Back when I used to sing in choirs, occasionally in the alto line you would wind up providing syncopation to the soprano line. Syncopation is one of those 5 dollar words that means throwing something off kilter  in music, quite deliberately, to produce a musical effect. Done correctly it sounds quite amazing.

I’m going to start syncopation, because that’s what happened to me yesterday.  The next thing I am going to tell you is that I spent 8 hours in a car with a 2 year old and a 4 year old , and that might have been the dumbest thing I have done in probably a decade. Yesterday we drove across a very lovely mountain pass,  and the pass was lovely and the children tried so very hard, but it was a very long day with a very short nap and it ended, probably rather predictably, in tears. Many, many miles of intermittent tears.

Now, I would hope that it is very clear that I like my nieces and nephews, all of them. But I did not like yesterday. Mostly, if I am very honest I made it through yesterday by doling out smarties and by promising myself that I never – ever – had to do this again. When you don’t spend a lot of time with children, days like yesterday are really rough.

I’m not ordinarily superstitious, at least not until I am. That’s syncopation in my life. I carry through a plain and ordinary routine until the moment when another melody begins to run through and I drop everything and I think about that.

Somewhere around hour 6, at 8,000 feet, I started thinking. What if God/life/the universe saw this – my irritation and my impatience and my inability to cope with whining and crying and not being able to do exactly what I wanted and that’s why I have no children.

I think about guilt and grief and how insensible I am. From time to time,  I say those words aloud – that maybe I do not have children because I do not deserve them, because I would have been the world’s lousiest mother – and the universe was smarter than I in denying me children.

It isn’t true. The universe doesn’t care if I would have been a good mother or not. The universe is simply not that interested in my life.

I know this in my head – really know it. I know that Gabe died, that I had all those miscarriages, did all that fertility stuff and still had no child, because life is just unfair. I know I didn’t do anything to deserve what happened and that there is no earthly reason for it to have happened. It’s a human thing – ascribing sensible and rational reasons about why the unthinkable happened. I know it doesn’t work as much as  I know we simply must do it.

This is not the first time I have thought about this. It will probably not be the last. This too is syncopation – how you can know a thing to be totally true and still get caught up in an entirely different melody line.

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5 Responses to Syncopation

  1. debby says:

    I love this, the application of a word to an entirely new context, and the discovery that it fits, it fits so very perfectly.

    In my own life, I have realized something: that the music in my life has faded completely away, that my dancing had stopped altogether. I find myself considering this in a surprised way. I don’t know when it stopped. In the silence, I’ve begun to sing my own life song, tentatively, uncertainly. In time, I am sure that once again, life will begin to sing with me, and that once again, I’ll be dancing with it, but for right now, it is my own voice, alone, reedy, self-conscious, and I am embarrassed to dance.

  2. Mali says:

    Oh yes. I can relate to this. Even though we know, it doesn’t stop the doubt or guilt. I like your expression best though – getting caught up in a different melody line.

  3. A. says:

    Syncopation–great metaphor for those irrational thoughts! I have them too (We all do) and this “melody line” you’re talking about, in particular, has been an inviting trap for me over the years. But, like you, when I start thinking that the universe is screwing me because I suck, I remember Don Draper’s declaration: “There is no system; the universe is indifferent.”

  4. Matt says:

    Syncopation is intended to accent or highlight the offbeat. To fill the silence of otherwise filled harmony and melody.

    Do you feel that you are syncopation? The majority march along to the beat and you are off the beat?

  5. Jamie says:

    Thank you for your post. I’ve had those thoughts, too, at times. I like what you said about it being a human thing in wanting to ascribe sensible or rational reason for unthinkable events.

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