Sometimes songs go through my head. And stay around, circle around, repeating themselves. Sometimes it's just the melody, and I can't even recall the lyrics. I end up having to hum whatever it is to my musically talented husband. And he comes up with the name of the song, and searches out the lyrics.
I've learned over time to pay attention to those lyrics, just as I have learned to pay attention to a line of poetry that circles around in my mind. To take the words seriously. To mull them over. To be curious about what they might have to teach me. Now.
And lately the song has been Billy Joel's "Just the way you are."
Beyond the entire song, and his great keyboard artistry, these particular lines of the lyrics stand out for me:
Don't go changing to try to please me
You never let me down before....
I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are....
I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew...
I couldn't love you any better
I love you just the way you are.
Odd lyrics, in a world where we are constantly encouraged to improve, to achieve, to get better.
It brings to mind a time, years back, that I was leading a several-day retreat with the United Way of America--a gathering of the Executive Directors from many cities. It was a time of uncertainty and turmoil. They were troubled, longing for a trustworthy conversation about difficult issues. In the course of the days, our dialogue created a path forward for them. When the work was over, and we were all packing up our stuff, one of the group walked toward me. Thinking this might be a chance to get useful feedback, and ideas for how to improve, I asked him, "How do you think that went?"
He stopped a moment, said nothing at all, walked to within a foot of me, so we were face to face, and began to sing,
"Don't go changing
To try to please me....
I love you just
The way you are."
He sang all the song. Then he smiled, and walked away.
I had never had something like that happen. Before or since. I have never forgotten it. What might be the wisdom in those lyrics? Here are the possibilities that strike me, today:
1) We overlook our own native gifts. In our efforts to improve, or stretch, or grow, we treat ourselves as an ongoing improvement project.
2) We make things more complicated than they need to be. "I just want someone that I can talk to...."
3) Being human and vulnerable is what seems to create our bonds with others. One of my own poems has this line "Perfection fails us....". Billy Joel sings, "Don't go changing...."
I got so fascinated by the song, that I decided to use my IPhone as a music holder, set the phone on video, and play the song on the home piano. Now, having listened to Billy Joel, I am a bit shy about sharing it with you. But it was great fun to do. So here it is!