Tuesday, September 09, 2008


A nice man with silver hair is tuning my piano. He arrived 3 hours ago and is still at it, whacking at each key over and over and making hair-width pitch adjustments and then moving on to the next note on a keyboard that seems to go on forever. The piercing, repetitive tinkering ricochets through the whole house, around every corner, through any doors I close to block it out. The noise has accompanied all my morning cleaning and eating and laundry folding, like a grating, atonal soundtrack to a really frightening movie about a housewife and her 2-year old daughter who I suspect are just about to be murdered by some kind of Hitchcockian psycho. I refuse to take a shower.

Detail from Jan van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece
So I’m thinking about dissonance, which is why we called the piano tuner to begin with. (Ethan informed me last week: “I refuse to practice the piano anymore unless we get it tuned because it’s driving me crazy.” Like he needs another excuse not to practice.) Also I’ve been thinking about cognitive dissonance—that mental state which occurs when a new idea hammers itself against an older set of beliefs and creates acute discomfort. It’s difficult to hold two conflicting ideas in your mind simultaneously. This isn’t to say that we don’t do it all the time. For example, I truly believe sugar is bad for me. But I also believe Dreyer’s Spumoni is a gift from the gods. Somehow I manage to keep both thoughts segregated in opposite corners of my brain, properly appeased and happily oblivious to the other’s existence.

Last week, I finally set aside my personal prejudice against all things Oprah (a lovely woman but oh so very trendy) and began reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. To my surprise, I’m loving the book and experiencing one “aha moment” after another. Yes! I do allow my mental noise to drown out my true self. Yes! I’m a pain-body junkie. I live in the past. I dwell on the future. I need to embrace the NOW. I’m unhappy because I allow my ego—and all its defensive mechanisms—to define who I think I am. This is all heady stuff and I already feel my soul awakening (though it pains me to use the word) to a new, happier way of looking at the world.

The only problem is that I’m an old lady and I’ve had nearly 40 years to develop my mental habits. This new material is producing some serious dissonance in my head. Plus I’m having to reconcile Tolle’s new-age-pop-psych-mystical definitions of God and spirituality with my own religious beliefs which rise from an organized religion that is just about as organized a religion as they come. Talk about your pitch adjustments.

The other soundtrack blaring through my house today is a literal soundtrack—the one from the musical Annie. Nora is a huge fan and wakes up in the morning asking, “Watch Annie?...Watch Annie?...Watch Annie?” (continued ad nauseum until Mom relents). I won’t let her watch the DVD more than once a day so I’ve made a CD of the music and it seems to be continuously playing in her bedroom. And when the CD isn’t playing, the songs are still running through my head. This isn’t such a bad thing; it’s a great musical and I used to listen to the Broadway soundtrack myself, somewhat obsessively, when I was a little girl—long before the movie version came out. But here’s the problem. I’m trying to train my mind to live in the NOW, to be alive in the moment (a la Tolle) and at the same time I have the following lyrics stage vibrato-ing their way through my head: (feel free to sing along...)

The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun

Just thinkin' about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
'Til there's none

When I'm stuck with a day
That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And grin,
And say,

The sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may

I love ya

You're always
A day away

You know what? I actually believe this with all my heart. The gray days. The sunny tomorrow. The sticking out of chins. All of it. See the dissonance? Can I love ya tomorrow and still focus entirely on the present moment? Ow. It hurts.


allysha said...

um, Julie, honey? nearly 40 isn't old. so go on and be happy ;)

LaughingElk said...

Oh, great! Now I'm going to be singing that all day!

When I'm stuck with a day that's gray and lonely,
I just stick out my chin and grin and say...

An Ordinary Mom said...

I have a feeling that for the next week I will be singing Annie songs. Yes, I like Nora was obsessed with this movie when I was younger :) !!

happy mommy said...

I love this post. Minus the piano tuner, the art reference, and write it far less eloquently, and it could have been my thoughts about life right now.