I’d been looking forward to this concert for three months, and now it was going to be ruined.
The last time I saw the Indigo Girls was in Nashville, five or six years ago, so this was not only a long-overdue opportunity to see one of my favorite groups but also the first time to hear their music with an orchestra. I was thrilled as I walked into the Kimmel Center, thrilled as I sat in my excellent first-row balcony seat, thrilled as they played the first song.
Then they arrived—a giggling, whispering bunch of basics with blinged-out clutch purses, lipgloss-rimmed plastic glasses filled with Mike’s Hard Lemonade, pink-and-white nails and too much mascara and self-conscious scarves. Despite their entire ethos of “Girls Nite Out! WOOOOOO!!”, I hoped they would settle in and listen after the initial kerfluffle of getting seated. No such luck. They proceeded to continue giggling and continue whispering and continue annoying me, because this wasn’t some outside festival show, it was a real concert with seats and ushers and several tubas and SHUT THE HELL UP.
And then I realized this concert was a microcosm of my life.
Just hours earlier I had been talking (complaining) to Matt about a few difficult people who are complicating my life and “making my thinking crowded,” to steal an IG lyric, and how I pay too much attention to it. Sometimes I focus on those situations, stewing or worrying or raging, instead of appreciating the many more situations that are positive or life-giving or rewarding. Just hours earlier I had told Matt I needed to make more of an effort to shift my focus. And yet there I sat, with two of my favorite musicians and the entire Philly youth orchestra in front of me performing some of my favorite songs, and all I could listen to were the blondes behind me.
So as the Girls launched into The Wood Song, I thought, enough.
In front of you is something transcendent and behind you is something trifling, and you get to decide which one to pay attention to. This is a life of beauty and blessings and it is also a life absolutely teeming with people you want to poke in the forehead. Both are always going to be true. To paraphrase Jesus, the stupid you will always have with you. The crime is if you let the banal trump the beautiful.
Yesterday was my 39th birthday. It included a flooded basement with standing water and ruined books, a missed train, lunch out of a vending machine and also the turning 39, which let’s just say isn’t as fun as turning 29.
But it also included a relaxed morning with Matt and strong coffee, a few cards and gifts, a chance to sell an old URL for ten times what I paid for it, a productive phone conference with leaders I respect and care about, a board meeting and dinner with another great team. It was a mixture of the wonderful and the wouldn’t-mind-missing. Today will be, too. So will all of next week, and this summer, and beyond.
Before, when I was still young, the unconscious question would have been how I could fix or avoid more of the bad stuff. Now that I’m older, the intentional question needs to be how to focus on the good. If I can learn this by the time I turn 40, it will be a year well spent.