Sunday in the Park with George was written just to make me cry.
I used to be such a perfectionist. What happened? Maybe perfectionism was something that used to matter, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
If you’ve never seen Sunday in the Park with George, then you’re likely in the vast majority since Broadway Musicals, despite their cultural cachet are not exactly what I would call “Mainstream” in the sense that it doesn’t come up in you’re regular conversations about art.
But for me, it’s big. it was the first musical I attempted. Before I listened obsessively to Hamilton it was my initial exposure. It’s a tired troubled masterpiece about perfection, compromise and sacrifice.
But tonight I’m thinking about it, because I’m pondering a question I have to ask myself on a regular basis: Do I have regrets?
I have to ask myself repeatedly because the answer is always, comfortingly, no. I don’t have regrets, mercifully. No matter what dick head thing I do, no matter what stupid thing I say, or embarrassing situation I put myself in. No matter how many times my heart lay cracked on the pavement with fine juttering ink black blood leaking onto the sulfurous grey and my tears were all that availed me grace, I don’t have regrets.
But when the melancholy comes, as it does, and I review my life, I think I want to regret. I want to feel remorse. I want to feel that cool rush of red at choices I could have made. Timing I could have gotten write. The things I should have, could have, or would have done, if I just had been enough. If I had allowed myself to be that kind of imperfect.
But I don’t. It’s so foreign an emotion to me. It’s the little green eyed creature. And it drives so much behavior, motivates so many other actions in so many others, that I always feel isolated.
If I’ve had any success, it is from that lack of regret.
And last night, I was in mourning. I finished a significant milestone of my life, something I never thought I’d actually do, in truth, and I was at the prudential center mall; a place I’ve walked so many times it’s a muscle memory next to the blues pentatonic. I had put on “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George, and listened to Bernadette Peters.
My heart was the kind of sore you get when you know you feel one way, and your body and mind don’t agree. The torn I had forgotten I was capable of feeling. It made every desperate air guitar chord one of quiet struggle; and every sung strained vocal line from my globus pharyngis mind something of a shriek; cut off by stress.
When I heard these lyrics, though, I lost it:
Just keep moving on
Anything you do
Let it come from you
Then it will be new
Give us more to see…
Because, for a long time, I’ve felt unoriginal, or irrelevant. I question myself always; I don’t feel safe in certainty. I feel dangerous. But hearing those lines opened something, it brought my irrelevance to a sense of ecstasy. And so I found a nook and cried. Unstoppered by the weight of no regrets.
But it isn’t just the lack of regrets, it’s the sense of loss that comes when you finish things, even if you’ve wanted them done for a long time. You don’t realize how important something becomes to you — how it becomes a fixture of your life — until it says goodbye. Whether that’s amicably, or painfully, or anything in between.
But even that is not the hardest part for me. The hardest part has always been the sullen knowledge that, one day, it will not puncture me with pain; it will not drive a wedge through my heart with sorrow. The knowledge that time will heal that wound, whichever among the innumerable gouges and cuts that sink their way into me I have, it will be just another on a long road.
And it’s beautiful, at the one, because it reminds me that life moves on, without motivation, and without need. It just is, like a Taoist monk. But at the same time, it makes everything so insignificant. The biggest accomplishment is no more than grain of sand. A life is no more than a grain.
So to here Bernadette Peters sing so heartbroken, having lost Georges through errors in judgement, pulling me into a resonant chord that I know too well, and then hearing her speak the few things I recognize in myself that I could call true. To hear the lack of regret. It hurts.
To know that pain comes and goes on a never ending wheel of ache and suck. To know that, however encompassing and painful, time moves on with or without you. It all comes to head in that orchestral dialogue, and Chromalume competence from Patinkin. It’s just such a painful sense of realization.
And when the cut dries, and the heart no longer pours that ichor of sadness. When the happy comes again, you forget the sorrow, and you forget that it hurt. And you’re happy, so it doesn’t matter. But deep down, you think about the richness of the experience. The fact that such intense relief is to you your existence.
It’s why I, of all people, with my many failings, can never stand to regret the choices I make, even when they’re terrible. They’ve always led to the next moment. And often, when I make it to that one, I’m pretty OK.
And when I think about it that way, it’s easy to move on, even when the tears stream in the moonlight.