I think it was when I was sitting in the audience in Nashville, waiting for the performance of the Shostakovich 4th Symphony to start, that I had a wonderful, overwhelming burst of gratitude wash over me. I was there, waiting to hear a symphony I never thought I’d hear live, that I’d discovered fortuitously in my 50s after being oblivious to its existence for over five decades. I’d been able to buy a ticket, drive down, visit some friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. And there I was.
I;’ve thought about that moment a lot in the past few days. What if that performance had been scheduled for September of this year, not last year? How would I be feeling?
I’m sure I would be sad. I’ve lost about ten concerts I’d planned to attend in the middle months of 2020. But upon reflection, I realized that I haven’t really lost anything. Every single piece that I would have heard? I chose to buy tickets to those concerts because the music was already special to me. It exists, and I have heard it many, many times– and that is the gift–seeing it live is is like the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. In some cases, I have three or four different recordings to choose from right at home, and if I want to see those pieces performed, the Berlin Philharmonic digital concert hall has been hugely helpful. The music is there for me when I need it, and that is worthy of gratitude.
As I thought about it, I realized this same principle applies to just about everything in the future I had been looking forward to. The specific event or trip or experience is gone, or postponed, but the places–and especially the people–are still here, right now. And so, too, are memories of the decades of my life–the majority of which are fond. Even those that were not so pleasant–the years of loneliness in the 3rd grade and the 7th grade, the loss of my parents, the realization that I would not go into academia–each of those things made me into the person I am, the person who is here, writing these words. Each time, I have passed these adversities, not always unscarred, but I have survived and, eventually, thrived. I am a flexible, adaptable person, who listens to facts and quickly makes peace with realities that may not have been what I planned.
In a way, I’ve breathed a sigh of relief each time an event I’d planned to attend in the near future is cancelled, Hope is a wonderful thing, but being realistic, to me, is what really gives hope. Facts can be right bastards, but if we accept them for what they are as early as possible, that puts us in a better position to plan and do what is necessary. Ignoring facts, in the end, is what is what leads to disappointment–or worse.
And for now, I have both yesterday and today. That is mine. Those cannot be taken away from me. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, but what I do today can better the chances that tomorrow will be the next today. Somewhere–none of us knows when–the tomorrows will cease. But today, I am privileged to be able to see the faces of friends I miss, to listen to music I love, to work in a job that I like that I still have, and to contribute just a little bit to humanity. I do not need to ask whether it is enough. What I do is true. It is kind. It is necessary. It is helpful. I cannot control what others do, but I am still the captain of my soul.