“Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect,” wrote American author and journalist Margaret Mitchell. Those words always come to mind when I witness the tragedies that are reported to us on a daily basis and I hear one say, “I can't believe this is happening. It is ‘unthinkable.'”
I have lived long enough that I want to say to people, “Believe it. It's called life.” Things happen that leave us despairing, desperate, racked with sorrow and feeling like we can't survive.
When you find yourself in one of those places, remember violinist Itzhak Perlman.
Perlman was performing at a concert in New York City in November 1995. Perlman, who had been stricken with polio as a child, wore braces on both legs and walked with the aid of two crutches.
The audience sat quietly as he slowly crossed the stage to his chair, undid the clasps on his legs and finally bent down and picked up his violin, put it under his chin, nodded to the conductor and proceeded to play.
On this night, however, just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin snapped. The audience heard it and waited for him to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and slowly walk off the stage to either find another violin or find another string for that one.
He did neither. He waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again. The stunned audience knew it was impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings, but Perlman refused to know that and they listened as he modulated, changed and recomposed the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them never made before.
When he finished, there was an awed silence and then people rose to their feet applauding and cheering.
British novelist Phyllis Bottome wrote, “There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.”
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.