Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Life I Lead

As the old song goes: “I was dreaming when I wrote this, so sue me if it goes astray.”  I went to see the musical Mary Poppins this past week with my little niece and sister-in-law.  It was a welcome distraction in my crazy life, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I got to spend with them.  It has become harder and harder to see them as my life gets busier and busier.  I was surprised by some of the show (definitely not like the movie, just a heads up for those of you considering seeing it…the second half is much better than the first).  But I found, as I often do when I watch the movie, I was more entertained by the somber parts of the show. 

Those who know me the closest tend to think I am drawn to the somber, and perhaps part of that is true.  However, in this particular case, I believe the somber in Mary Poppins actually is where the heart of the show is located.  Sure, a spoonful of sugar is fun and tasty, and I love to laugh just as much as the next person, but something about giving topins to an old bird lady or discovering the true meaning behind the life I lead just seems to be a bit more…well, compelling to this chaotically contemplating heart. 

I noticed something in the reprise of Mr. Bank’s Life I Lead piece that I have never noticed before (or perhaps, more accurately, never really had the opportunity to connect to before).  He finds himself summoned to the bank to discover if he is fired or not just as a bunch of strange chimneysweep men dance out of his house.  He opens his contemplations stating:

“A man has dreams of walking with giants
To carve his niche in the edifice of time
Before the mortar of his zeal
Has a chance to congeal
The cup is dashed from his lips
The flame is snuffed aborning
He's brought to rack and ruin in his prime”

I heard this and for the first time connected to it.  I understood the desire to make an impact in the world and feel like the chances you had to do so have been snatched from your hands, now like a broken dream.  I thought of all those unemployed people, all those graduates looking to start a new adventure in the “real world” and finding themselves stuck on a path they neither sought nor wish to remain upon. 

As the actor sang and the orchestra swelled with emotion, I empathized with Mr. Banks.  I couldn’t help but feel that I, too, had my fire snuffed out by the frivolities and trivialities of this world, only to be brought to rack and ruin in my prime.  I thought on this as I drove home, with countless evidence as to why it was an accurate depiction of my life.  Truly, I am Mr. Banks. 

Until a very old and dear friend commented to me in a conversation after the show that I really did make a difference in his life.  He had no idea what I had been contemplating, but what he said struck home.  He had, unwittingly, become my Burt:

“You've got to grind, grind, grind
At that grindstone
Though child'ood slips like sand through a sieve
And all too soon they've up grown
And then they've flown
And it's too late for you to give
Just that spoonful of sugar
To 'elp the medicine go down
The medicine go down, the medicine go down.”

Wasn’t only a few weeks ago I spoke about not living in vain?  That all it takes is to keep one person from pain?  How quickly I forget my own words.  I have been so focused on grinding at that grindstone I had forgotten how quickly children grow up while we are not looking, how much a person’s “hello” or “glad to see you today” can really make more of an impression in the rocks of someone’s heart, can be more of that slow melting a river can make on the most stubborn of granite. 

Why is it so hard for us to keep focused on the bigger picture?  Why is it so easy for us to focus on our own problems and desires?  I had the most amazing night with my niece (one I will treasure until the day I die), and yet I allowed some thought to damper a part of the night.  For that I am truly sorry.  I wish with every fiber of my being I could turn off my brain sometimes and stop contemplating, just enjoy the moment.  For that I ask for your encouragement and accountability.  But I am thoroughly grateful that I have small reminders and a lot of Burt’s in my life to keep me focused on what matters. 

This week I challenge you to stop worrying about the grindstone and start enjoying the moment.  Seize the day! Seize whatever you can! 


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