Oscar Wilde said that life imitates art, and today my life feels like a sonata.
In sonata form in music, there are three sections: exposition, development and recapitulation. The exposition offers a musical identity, the development plays with that identity by building tension with a sense that this journey may be moving in another direction, and then the recapitulation brings the listener home again by returning, at least somewhat, to that original identity.
I had a wonderful professor in graduate school who explained the sonata form in terms of going to college. He used to say that the exposition was the years we spent growing up, the development was our moving away and going to college, and the recapitulation was returning home. Once we are home again, we are in the same old house, in the same old room with the same old parents, and yet everything has changed.
I have been the Cantor of a synagogue in Santa Monica for four years… until last Friday. That role was a very integral part of my identity and became the dominating force of my life’s schedule. Before that, I worked, but only part time. Mostly I was a mom. I cooked dinner, tucked in my children most nights, and had plenty of time to get to the market or to a yoga class. But during my four years of working at the synagogue, being present for those simple tasks became more of a luxury than a norm. Yet, I am home again. This week, I cooked dinner every night. I read to my seven year old. I went to yoga. I dealt with many things that didn’t get dealt with for a long time.
Now, while doing the dishes and sending the children upstairs for bed, I almost feel as if the last four years of my life were a dream. Here I am standing in the same house, in front of the same sink, telling the same kids (albeit a bit older) to brush their teeth. Did those four years happen at all? Have I really been here the whole time?
Of course not. I’m just in my life’s sonata recapitulation. I was someone. Then my life developed, and there was beauty and tension and direction and mystery, but just like musical form, it wasn’t to develop forever. Eventually I was to return home. And yet, I am not the same, and I will never be the same.
Every day is a sonata form. We separate for life’s experiences, and then return to one another slightly altered by the events of the day. We are always changing and evolving, and as we go to sleep each night, we are never exactly the same people who laid their heads on those pillows the night before. Our families and friends may expect, the next time they see us, that we are just as we always were, but that can’t be true. It’s never true.
What I am learning is that we all need room to explore and discover new strengths and weaknesses in ourselves. We need to feel the freedom to try new things, professionally, culturally, and spiritually. We all expect such evolution from our children, but we grown-ups need just as much space to continually redefine ourselves. Sometimes it is difficult and frightening to evolve or allow others to do so, for what if those who love us most don’t love what we become? What if we don’t love the changes we behold? But we have to be brave for ourselves and for them.
So, maybe we can try (what seems to me) a nearly impossible task… to look upon our loved ones each day with fresh eyes and ask ourselves and them, “Who are we today?” And perhaps we can give our friends and family a little breathing room to define and redefine and change and return and try not to pass judgement too soon on the continually glorious acts of creation that we all are. My husband and my children gave me that space. They supported my following a dream, even though they had to make sacrifices and be unsure about the future. I will never, ever regret following that dream, and I have to thank them for giving me that space. And while I know there are new challenges and opportunities around the corner waiting for me, for now, I am very glad to be in my recapitulation and be home.