Thomas Newman in My Bathroom

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This evening was at best, mundane. I ate leftovers while glancing over at the television airing Marc Forster’s take on James Bond’s Quantum of Solace. I read junk mail. I returned a few emails for work. I called my mother to tell her about my scab. I finished off the last of the orange sherbet. I became increasingly aware that Quantum of Solace was probably the launching pad of Forster getting kicked off my ‘favorite directors’ list. Clearly a riveting night. I decided to listen to music while I got ready for bed and picked a few film scores by Thomas Newman, who is probably most recognizable for his music in movies like The Shawshank Redemption and Finding Nemo. At worst, he’s been criticized for using the same sort of phrasing and key instruments in his work -there’s always an oboe and piano solo, and he likes little jingly percussion instruments that make you feel like you’re walking through Neverland after watching your dog get smooshed by a car. It’s sad, beautiful, hopeful, all the things film scores should make you feel, in my opinion. I had a friend growing up who used to harass me for being such a fan. “But he just rewrites old stuff -it’s all refurbished! His stuff is simple, anyone could write that.” I didn’t care at all. I could slip on my ear phones after school and drown out my little world to the Newman tune of a thousand stories waiting to be told all tangled up in my creative cobwebs; really I mainly worked out a lot of my crazy high school emotions to his scores. I still do, apparently.

Tonight I was thinking about if Newman back in the early days of his career ever got that feedback, like “back off the oboe, dude” or “all your music sounds like it’s underwater, deep-sea diving stuff” and what if he stopped making film scores or tried other styles that he just wasn’t passionate about.  I understand the problem of hypotheticals being coerced into fake situations, often are less than ideal. But I love hypotheticals, almost to an unhealthy degree. It’s just another place for my little brain to pant about, trying to figure out exactly what would I do. Often I wonder what would have happened if I had gone to college in Chicago or if I hadn’t initiated a friendship with Mollie on a dare by my older sister, or if that semi couldn’t have moved out of my way after my car was hit, or if I hadn’t moved to Rogers, or met my friend Chelsea who is the only reason I’m living in Missouri, or if I hadn’t gone downstairs at the office today to work with a coworker and I had no idea would end up telling me her story. It’s hard to say. Some people are like my old friend Mollie, who refuses to answer hypothetical questions. (it’s a mostly endearing trait, but as a hyper-imaginative , it continually drives me nuts to ask her, “What if you couldn’t do [insert whatever she’s obsessing over]?” to without fail have a blank face blink a few times, flare her nostrils out, and in all seriousness reply, “I can’t answer that question.” or my personal favorite “DIE.”) I’m sure there’s a balance to be found between the ‘what ifs’ and ‘no regret’ worlds. Tonight I was really wrestling over whether it was okay for me to wonder about the things that have already happened, if it was really a healthy thing. Maybe it was the dramatic score but regardless, my mind raced through twenty-four years of crossroads. There definitely were a lot of conversations that would have played out more maturely and honestly. There were a few that broke my heart all over again, but you know what? I kept coming back to all the people, all the connection, all the weird and funny hit and miss that happened over the years, and instead of a clammy despair, I remembered that God is in the business of making all things new and that none of it – the good or the bad – is truly wasted. And then, right there in the upstairs bathroom, my mouth full of sudsy toothpaste, the Shawshank Redemption Main Theme started playing and I couldn’t help it. What if Thomas Newman called it quits before 1994, the year Shawshank Redemption came out, and I wasn’t in my bathroom tonight, on the verge of thankful tears, spitting out toothpaste and working out the little creases in my life that I can’t ever figure out if they should be ironed out or left alone?

I’m not sure about Thomas Newman’s life but I know two things: 1. My night would have been nothing to speak of and 2. I would not have deep-sea diving music to draw out my crazy and be prompted by the Holy Spirit to be thankful for all the crossroads in my life. Psalms 54 says, “Behold, God is my helper, the upholder of my life. …With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.”

It is good.

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