Several years ago I attended a songwriting forum in Nashville. It was fronted by a pair of hugely successful composers, a married couple as luck would have it. They both boasted long lists of hit songs bearing their names. They were both intelligent, witty, engaging and fun. They could both sing as well as anyone and they were both fine-looking humans. That Saturday morning forum was educational and entertaining.
When it concluded we were invited to ask questions. Up shot my hand and I was first to the gate: “You two can obviously write awesome hit songs and you can both sing and you’re funny and fascinating and kinda cute.” They smiled. “So does it ever piss you off that you’re not big stars?” Stunned silence from the crowd. “Does it ever piss you off that some other singer recorded your songs and had big hits and those singers are big stars and even with ALL your attributes you are not. Does that ever piss you off?”
They glanced at each other and hubby gave an almost imperceptible nod, like he was saying “Honey, you take this one.”
And she did.
“Interesting question,” she began. The audience tittered nervously. “When I came to Nashville 15 years ago I came in search of the rainbow. Maybe not even just the rainbow, but the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I wanted it all and I thought I had the goods to get it all.”
She paused for a breath and you could have heard that proverbial pin drop. “Obviously I didn’t get it. I did not get the pot of gold and I did not get all the colours of the rainbow. But hey, I’ve written a catalogue full of hit songs, I’ve won awards, I’ve met everybody who is anybody in this business, I met my husband, I still enjoy singing my songs, I make a really nice living and I do it doing something I love to do. So I would say I did get a fair chunk of that rainbow. More than one colour, that’s for sure. And I am good with that and therefore, no … not pissed off.”
She smiled again and the audience applauded.
Today as I reminisced about that morning I got to thinking – how many colours of that rainbow do we really require? Sure when you’re young and full of piss and vinegar the only acceptable response is ALL of them! But is that really true? When you reach a certain age and look back and you realize there is no red in your arsenal, or yellow or green, do YOU get pissed off? If the ONLY colour is indigo are you mortified or are you grateful?
I haven’t seen an actual rainbow in awhile and quite frankly I’m not sure how many colours are in mine. I guess even that ebbs and flows on any given day. What I do realize with complete certainty is I do not NEED the full rainbow anymore. And if I can consciously be grateful for the colours (or colour) I am graced with, my outlook will change, my attitude will change and much like that songwriter in Nashville I will learn to ENJOY purple (least favourite colour, if you must know).
My pal B is a single 50-something. She is still drop-dead gorgeous, successful, fun to be around and the proud mother of two incredible kids. Yet there is no man in her life. Hasn’t been one for awhile now. She has no interest in cyber-dating and her circle of friends and workmates has not yet yielded Mr. Right. Would she like him to show up? Damn straight. Is she okay with him not being here (yet)? Also damn straight. Because B is super busy enjoying the other colours of her rainbow. Daily.
My other friend L has fallen madly in love with M. Problem is M is married (with a capital M). Does L insist that he leave his wife? Does L settle for a clandestine fling? Nope. L just enjoys his friendship and his insights and their (reasonably) innocent communication. She enjoys the one colour that is on offer and she abandons the desire for the full set. She accepts that one colour as a gift.
W chose a career which inspired and fulfilled him. But now it looks as though that career path may conclude. Like many he is downsized. As he approaches impending ‘retirement’ does he fret? Does he moan? Does he rail against the winds, beating his chest over his unfortunate lot in life?
Nope. He looks forward with optimism. He counts all his other blessings, he thinks about his other talents and he starts planning out his other options. Sure, orange is off the table, probably forever. But he fully embraces all those other hues because they are still there, beckoning.
And then there’s me. I always wanted to be a Broadway star. Or the next Carole King. I wanted stardom and Prince Charming and a pumpkin and an Oscar! I dreamed hard and big. I sacrificed my twenties to that dream.
Alas the vision did not appear. The rainbow was conspicuous only by its absence.
So … I readjusted my sights. I mean c’mon, really – rainbows, mountains, oceans, meadows … it’s all beautiful. Just look in a different direction. I looked towards new career options, other ways of satisfying my muse, other avenues of filling my heart and other colours still illuminating the sky.
I now look towards my son. HIS rainbow. My desire for HIS rainbow to appear in all its resplendent glory! THAT will illuminate my sky.
Does that make me a wuss? Am I pissed off?
I don’t think so. It makes me a realist and an optimist. My rainbows just looks a little different these days. And I am quite certain I will continue to adjust that lens until the day I die. Adaptability is key, right? We get older, we learn, we modify. We determine that committing to a rainbow may be beautiful but it might also be fleeting. Rainbows are far too elusive.
But a colour? A colour is something you can hang on to.
I still make music. I still find love. I still greet each day with an open mind and an open heart. I still believe that magic might happen.
Hey … it might.
Even if it is purple.