This week, at work, we have been using for the first time a new music system in the chapels. The Council having decided, in their wisdom, to no longer employ folk on a casual basis, we’ve thus lost one organist and gained a Music Director. So on top of doing my usual things as a Chapel Attendant, I’ve now added Music Operative. Apart from one deeply humiliating incident on my very first service, it has gone OK. I’ve become gradually less anxious and apprehensive as the week has progressed. There are downsides to the system, mainly caused by ministers or funeral director’s turning up at the last minute with CD’s and service details. Whilst the new system is flexible and fast, there are often a hundred and one things that need doing in the short space of time between services, organising the music just pushes the pressure too far towards the unacceptable end of the scale. I guess I will become more fluent and speedy with the new computer based system eventually. I will not, however, have any expectations that some Funeral Directors will suddenly become better organised, or more considerate.
I now sit in on most services, when I’m on ‘music duty’. This means I hear the eulogies and brief life stories. I’m finding these touching and thought provoking. Sometimes, it’s simply the tragic nature of a death, such as a young girl of eight, who died from cancer. Seeing the Mother’s grief was quite gut wrenching. Other times, it was the simple level at which the deceased was appreciated, by which I guess I mean unaffected. It is rarely a catalogue of great world shattering deeds. It’s more about how they were as people, than what they did. One chap, who died of a brain tumour at 57 years old, was a fireman most of his working life. His qualities and strengths of solid dependability, thoroughness, care and concern for others, were highlighted repeatedly. His workmates admired, respected him, and came out in full to pay their respect. Another woman had been a bright and appreciative presence, paying a lot of attention to people’s needs, when she worked as a warden in a sheltered housing scheme. Even though she’d retired from that job fifteen years ago, residents turned out in full for her funeral.
I think I’ve found these examples quite humbling. Sometimes I get over preoccupied emotionally with needing to make my mark in some extraordinary way, and underestimate what I do instinctively, because of its seeming ordinariness. Yet these qualities are what other people most likely will remember me by. I’ve been reflecting that my own restlessness and anxiety arise out of a discontent and inability to sit with my present life. I cannot be content with things as they are, some idea, prospect or potential pulls my attention out into the future where happiness lies. Out there in the future is happiness and deeper fulfilment, whilst now, is just not there yet.
Over Christmas I watched an excellent movie called ‘Happiness’ by the Director. Todd Solendze. It is a black comedy, that is really about what makes us unhappy. All the characters are in pursuit of an ideal; that if they have this, then they will be happy. Unfortunately what they want - usually a perfect sexual partner - is unobtainable, unrealistic, or in one case completely forbidden and abhorrent. The desperate and tragic circumstances they create as a result, often destroys their lives and potential to be happy. Their dreams turn into hellish nightmares. Ironically it’s the pursuit of happiness that is making them unhappy.
Yes, yes, yes, I know, I know…but I’m addicted to anxiety aren’t I. Can’t kick the habit, into rehab with me.