going to Hell. Another person, later, claimed that I was one of the kindest people they ever met and I would “absolutely go to Heaven.” I remember mulling over their words, perplexed that people could see me so differently.

Still holding the masterpiece, I step to the center of the stage, somehow knowing that the thick curtains are about to open. It’s hard to even think before a performance and my breathing is shallow.

The moment suddenly feels so much like death, not because I’m scared, but rather because I know people stand on the other side of that curtain, and they are about to judge me imperiously.

The curtain flies aside with such force that a wind ruffles the air. The beautiful black, satin dress I’m wearing sways at the bottom and a chill rushes past my bare shoulders. It takes just a minute for my squinting eyes to adjust to the bright spotlights. And after a moment, I step toward a microphone positioned in front of me.

I can see thousands of people staring, waiting to hear the song of my life: what I’ve created, who I am and what I’ve done.

I’m desperate, wanting to prove that my life-song is powerful, worth something, that my time on earth mattered. I want to tell them this before I play the piano’s portion of the symphony I’ve written. I finally decide on the words to say as I’m staring out at these souls who are anxious to judge me. But my speech must start with the name of my composition.

I look down at a stack of papers containing melodies, countermelodies, the beginning sonata, and finally more minor minuet. But the name..... What is the name????

At this point, I know I’m dreaming.

As I stare down at the sheet music, the title of the song becomes numeric: six written three times. Six.... Six.... My hands are shaking. Six.... I’m dropping the composition; and as if the sands of my life are falling, too, I falter.

No one knows, no one in the audience knows yet how inadequate I am. I could walk back to the baby-grand and play brilliantly; hide it from the masses. But instead I don’t even want them to hear this piece I’ve written.

In my dream, I just stare at the never-changing faces in the crowd and realize that nothing I did really mattered. The good.... The books I’ve written.... The degree attained.... All I’ve done, trying to make an impression that would last. It wasn’t enough.

I woke up, sweating and nearly crying. If something as impressive as a symphony wouldn’t really matter when I die, then what would?

The song had been beautiful, but in the end, all of the effort didn’t matter. And it left me thinking about the word I decided to live by for this year: refine.

There’s so much I need to let go of: Seeking approval from others. Finding worth in outcomes and accomplishments. But there’s so much more; I hope I’ll be up to the challenge and figure out how to let go.

Of course I knew refinement would be a hard word to choose, but this feels insurmountable.

Isaiah 64:6
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.


  1. Wow this was cripping and somewhat powerful

  2. I say that you have an extraordinary heart and I feel privileged that I got to know you! Your writing is thought provoking and wonderful. Thank you for sharing!