When Words are Not Enough


There enters music.

In musicals, there comes a point (18-20x per show), when the characters are so overwhelmed by emotion, saying what they feel is inadequate. So, naturally taking advantage of the orchestra at their feet, they start singing.

Throughout the song they’ll run a gamut  of emotions and pitches and volumes… if they start softly, they’ll crescendo in triumph or anger… if they start at full volume, they’ll soften into moments of introspection or fear… but at the end, they generally know what they have to do next.

Well… they are the “Luckiest People in the World.”

This Sunday, July 26, marks the first anniversary of my father’s passing. In the intervening year, the world somehow has had the audacity to keep turning, and my family has had to find ways to move on.

As I considered how to best commemorate this via today’s blog, all I heard rattling around in my brain were show tunes… and not only songs about loss (“No One is Alone” or “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”). I heard songs of determination (“The Impossible Dream”), songs of whimsy (“Camelot”), silly songs (“Moses Supposes”), love songs (“It Only Takes a Moment”), angry songs (“Not a Day Goes By”), and heroic songs (“Into the Fire”).

My father was 6’6″… barrel chested… conservative… a country boy… and he LOVED musical theatre. The first “adult” (aka non-Disney) movie I remember watching with him was The Sound of Music. Although a good portion of the plot was not understood by my four-year-old-self, I do remember the songs. In particular, I remember how proud I was when I mastered the B-section of “Do-Re-Mi” (Sol-Do-La-Fa-Me-Do-Re, Sol-Do-La-Ti-Do-Re-Do); I couldn’t stop singing it to myself.

Being the enabler he was, he next purchased the Rogers and Hammerstein VHS collection and we worked our way through The King and I (loved it!), Carousel (too boring for little Meg), State Fair (one of my most beloved cassettes), and Oklahoma! (I liked the last song). In between, he showed me Singin’ in the Rain (I lost my voice imitating Lena Lamont), Hello Dolly! (my little sister would later beat me up for not telling her Michael Crawford played Cornelius, and Camelot (Richard Harris holds a special place in my heart forever).

I was hooked. I listened and watched anything he put before me… and over 20+ years, there was a lot of music we shared.

My father even went so far as to join the board of my school’s CAPPIES program, encouraging my theater-critic ambitions… all those stage-moms + my dad… his courage knew no limits. He also sat through many a voice lesson and nearly ALL my school concerts… as I said, a brave, brave man.

We went to my first Broadway show (at The Kennedy Center) when I was in high school. Thankfully, the Elton John score and colorful stagecraft of Aida made my mother a musical believer too! Every family vacation thereafter we’d try to go see something. And later, during college, every visit home usually included a show.

When we didn’t see each other (first due to university, and then to another cross-country move), I’d keep him in the know with my weekly reports (thanks Playbill!) of who was starring in what, and which of the newest musicals were worth the price of their soundtrack.

My father was a man of great culture and curiosity… and he encouraged the same within me (and my sister, and my mother… and maybe even the dogs, if they could appreciate a good Gershwin tune).

Because my father introduced me to musical theatre, I have learned that “witches can be right,” never to step on someone else’s cue, that beauty can change the heart of any beast, that there is more to life than “Great Big Stuff,” and that it’s always “A Grand Night for Singing.”

Now, I don’t know if the angel of music sings songs in my head… but I know my father still does. And every time I sing, or go to a show, or revisit one of those corny old flicks, I love and miss him with all of my heart… but I’m happy to have shared something so wonderful with him.

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This Above All…

To thine own self be true.

Platypus Meggie | “Odd duck” is understatement | Still she is Happy

Recently I had a discussion with my mentor about pursuing the things that make us happy… simply because they make us happy.

Isn’t it strange, I mused, how the things that make us naturally happy as children: eating tasty food, running around like ninnies, dancing and singing with abandon, blowing bubbles, etc. are frowned upon when we are adults?

Judgement (and the fear of being judged) hangs over our balding heads:

Enjoying that brownie? You’ll regret it.

Want to get out and do something? Good for you! Staying fit will keep you from getting fat… (um, actually, I just wanted to go for a walk because)…. FAT AND LAZY! AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

Dance down the aisles of the grocery store to the music playing overhead? Sing while strolling down the street? Is there something wrong with you? What a strange person.

It seems to me that as we get older, and in theory are therefore supposed to become masters of our own universes, the less agency we truly have. We spend so much time worrying about what others think of what we do and what we say, that we risk shutting down entirely; going through our lives with the same tight-lipped, slightly disdainful expression of shopfront mannequins.

This anxiety is not without cause, mind you. I know the pressures of too many bills; student loan and credit card debt; annual rent increases; bad (and I mean BAD) genes that may strike me down in middle-age; not enough time in the day to be a functioning, social human being; concern over the welfare of my loved ones… and those are just my personal woes. There is, of course, the threat of war, melting polar icecaps, some future epidemic that wipes out 90% of the population and renders the survivors nearly feral for the first quarter century…

Whew! Hand me that blanket; I’m going to sleep for the next 100 years.

However, in spite of the sturm und drang of… existing… if you live as the person you are, you’ll be happier.

I know, I know. This sounds super trite. I’m not advocating that you quit your job to write the next Great American Novel. Instead, if you can make the commitment to yourself to write for thirty minutes every day… you’ll be better for it. Don’t do something because it’s expected of you, do it because it is what you want to do.

It’s taken me nearly three decades, and the loss of some truly incredible people, to realize that embracing ALL of who I am (slightly-OCD, lover of terrible puns and lame jokes, no-nonsense introvert, compassionate friend, musical theatre nerd, childish, self-centered brat, mature, thoughtful human being), brings me joy; even on those days when I hate what I’ve done or how I look in the mirror. Remembering and cherishing the crazy platypus that I am allows me to step back, take a deep breath, and go sing something. And I feel better.

As I expressed to my Maestra, there is a reason we describe the things we love to do as “emotional outlets.” When you plug into an outlet, you generate power; power that can light a room or an entire city block… so shouldn’t we plug into our outlets as often as we can? Even just for a quick “charge?” It’s clean, renewable energy!

No effort is wasted. Wild yeasts in the bakery make the best sourdough bread… but an empty oven will stand cold and rust and produce nothing nourishing.

Bake your bread. Blow those bubbles. Fly those “freak” flags. Be your own platypus.