On Tuesday night, my mom and I went to see a revival of The Music Man that’s on Broadway, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster.
This alone was something to celebrate, because for the few days before the performance, we weren’t sure that we could make it. My mom’s flu had been lingering, as flu often is, and we weren’t sure she’d be up to it.
It was also the first Broadway show we’d seen together—something that we love doing as mother and daughter—since before Covid.
After the performance, we agreed that nothing could have been better medicine. The production is ebullient and funny. We laughed, smiled, and clapped our way through it, along with a big, spirited audience.
If you haven’t seen it, The Music Man is about a con artist, Harold Hill, who poses as the organizer of boys’ marching bands. He travels from small town to small town, selling instruments and uniforms, then makes an escape before the citizens find out that he can’t actually teach or conduct music.
Hill arrives in River City, Iowa, in 1912, with the intention of carrying out his old tricks. There he sets out to seduce local librarian, Marian Paroo, who is suspicious of his charms from the start.
Hill manages to do as he usually does, winning over the locals with his charisma. Marian starts putting together the pieces of Hill’s real life story, but love proves to be more powerful than principle. She falls in love with Hill, and he falls in love with her.
“Well, for the first time in my life,” Hill says, “I got my foot caught in the door.”
In the end, of course, the truth about Hill’s past is made public. It seems as though the citizens of River City will rise up and prosecute him. Yet they find it in their generous hearts—hearts that have ironically become bigger as a result of Hill’s time in River City—to forgive him.
When Hill manages to bring the town’s boys together for a single, highly discordant note of music, local parents are so charmed that they grant him almost immediate clemency.
I hadn’t seen The Music Man in years. I remembered the plot, but I had forgotten about the real message of the musical, which is that the pathway to getting what we want can be highly unexpected, and the universe likes to wink at us along the way.
The real source of laugher in The Music Man story is that Harold Hill delivers on his promise without meaning to.
The people of River City end up experience lightness, joy, and community as a result of Hill’s machinations. The town’s children become more confident, and their parents are proud. Everyone becomes more musical.
Hill means to seduce Marian as a means of diverting her attention away from his shady past. He falls in love with her in spite of himself.
There’s a deep truthfulness about all of this. So often we do get what we want, but it doesn’t happen when or how we want it to.
As I sat in the audience, I was reminded of my yoga nidra practice.
My teacher, Jamie, often leads a nidra in which she invites us to think about something we want, and she tells us to dream big and bold. Professional success, personal fulfillment, wealth, health, happiness: it’s all on the table.
Then, she asks us to consider why we want it. Usually, the answer is that we desire the thing because we believe that it will make us feel a certain way.
To give a concrete example, in this meditation I usually internally connect with my desire for a partner. When asked to consider why I want a partner, the simplest answer is that I want to love and be loved.
Of course, I want to be loved in that particular way, which is why I meditate on a life partner rather than other types of relationships.
But Jamie does something important at this point. She tells us to reframe the desire for a feeling—in my case, “I want to be loved”—to an “I am” statement. I am loved.
The rest of the nidra practice is centered around that private, internal declaration. I am loved, I am loved, I am loved.
I am loved, and I’m blessed to be so.
The practice doesn’t negate the special type of connection that I long for: partner love, family love.
But it does remind me of the many beautiful ways in which I experience love each day: friendship, family, community. And the thing about love is that it’s truly generative: in my experience, giving and receiving love only creates more giving and receiving.
In The Music Man, people in River City buy into Hill’s scheme because they want something to be proud of—a town boys’ band—and because they want to feel excited and hopeful. They want to have songs in their hearts.
They end up getting what they want, only in a roundabout way.
In 2022, I took conscious steps toward creating a life that is richer in the things that I desire: love and connectedness, first and foremost, but also experience, pleasure, and fun.
My hope is that 2023 will be a year in which I stay honest and true about the things that I yearn for and don’t yet have. It’s a good thing to be clear about what we want, to offer that desire up to the universe with specificity and hope.
But I’m committed to receiving blessings whether they show up packaged in the way that I expected them to be or not. Most of all, I want to stay conscious of all the abundance and goodness that’s already here.
Happy first day of the year, friends. I celebrated last night with yoga and visits to my mom and my neighbors.
I hope that this will be a year of wholeness and fullness, for you and for me. Here are some recipes and reads.
I wish that my first breakfast of the year had been Jasmine and Chris’s gingerbread pancakes!
A beautiful soba salad to serve warm or cold, for winter.
I think that Charity’s ranch mashed potatoes are a genius idea.
I’m blown away by Jessica’s mushroom wellington.
1. Critical care and pulmonary physician Adam Gaffney offers a nuanced, yet hard-hitting perspective on the complications of ICU care.
2. Clearly I need to pay a visit to the The Buttolph collection of menus at the New York Public Library! This article describes how its collection serves as a window into culinary and cultural history.
3. There’s growing awareness around the fact that heart attack warning signs and symptoms are different for men and women. Yet it never hurts to be reminded of this important information, and this article is a powerful reminder.
4. I don’t have new year’s resolutions, and even my list of intentions is short. Finish furnishing my apartment. Savor cooking a bit more. Eat more naked tofu.
Yet the end of 2022 showed me that I do need to make my work life a little more sustainable, not only for the sake of my well-being but also for the sake of my performance. If I were to articulate any intention for 2023, it would be to embrace what’s known as “slow productivity.”
This article is helpful encouragement.
5. Katherine May, author of Wintering, reflects on the winter solstice season.
May’s thoughts might have been a little more appropriate for last week, when we were perched on that brief pause between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But I found the piece appropriate for January 1, too.
May “healing beauty” find us all this week, and into the midwinter yet to come.
I’ll be back with some food for you soon.
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