If That’s All There Is…

 

 

A while back, Mister and I watched “Love is Strange,” a movie starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a married gay couple who are discriminated against and must deal with the consequences. At some point during the film (which is amazingly quiet and deep), I got to thinking about how some people – no matter how big their dreams – simply live out, well, meager lives. And how those big-dreaming people can be the most awesome souls on the planet. And how they can positively influence other souls in the world, and actually make a real difference. And how, as wonderful as those big-dreaming people may be, they may never, ever see their big dreams come to fruition.

 

As I was watching “Love is Strange” and having these thoughts, I began crying. For it was at that moment that it occurred to me that being a good person may have to be enough for me in this lifetime. (Please don’t challenge my assumption that I actually am a good person. Thank you.) And y’all – I am such a big dreamer. The thought that being good may have to be its own reward took me by surprise. And I sort of lost it. I won’t lie. I’m still processing that idea.

 

“Cal’s trying to find himself,” said Lee. I guess this personal hide-and-seek

is not unusual. And some people are ‘it’ all their lives – hopelessly ‘it.’”

spoken by “Lee”

in East of Eden by John Steinbeck

 

And then when I finally finished reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, I encountered the above quote near the end and it did its part to floor me. I was shaken and stirred, if you must know. And there was nary a martini in sight.

 

After reading the lines spoken by Steinbeck’s character, “Lee,” I was so affected. And it occurred to me that I may very well be one of those souls who is eternally “it” – forever looking for me. It was a profound thought and as I’ve been living it all my life, it turns out I am far too acquainted with the idea. I know Steinbeck was a genius and all, but damn! How did he nail me so well? I’m guessing he nailed a lot of us with that one. I’m still processing that idea, too.

 

“Is that all there is? Is that all there is?

If that’s all there is my friends

then let’s keep dancing.”

written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller 

 

While wallowing in this intellectual soul stew, I thought of Peggy Lee singing “Is That All There Is” and couldn’t shake it. I’ve always loved the song, but I’ve never felt myself drowning in it the way I have recently. I mean, if I’m to accept being good as my life’s purpose, and if I’m to accept an eternal search for my true self as my life’s work, how do I  handle it? How do I stifle the big dreamer in me without letting go of the me in me? Is that what “Is That All There Is” is?

 

At about that point in this particular existential pseudo-crisis, Mister and I watched “Six by Sondheim.” This fantastic documentary gives a lovely overview of our greatest living stage musical songwriter (just my opinion, thank-you-very-much), while delving into six of his brilliant compositions. I loved the movie and it was quite moving. Mister was aware of my soul searching, so after watching it he suggested that perhaps I could shift my focus from self-doubt to self-acceptance. He pointed out the lyrics to one of Sondheim’s masterpieces…

 

“I’ve run the gamut, A to Z.

Three cheers and dammit, C’est la vie.

I got through all of last year, and I’m here.

Lord knows, at least I was there, and I’m here.

Look who’s here, I’m still here.”

“I’m Still Here” From “Follies”

written by Stephen Sondheim

 

I’m working on it.

Living With Art

 

 

“You should have seen it.

It was a sight.

Mama, I mean it,

all color and light…”

“Children and Art” from Sunday In The Park With George

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; book by James Lapine

 

 

 

This week found me at the home of a dear woman who happens to be an art lover. As I received the grand tour, I was quite taken with how she lives with her collection.

 

 

Later, at home, I was thinking about the day and realized I’m slightly obsessed with how others live with art. Growing up, there was no art in our multiple houses (we moved a lot). And to this day, I know quite a few folks who simply don’t live with art. And that’s okay, of course. But I have chosen to live with art. And having received no training or experience on that front, I am in awe of how others manage to pull it off.

 

 

Mister and I adore art. But that doesn’t mean we have a ton of it or anything. Most of what we live with comes from our own hands. In some cases, pieces were created for specific placement. Those items are danged handy and easy to display, as their entire purpose/placement was pre-planned. Other pieces, well, they just have to find homes in our home. Sometimes we get lucky and a piece fits perfectly. Other times we don’t end up with the best arrangements and the art ends up feeling awkward. But it’s art. It can be moved around. So we don’t flip over it or anything.

 

 

Anyhoo – back to my obsession. I will probably continue marveling at how people live with art. It inspires me and sets gears a-turning. And if you live with art, I’d love to hear how and where. For reals!

So Many Possibilities…

“White. A blank page of canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities.”

Sunday in the Park With George

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine

 

 

 

Ah, the New Year. Once again it is shining before me, inviting me to make plans. To dream. To aspire. To create.

 

I don’t remember when I hit the age of seeing each New Year this way. I’m certain I didn’t pay much attention to it as a child. I doubt my younger self was reflective or sentimental about each New Year. I can’t imagine I ever teared up at the very gift of waking to a day such as this, back when I was a kid.

 

But I am at that age. I do recognize the blessings of waking to this day. And, heaven help me, I do make plans and I do aspire.

 

And on that note, Mister and I are working out some details for a 2014 challenge. (We were inspired to give ourselves a weekly challenge after following the blog of an ex-pat, living in the UK. It’s a great blog and I highly recommend it.) Parameters and guidelines are still being solidified, but our basic goal is to actively create something artistic, each week of the year. That’s a broad endeavor, and can range from cooking a gourmet meal to going on a photo expedition to reciting a Shakespeare play. We’ve tossed out a multitude of creative ideas, and we’re revved about the possibilities. We’ve not limited ourselves with any rules such as no repeating an act, so there may be multiple photo sessions over the course of the year. (There may be multiples of other creative acts, too. We’ll just have to see how it goes.) As I said, we’re still hammering out the guidelines.

 

We’ve decided to include others in these acts of creation. Over time, our group of friends has come to include musicians, painters, singers, songwriters, comics, actors, sculptors, designers, engineers, chefs, dancers and on and on and on. Art can be found in just about every single vocation on the planet. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. I know accountants who are amazingly creative. I know electricians whose work can be described as nothing less than art. Creativity is all around us, and we think the inclusion of our creative friends can only serve to elevate this little challenge of ours. We’re hoping we can all take a turn at stepping outside our milieus. That we can broaden our creative circles. Speaking for myself, I’m super-excited to try some new-to-me activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my little world, there are many challenges ahead. My rose-colored glasses haven’t shielded my eyes from the truths of life, or from the work that surely lies in store over the next few months. Certain hills are going to be steep. But we’ve got to climb in life. Sometimes there’s just no going around. If I can tell you anything at all about the very little I’ve managed to learn of this living thing, it is this: after climbing to the top of any of life’s hills, the view is spectacular. And so very full of possibility.