“But the tigers come at night, with their voices soft as thunder…as they tear your hope apart, as they turn your dream to shame.” – Fantine; “Les Miserables”
I chose to open with that lyric because it’s amazing how apt the line can be in any situation. In the cover of night, any emotions that we feel strongly or any event that has come across us in the roads that we call life can truly sneak up on us without knowing.
What’s the important thing is bouncing back. Les Mis and Phantom, two shows that opened in the same season 1986 in London both opened to mixed (Phantom) or poor reivews (Les Mis), but are now two of the most beloved and iconic stage musicals of the ages and cross-over stars in their own right. None of this would have been possible had they adhered to the critical reviews that they received, whether or not their leading soprano had a “thin” voice or the plot too dark and heavy to be successful.
Waking up today was a massive challenge, and I felt as though I never really did wake up from something of a nightmare scenario. A day that was full of ambitious goals of cleaning rooms and working on several projects turned into a day where working out was done out of the pure need of distraction and sinking into a pit of lethargic self loathing to the saddest music of the stage. As much of a pick me up as that sounded, I can assure you that absolutely nothing got accomplished. The catalyst? Avoidance.
Avoidance can mean two things: either the people around you are doing something wrong and you’re merely escaping them or your the culprit and people are avoiding you. I’m more inclined that it’s the latter of the options in this situation. It’s a powerful tool when used correctly, but does it always make it right? Allowing any situation to fester and eat away at anyone is almost worse than confrontation because it never allows for any self-healing or open communication to take hold. It’s almost a lack of respect for what needs to be done.
Self-avoidance? That is the worst of all. Denial and delicate tiptoe around your own feelings could be more destructive. Rather than address them and channel them into something positive, you’re allowing for whatever it is troubling you to win. It’s a rather human emotion; nothing makes us happier than ignorance, that’s for sure. But, as in interactions that involve an ignorance or lack of knowledge/sensitivity/otherwise, self-avoidance can only lead to falsifying emotions or burying them in hopes that they will pass. Well, the psyche never works like that. The more you avoid your own problems, the more they become an issue until finally you reach an impasse.
I’ve gotten to that point. There’s two roads I can go down: continue and doom myself to self-destruction or address it personally and get the burden lifted. Well, inner strength has never been something that I can rely on off of a tennis court so where better to turn to than God? Religion has re-entered my life in virtue of receiving an organist job at a church in Parkersburg, WV. The congregation is lovely, the pastor is very kind, and it’s a job doing something I love to do: play music. The additional benefit of being an organist is the fact that I’m now required to go to church and that I’m receiving the benefit of the service and prayer. For some of us, prayer is an open dialogue to God while for others, it’s a chance to do personal reflection. Both were helpful this past Sunday, but to take the road that requires the inner strength that I don’t possess, I’ve found that more prayer and more soul-searching is necessary. In short, I can’t do it alone and I’ve finally realized it.
Les Miserables couldn’t have been a 25 year phenomenon without help as well: the casts that have come and gone, the musicians, the production team all put in so much work and guided the show into its secured place in Broadway history, all 3rd parties to the music and libretto of Schonberg and Boubil. Jean Valjean could not have done the right thing without realizing the strength within him, and one can’t help to think that his signature song, “Bring Him Home”, as the intimate prayer it is written to be, is the emotional cry to strength that symbolizes what we all at some point have felt. The music and lyrics are at its simplest, but the message transcends all of that. It takes us all back to our souls.
And back to the soul I go now.