Why is it that no matter how good things are, we look for the negative aspects of the situation?
It’s been a great weekend here. I could list a number of positive examples that would be more than enough proof that my life is full of blessings; full and overflowing! I will be doing that in this installment of the terrestrial ball, but first I have to ask why we introduce these stories with a complaint. Isn’t it enough to share the joyous events? Are we embarrassed by our good fortune to the point of guilt? Is that why we begin a report of a happy occasion with a caveat of some dark specter waiting to snatch that happiness from us? So here’s my weekend report. I will do my best to regale you with all the best of the weekend’s events first, and mention as briefly as possible, those things which put a damper on the festivities.
Friday evening, Scott and I drove up over the mountain to Mill Run, a rural community near Fallingwater and Ohiopyle for the dear readers unfamiliar with the area in which I live. It’s a short drive and the weather was sunny and warm as we headed for a wedding rehearsal at the Baptist Church. The daughter of a former co-worker was getting married, and I had been asked to play for the wedding. I knew that it would be a fun time, and so I agreed to play piano for the ceremony. The rehearsal went as most do: a little slow, a little confused, and with a lot of nervous laughter as this is the first time that most of the participants have done this. The evening ended with a trip down the road to a local church camp’s facilities for the rehearsal dinner. It was a short drive on a dirt road back to the dining hall, which appeared to be relatively new. The meal was delicious and the company around the table was entertaining.
How could I find anything to complain about that evening? As my partner and I were driving to the church, I confided that one of the few things that concerned me was going to this Baptist church as a gay man, and the reaction I might receive if the minister becomes aware of my orientation. I planned to keep a low profile. I walked into the church with my partner and went right to the piano. The wedding party arrived and eventually the mother of the bride, my friend, Joy, came over and asked if we had met anyone yet. At that point, she pulled the minister over and introduced us: “this is Steve, the piano player and that’s his partner, Scott.” So much for keeping a low profile! The pastor’s reaction was priceless. I literally watched him shrink away from me as he released from the handshake. Scott and I had a good laugh about it when the pastor turned his back. I figured he must be afraid that it’s contagious.
The wedding on Saturday afternoon was very nice. It seems that everything went smoothly for the ceremony, and to my surprise, the church was full of guests. So many tend to skip the ceremony and head right to the reception. That was not the case for this wedding. I arrived shortly before I needed to begin playing the prelude music and I got set up. The vocalist was ready to go and we performed our pieces with no problems. The ceremony itself had some humorous moments when children behaved as children do, or when the rings were momentarily lost. In less than half an hour, this young couple, Ed and Jana, began their new lives as a married couple. The reception followed. We entered the fire hall and noticed the tables spread with cookies. We looked around and discovered that this was less formal than other weddings. Guests would find their own seats at long tables and dinner would be a buffet. The good kind: this was a traditional “hunky” wedding, the menu would be haluski, rigatonis, fried chicken, ham, salad, assorted rolls, green beans, potatoes, and of course, the cookies and wedding cake for dessert.
So why when I relate the story of this wedding to friends and co-workers do I start with my morning trip to the emergency room? That’s right, I decided to use my Saturday morning to prepare for the dinner we were hosting on Sunday. I was coring cabbage with a small, but sharp knife. I managed to remove the core, but as I did, the knife slipped and cut across the “web” of my left hand between the thumb and forefinger. I looked at the cut, not yet bleeding, and grabbed the dishcloth to apply pressure. “Oh my God!” I said audibly. I removed the rag from the stinging cut and took a look; “not too bad” I thought. Then I stretched my hand to discover that it was longer and deeper than what I first observed. I applied more pressure and called Scott for help. We bandaged it and discussed whether I needed to get stitches. I was worried that the ER would take too long to provide treatment. I went back to chopping cabbage. As I worked the bandage started to fill with blood. It occurred to me that if I didn’t get some attention, it may be too hard to play the wedding. The decision was made to go to the ER and get treatment if they could get me in and out quickly.
I was amazed at how short the visit to the ER was. The entire process was about 45 minutes. The triage nurse took me right to a room. Another nurse came in quickly and took vital signs and asked questions. Another staff member entered my personal and insurance information into a computer. Soon the doctor was there to inspect the cut. I explained my need to play piano that afternoon. He suggested that I call the bride’s mother and tell her that I was in the ER with a big cut to my hand. Everyone was having a good laugh at the predicament. Fortunately, the cut was clean, thanks to my quality and sharp knife, and the skin was already matching nicely. Glue was all that was needed to put me together. They also gave me a tetanus shot. I knew that this would be more painful than the cut itself. Three days later, the cut is fine, but my arm still aches from the shot!
As I’ve mentioned, I played the wedding with no problems. Sunday morning at church services, I had no problem accommodating my cut while playing. I even received good compliments about my music selections and my performance of them. It appears that there’s no lasting damage from the cut that appeared to be so bad when it first happened.
Sunday afternoon’s dinner with friends was also a success. Our friends, Bob & Bruce, arrived at 4pm just like we had arranged. We sat on the patio sharing wine and cheese & crackers. We caught each other up on the news of our lives. We moved inside to share a dinner of bracciole, pasta, veggies, and a decadent dessert of cherries jubilee. We enjoyed more talk, more laughter, and more wine. It was a fantastic evening with our friends.
So why do we always bring up the negative parts of life when we have so much to be happy about? I suspect that it’s because we can’t fully enjoy those happy moments without realizing how they might be marred by some unfortunate, if minor, catastrophe. Would I have enjoyed playing that wedding as much as I did if I hadn’t experienced the possibility of not being able to play it all because of the knife mishap? I don’t think so. Perhaps it is this duality of joy and sadness that makes us think of the negative things when life is going so well, and in turn, gives us hope when life is difficult. We need both experiences to fully enjoy times of happiness and endure times of sorrow.
And what of my wish to keep a low profile as far as being a gay man at a truly heterosexual event, taking place at a homophobic church? That’s certainly my issue to deal with. The minister’s reaction was so much less than I imagined it could have been. I had to laugh at it, not only because it was funny to see this man literally shrink and turn away from me, but because it dashed my own expectations of rejection. I ended up laughing at myself as well.
Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen wrote it down a long time ago:
Accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative,
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between
That’s pretty good advice.