Melody 1/12/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

This might be a repeat of a previous post, but it’s newly written. It’s inspired by an old post that came back to me, but as a very long break is set to come to an end for me (tomorrow as I write this, yesterday if it posts as expected), it seems somehow appropriate.

I asked my friend the difference between a song’s “melody” and it’s “beat”. The beat is, as best as I understand it, the timing. When you tap your toes while listening to a song, that’s likely the song’s beat. I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine in middle school, where he suggested the beat of a song was something like bom…buhbombom…bom. I argued that it wasn’t the beat because that was not steady. We asked his mom (well who else do you think was driving?), but her answer was evasive. I like the concept, though, that the beat is what you would tap with your toes. I’ve never seen anybody with a complex toe-tap to a song.

The melody, on the other hand, is the driving rhythm. It’s the sequence of notes that drive the song, the foundation that makes the song move forward. Unlike the beat, the melody has a variance to it, the “dance groove”, the memorable tune of the song.

Could this be an analogy? Well of course. We all have a melody to our lives, a routine that hopefully is comfortable for us to live in. My melody, as a single man, is sadly my career. The proverbial “academic calendar” is a little bit different from the typical. We tend to run somewhere from September (the start of the academic year) to around May (the end) or August (if we teach summer school). The melody is supplied by the courses we teach, and the students with whom we interact. Usually, for me, it includes general chemistry from 9 to 9:50 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but this semester will be very different. That has, for many years, been my constant, the start of my day and the launching point for anything else to come. I taught other courses as well back then, which provided the variations from one semester to the next, but always, there was general chemistry.

That’s just not the case anymore. I was scheduled to teach a chemistry course this semester at 8, but it was canceled. Instead, it’s just biochemistry (a junior level course) starting at 2, and only on Mondays and Wednesdays (it’s a 100-minute course). That’ll be a hard beat to follow, and I’ll definitely need something to fill my days beyond this course, but it’s a start. Because of Covid-19, this winter break has been, for me anyway, far too long and way too difficult as a result. I need something to drive my day, provide a routine, to supply the melody of my life.

Many people tend to think that the melody of their life isn’t exciting. Well, it’s the rifts on top of the melody, the variations on the melody that provides the excitement. Having this melody, having that partner you trust who has always been there, having the kid’s school schedules provides the frame. But interspersed through the melody are the pieces that keep us wanting more, but as much fun as these are, I believe it’s important to always remember the joy of the melody, the trustworthy repetition, the comfortable and homey feeling of knowing what to expect.

I’ve written of my downward spiral, the chaos of my life, frequently. I had a melody some years ago, and like a fool threw it away. I anticipated that I was trading it in for a new, and more comfortable melody, but sadly I hitched my wagon to the wrong team. The result was the loss of that rhythm, that comfortable routine and I have been missing it terribly. Today I’m trying, desperately, to get some type of melody back into my life in the home I purchased in a new city, and a new life I’m trying to jump-start, but it won’t be easy. Have you noticed that, periodically, you just can’t pick up on the melody of a song, even one that you’ve known for years? It just sounds wrong to us, and we struggle to find the melody, usually because we have another stuck in our heads. This always drives me crazy, but now I’m trying to find the melody of this new life, but my old life melody still rings heavy in my mind. It’s working against me.

I hope you have your melody, and I hope you love it. I suggest, right now, contact those in your life that provide that melody and take a moment to tell them how much you appreciate having them. That melody is more in tune with life than you can imagine; take it from a fool who threw it away.

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