|Karen in a hat.|
The girl I used to dream about was...different than my wife. She was very visibly artsy. She had an English accent that was probably more of an American actress's approximation of one than it was real. She looked cute in hats and wore floral summer dresses year 'round. She read the Romantics every night before bed. She was as obsessed with creativity as I am. She was a character that I had "written;" she wasn't a person.
I even met this girl. In fact, I broke up with my wife (who I was dating, at the time) to go out with this girl. My wife had (clearly, with complete accuracy), stepped back and taken a "you'll be back" attitude. She was right. It took about three dinners with my dream girl for me to realize I was...bored. We had plenty in common; she was attractive and intelligent; she was sweet. We got along great. But...after a few great conversations, we had sort of run out of stuff to say.
My wife-to-be, no doubt having sensed the perfect time for the coup de grâce, showed up at a crowded gig looking stunning (to say the least) and that prompted my stream of consciousness into a realization that I had, indeed, made the wrong move. The rest is history -- including my "dream girl."
Karen and I are very happily married and have been for nearly seventeen years, now. I know it is unfashionable for creative types like myself to be happy at all, let alone happily married. (I almost feel I have to be apologetic for not being an alcoholic or an insomniac.) But just as I realized that I don't have to fit the artistic cliches, I eventually realized we are all making a mistake when we set out in search of a "dream" partner. We're bound to paint a two-dimensional picture and where's the satisfaction in hugging a cardboard cut-out?
|Karen, not in a hat.|
Karen came up to my studio as I was working on some music and our conversation went over to a collection of piano music I am about to "release" (as if the world waits with baited breath) and she brought up an old piece of mine -- one I wrote when I was nineteen -- and said it should be on the CD. I scoffed a little. After all -- I am more mature than that, now. That piece was nice and all, but I am now painfully harmonically hip... I am a student of the Impressionists and of Barber-esque American neo-classicism -- of the muscular, controlled but wild wanderings Roy Harris...
To throw her a bone, I played it on the piano -- slowly remembering it. When I finally got it back, I looked over and Karen was crying. Here's what I realized. If Karen is not the girl I dreamed of, she's the girl I should have dreamed of.
It's not about having found the perfect audience to aggrandize me; it's about having found someone who gets it; who cries not only at my music but when she listens to Barber's Adagio or to Columbier's "Emmanuel" or when she reads a powerful poem or novel. She both cares about my work and she understands why I keep doing it; she understands that "the sublime" is the highest artistic level.
There is a whole list of other reasons (including her own impressive creative abilities) as to why I think Karen is a fantastic person...but there are no vomit bags on this flight.
Many times I have railed against the idea of couples saying they "need each other." I still don't like that. But I think it is okay to say we all want to find a wife or a husband who "nourishes" us. Last night, I jokingly and flamboyantly called Karen "my muse."
Many a truth is said in jest.
Bottom line is, we don't consciously create dreams; they just happen.