Friday, September 24, 2010

The 4th movement

Something remarkable happened to me this week. As I was driving to work (before sunrise), I was taken aback by the beauty of the bright gold harvest moon in the sky straight in front of me. A few seconds later, I turned on the radio to our local classical music station, and within a few notes I recognized the piece being played - the lovely Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. That song holds precious memories for me, for its first movement was one of my favorite piano recital pieces as a teenager. Listening to the Moonlight Sonata while watching the gorgeous moon just seemed serendipitous.

For those of you who are non-musicians, the Moonlight Sonata is a piece played solely on the piano and consists of 3 movements, or parts. The first movement has always been relaxing to me, even though, in its minor key, some folks find it a bit sad. It has a wonderfully soothing rhythm that is steady, varies little in volume or style - almost like a lullaby. As I kept driving, watching the moon, and listening to the first movement, the moon was stable in the sky and stayed in front of me, bright and clear.

Then the second movement started, and immediately the moon became playful with me, following the cues of the music. It appeared on the left, then it appeared on the right, then just around the bend, it was on the left again. The music of the second part of Moonlight Sonata picks up the tempo, frolicking a bit and bringing in some changes. You're aware you've turned a page, something is different, and the quiet lullaby is over.

Then came the third movement. I remember that I tried valiantly several times to learn to play that third movement, but it was just too difficult. It starts at 90 miles an hour and never lets up, fingers flying everywhere on the keys, and oh, my, is it loud! Banging, clanging, pulsating, and just when you think it's over, it starts up again, going every which way. It makes your heart race just to listen to it. By this time in my commute, I had turned a different direction on a rural road thick with trees, and most of the time I lost sight of the moon totally.

Then all of a sudden, with a few loud chords, it was over. Silence. Beethoven chose not to balance his sonata with a nice quiet fourth movement after the noisy third movement. The frantic race is over, and there is no cool-down time.

Then it hit me: I'm living the Moonlight Sonata. My life started out as a lullaby, a familiar, secure feeling of love and acceptance, my wonderful childhood. The second movement started when I became an adolescent/teenager. Life became a little more complicated, still fun, but insecurities and changes made their debut, and the ubiquitous teenage worries about appearance, grades, and other self-esteem issues made that time a bit more stressful. The third movement, my adult years, came in with a bang, as I got married at 19 to an active alcoholic, started working, had two children, and tried to pay bills. Even when Ed got sober, things didn't magically calm down, as he entered the ministry and it was another round of stress and changes which threw me for a loop. For the whole third movement of my life, I never was sure if I was banging on the low keys or slapping the high keys - life was everywhere at once, providing me with incredibly uplifting moments and other times hitting me in the face with anxiety and worry. Even after we moved to Maine, as the saying goes, "good" stress can be just as hard on you as "bad" stress. Both kids got married, grandchildren started coming, and we had a very difficult time selling our house, financially and emotionally. The third movement was the roller coaster of movements!

Then it occurred to me that I am now in the fourth movement of my life. My sonata didn't end with those loud chords when we finally downsized and moved to our little house in the country. It just started a new part, a quieter, more peaceful part, and I am composing it every day by the choices I make. I am realizing that the more I choose to honor my priorities and fill my hours with meaning, the more harmonious the music becomes. If I react to situations with anger and frustration, the more dissonant the music becomes.

I've heard people talk about the idea that we write our own stories, the books of our lives. I think I prefer to say I'm writing my own sonata. It's got a lot of sad music, happy music, and everything in between. I'm in the fourth movement, and I'm not finished yet!

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