PROMPT: Is there someone or something in your life that is dictating your unique tempo? A conductor who is in charge of the baton? What is your tempo?
Tempo is the speed at which a passage of music is (or is intended to be) played at. The notes, the dynamics, the tempo markings on the page direct us to celebrate not only the originality of the composer but his musical imagination of time and place as well.
The conductor provides the musicians with leadership in interpreting such originality and imagination. I would imagine that it takes a lot of skill to feel the difference between hearing a passage played in a dignified largo or in the slightly slower and overlapping tempo of larghetto — and then convey such subtlety while waving a thin stick in the air. Pretty tricky stuff. After all, what would it be like if the horn section was playing a piece of music larghissimo and the strings were playing the same piece vivace at the same time? What a muddle this would be. The equivalent of fingernails scraping the bottom of an aluminum bread pan. Ouch.
Dissonance would occur. Chaos would ensue. The music would go splat. We would all be wishing we had brought ear plugs. The music would be distorted and not appreciated. The composer would be thoroughly and unfairly dissed in a review. Mahler, Debussy, Berlioz . . . they would all be understandably ticked — their masterpieces trounced.
But life is not a symphony on the page. It is an organic composition that we are constantly composing and conducting. What is the tempo of this moment? Of today? What was the tempo of this past week? Month? Year? How do I want to change things up? Do I want to change things up? For some of us, we want to add more presto to our lento. Others of us, more adagio to our allegro. There are those few I know who have discovered the secret of andante, just moving along at walking pace and taking in the view.
When it comes to life and its intricate and dynamic composition, who is conducting its tempo in your life? When do you go with the flow of things for “the sake of” and when do you fire the conductor and make your own fun?
Some days, I feel as if there are an inordinate amount of choices to make. Jobs to quit and moves to make. Adventures to invite and trips to take. Dates to accept and relationships to end. Boundaries to set or to release. A small and puny voice inside whispers that it would be so easy to just hand over the baton and say, “Here. Please. Figure it out and then direct as you see best to interpret.”
But then the question begs to be asked: Who is truly in charge here? Who did I inadvertently or intentionally or voluntarily appoint as my life’s conductor? And who is setting my tempo? Do I I give the stick to some self-appointed authority or do I merrily swing the baton with the wild abandon that life’s music deserves?
Whew. Some days even the harmony and stability of consonance do not have the seductive power to sway me away from the transitional instability of dissonance. There is something just so seductive about eradicating the tick-tock of the metronome and marking time up and down and all around. Swing yer partner! [True confession: I don’t know if I am embarrassed or proud to report that I was once meanly ostracized at a square dance for having too much frivolous fun while others were trying to dance squares to the beat. Not my best night of dancing, to be sure, and I certainly did not feel compelled to return for more free lessons. But I did learn a lot that night: sometimes “free” costs more than I can afford. Sometimes more than I want to afford.]
So. Continue in your tempo and ignore the conductor. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. To the boyfriend who is trying to solve your life problems. To the family member who knows what is best for you. To the boss who thinks your creative ideas are a drain on his brain. To the grumpy man at the square dance in the taco-shell hat and the snap-down checkered shirt with a lot of points. To anyone who thinks that their perceptions of truth are the best match for you and your tempo.
Life is hoofing it by in prestissimo. And there are times when I want to trade in my zen for yeehaw. I want to break the baton over my knee, kick up my heels, and have a hoot, even when it is deemed inappropriate. Yell “Huzzah” for no visible reasons. Invent and claim my tempo.