I used to think that putting thoughts to music was unequivocally a beneficial contribution to personal relationships and, why not, the world. Imagine the lover, pouring out his heart in melody to float on cloudtones what cannot be expressed in the cacophony of the mundane, or the parishioner who joins her voice to others in harmonic glory, leaving behind the senseless dissonance of her daily routine. I think there's an exception clause for apologies. Saying you're sorry, in your normal, hate-to-hear-it-played-back voice, is so much harder than humming emotionally over some tinkling orchestrals. You stammer, you backtrack (I swore I wasn't going to offer excuses!), you wait for the beat to drop, for the Picardy third of reconciliation, without any of the backlit glamour of your music video fantasies.
I was a general curmudgeon at work today, bemoaning a complete lack of communication on everyone's part and sidestepping my own responsibility for causing an exceedingly stressful eight hours (as much as one can claim legitimate emotional stress while trying to maximize margins on luxury goods). My coworkers place more emphasis on pleasantry and social cohesion than I do, and while it occasionally makes me want to roll over the escalator rail, today it was the only grease holding together the team's powertrain, and I would've been well-served to bat back a few more fluff comments rather than gripe about what I had and had not been trained in.
I have an especially patient coworker who has borne my stutters and blank states for months with only encouragement and fair treatment to offer in return, and in some cosmic tribute to the complete lack of internal logic or consistency that constitutes sinful humans like me, I found myself interrupting, eye-rolling and huffing at the one person who was helping me extract the splinter from the many spreadsheets I fouled up.
The need for some apology became painfully apparent as I zipped up my bag and slid my time card, and you wouldn't believe how much I wriggled. Didn't we seem OK in the end? Surely he understands I was just stressed. After all, I'm in this new culture and...justification ad infinitum.
After deciding that anything less than an immediate and in-person/over-the-phone apology left me with the emotional finesse of a middle-schooler, I stopped outside a furniture store on my way to church ("Christians thrive on an insatiable disparity between the standards to which they aspire and the daily muck of their lived failures", read the sign outside the store) to make amends.
Self-defeat and suffering are the most powerful evidences of man's unity of mind, body and spirit that I know. My emotions, embarrassment at my juvenile behavior and excitement to find an excuse, provoked a sort of convicted sea-sickness even as my mind made itself up and my fingers touched out the number. I felt an adrenaline rush as what I knew to be abstractly right pushed its way into reality. My tongue was even more reticent than usual to trill out a few phrases of gratitude and petition, and I left the whole enterprise feeling stupid and a little giddy with obedience.
"Man is a giddy thing," Mumford remarks. How do suffering and joy, shame and freedom, keep such close company in the chambers of the heart? Their transition seems at times as indistinguishable as turning a key to find yourself suddenly, remarkably home in a place that still aches with unfamiliarity. I have a delicate promise, but one that holds fast to the tree roots that perforate the pavement upon which I walk in my daily, strange life. Joy comes in the morning. Joy comes in the mourning. That could be "one glad morning", to echo the sap trees and organs and hymns of my homeland, but it could also be this morning. Watch and wait. Grace has a tight turn radius, I've learned.