“There are no such things as mistakes in jazz. Every so-called mistake is an opportunity to create something different than you were intending.”
I suppose that, in a way, we all improvise our lives. No matter what we’ve planned for any day, life seems to have a mind of its own, and “the best laid plans” are often not the actually lived plans. That’s hard on some of us, and some of us seem to thrive on this reality. No matter what we’ve planned for any part of our life, life does seem to have a mind of its own, and the route we end up taking is never completely the route we set out to take. We have to find a way to improvise, to shift gears, to make changes in our schedules or in our plans. That’s the nature of things.
Many years ago, when I was in my 20’s, I clearly remember a friend of mine saying: “I have had a charmed life.” Being a thoughtful sort myself, I could not exactly relate to my friend’s perspective on her life. What did it mean to have a “charmed life?” Did that mean that there were no problems – ever? Did it mean that things always turned out the way she had planned? Did it mean that when she wanted something, it magically appeared? What did it mean?
Then, the next time I saw my friend was after her mother had died. The spark that had been in my friend was gone. She was depressed, for a long, long time. Did that mean her life was no longer charmed? I don’t know; I never asked. But I have wondered, from time to time, whether she thought differently about her life after that.
Deaths will happen, to those we love, and to us. We won’t always succeed, even at things we think we’re good at. We won’t get the promotion we think we deserve. Our children won’t be as perfect as we want them to be. Sometimes, our children will have problems, illnesses, difficulties we can’t imagine now. Our biggest dreams will never materialize. We won’t find the magic potion for life that will give us exactly what we want, when we want it. That just isn’t going to happen.
Take this on as a spiritual practice: begin to see your life as an improvisation. See what happens! Begin to watch your life “from the outside,” another perspective, another way of looking at it. Instead of things going wrong, see an opportunity for something new to enter. If the road doesn’t go where you thought it was going to go, enjoy the scenery you have in front of you now. Explore the opportunity you didn’t think was going to present itself, but does. Make music out of a few sour notes. Enjoy the people around you, even if you don’t like them. Or go looking for other folks, you like more. Make looking for them an adventure. See where the adventure leads.
We all know “the best laid plans” don’t always work out the way we thought they would. Stuff happens; the “stuff” that happens is the “stuff” of life. Make that “stuff” work, work in your favor, work for you. Be resourceful. Use whatever comes your way. Turn left instead of right.
And trust. That’s it. Improvise.
Make sweet, sweet music.