A remarkable thing happened last night.
Halfway through watching the behemoth four-and-a-half-hour version of The Titanic on AMC, sadness overtook me, and I waved my white remote in defeat. I had had it. It had been a cheery night of television all around, you see, as before that I watched a program on PBS about an ancient Tibetan royal family who had been beheaded (children and all).
I sniffled my way into my husband’s study, where he was busy trying to achieve world domination in his favorite video game, Civilization. I sat down and dumped my gloominess on him.
“I’m crying for all the world’s tragedies.” Tears. “One day you’re floating on a boat and the next your kids’ heads are chopped off and shoved in a cave.” Sob.
“You’re emotional tonight,” he said, king of understatement, as he got up to give me a hug.
Locked together, we started to sway slightly, the way a person does sometimes when holding a baby.
“It’s the cycle of life, you know,” he said, into my hair. “It’s our lot, and it’s waiting for all of us.”
Then, my husband started to hum. It was just a faint hum, ever so slight, but the quiet notes lingered in the air above us. The feeling conveyed by the melody was one so sad, so full of feeling, that it seemed to be holding within it all the world’s anguish, all the children who’ve died before they lived a full life, and all the parents who died full of sorrow knowing this fact.
“What was that?” I asked, looking up.
“I just made it up.”
“You just made it up??”
“It just came into my head.”
“What was that, like music for a piano or something? Or what someone would sing?”
“No, the person would sing something else. That music is in my head too.”
“That is in your head too???”
I was dumbfounded for a moment. And then, rapid fire, a set of realizations exploded like fireworks in my mind. My husband loves music. He’s a walking jukebox, mostly of random 80s music, but still, he’s a jukebox. He remembers lyrics of songs he doesn’t even want to remember. He can make up a jingle on command. Give him 30 seconds to prepare, and he’ll produce the chorus and a verse of a country song or pop song that he considers extremely cheesy but I think aren’t half bad.
The first night we kissed, we lay on a blanket in a park all night, until a security guard kicked us out right before the sunrise. The whole time, he sang one song after another to me—Billy Joel, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones—but all about love. At some point, I pointed out that I sensed a theme in his song choices. He was completely unaware that his lyrics were giving him away. Since then, I’ve seen this in him several times—his emotion doesn’t find its way to expression easily, except in music. Then it just flows right out.
One night about a year ago, he told me that the melody to a song had just come to him. Even more surprising, it wasn’t just the melody—it arrived in his mind complete with music for multiple instruments. What??? Crazy. I got him to record the notes on his phone so he wouldn’t forget them the next day. But the next day, he wouldn’t listen to it. Odd, yes, but I let it go. Maybe it was a fluke.
Now it’s happening again. Swaying in the study, his notes lingering in the air, once more music has just come to him. I make a big deal of it and I can see him pulling back. I’m acting too emotionally to be credible to him, so I pull myself together, calm down, dry my tears. I can see him relax again. This sort of thing happens all the time, he says. He never thought it was a big deal.
My first thought is: How can I have been married to him for over five years and not know this about him?
But no matter. He’s probably thinking that nothing of consequence has happened, but I couldn’t be happier. I feel like a baby’s been born, and the parent is my favorite person in the world. Let us rejoice! Something covered in darkness has found its way into the light of day! And look what it is, music. Of all things, music.
There’s always been this missing piece with my husband. He is one of the smartest people I know. Perhaps the smartest, come to think of it. He is interested in almost everything. He’s a great person to talk to, and it’s because he loves learning about whatever his conversation partner wants to talk about. But as for what he’s really passionate about? That’s not there. He’s passionate about me, of course, and our family, but not one other thing, a lifework. He just has work.
One of my favorite things is to help someone I love figure out their passion. And so we have talked about this, countless times. Maybe, he has said, he doesn’t have a “one thing” that he is most passionate about. Maybe his lifework is our family, providing for us. Maybe, I have replied. But that never set well with me. As noble as that sounded, it just didn’t feel right. But what could I do?
And so now you understand my great joy in finally knowing my husband’s true calling. For although he probably disagrees with me on this point right now, I know in my heart that music is his calling. What’s more, he has a gift.
Despite all that, I don’t know what will come of this. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far in our marriage, it’s that he is his own person. He makes up his mind on his own. I can try to persuade (and I do try!), but he makes the final choice. And he is a rational, pragmatic man, so I imagine he will approach this idea from a perspective of risk vs. reward. So he may never pursue this gift beyond the occasional spontaneous humming.
I will do my best to keep quiet about it. (That might be impossible.) OK, I will do my best to give him the time and space to sort this out on his own with minimal interference from me. But no matter what, I feel like something amazing has happened. It seems almost sacred, bearing witness to the birth of this gift into the world of awareness. I feel blessed that I was there when it happened—when something buried deep inside finally worked its way to the surface to break through.
I am amazed at how a person can live his whole life knowing that music spontaneously dropped into his head, but never thinking that this might be a gift . . . or how a person could know he loves music and yet never consider this an interest or skill worth pursuing. But this is the way it goes, right? We settle on these ideas of what we should do or shouldn’t do, what is a good idea and what is absurd, what doors are open for us and which are locked tight—and then we forget to reevaluate these assumptions as we age. (I don’t know why I’m so amazed; I’ve done this same thing myself.)
Sometimes we simply say no to something too soon. Sure, it would be impractical for my husband to quit his full-time job right now to start a career in music. Believe me, I would not advocate for that. But that doesn’t mean he can’t start writing down notes when they come to him. I’m betting he would deeply enjoy the challenge of working with the music to get it just right, fully developing the melody, the harmony, and whatever other mysterious components there are to writing music.
This calls to mind one of the main lessons I’ve been learning through writing here on my blog: you don’t have to know where you’re going; just do what you enjoy, and the doing will make it all worthwhile—and will carry you to new and unknown places you never even knew existed.
I tell you all this to share my happiness for my husband, but also because it makes me wonder . . . Who else has gifts buried deep within? Who else among my friends, or people who read this blog, have skills or talents or passions that they’ve never given credence to, that they’ve dismissed as impractical or too difficult or only for someone else? I seriously do not think I’m being even a smidgen melodramatic when I say that writing, for me, is giving my life a meaning that nothing before it has done, and is making me a better mother and wife because of it. Or when I say that our planet rejoices every time another passion is born, as we are all the better for it when a person births this deep and sacred part of themselves.
Do you have something in you that’s waiting to be born? It might just be the talent you’re the quickest to dismiss, to write off as not meaningful. In our world, what makes us unique is our greatest gift. There are so many of us now, so many souls walking this earth, that we don’t need to be what anyone tells us to be. Our world has plenty of doctors, lawyers, fill-in-the-blanks. But what we don’t have enough of is you, or me, or that other guy down the street. There’s only one of those. I may not even know you, but I both selflessly and selfishly hope that you become the fullest version of yourself you can become.
To get where you are today, in this moment, you have traveled a path formed by your unique set of talents, interests, and personality traits, as well as all the varied experiences you’ve had. What we don’t always see is that this path extends forward into the future as well—the natural extension of who you are and where you’ve been. When you align yourself with this path, rather than trying to force yourself off in some other direction that seems to be the way everyone else is headed, not only is your life simplified and transformed by joy, but you actually make the world a better place.
© Amy Daniewicz