Thinking Musically (or Allowing Conflicting Wants to Harmonize)


in Creativity,Happiness,Personal Growth

At the outset, I should tell you that I am not the least bit musical so anything that I say about music that doesn’t make sense – forgive me now. I once tried to learn how to play the violin and my teacher begged me to stop. If you were to ask me the name of a tune, I probably wouldn’t be able tell you – even if I’ve heard it a thousand times. If you asked me to sing a song, it would surely be a painful experience for both of us.

But I love to listen to music. Classical. Rock-and-roll. Reggae. The Blues. Each style is suited to a different mood and inspires different emotions. Yet, all share the mystery of harmonious composition.

Harmony – agreement, accord, a pleasing combination, synchronization.

My thoughts have felt anything but harmonious for the last several months. Jarring notes have been less than pleasing to my internal ear. I have been in a place of discord.

And I must say it:  I have felt as though I have lost track of what is possible for me.

Quite a confession, wouldn’t you say, from someone who purports to travel in the realm of possibility?

I am sure I am not alone. We have all been in places in our lives where nothing seems possible. Where our choices seem to be ones that don’t lead us to where we think we want to go. Where the possible outcomes of our choices feel underwhelming rather than over-the-moon.

Definitely not a place where the heart sings.

The other day, in yet another round of listening to my internal song (the one that says you can’t have it all), I realized why nothing has felt possible for me.

I have been stewing in a sea of seemingly inconsistent wants and wonderings for my life.

Wanting to:

  • Eat donuts and lose weight.
  • Make tons of money and be a stay-at-home mom.
  • Travel for months at a time and have a mini-farm.
  • Live in the city and live in the country.
  • Be a good steward of my resources and buy high-priced, high-quality goods.
  • Be known for being active in my community and live privately.
  • Talk with the angels and travel in political circles.
  • Find a nice guy and never go on a date.
  • Wear yoga pants and look professional.

These wants have felt inconsistent to me – as if by choosing one thing, I automatically eliminate the other. Because I don’t want to choose only one thing, I have chosen nothing; leaving me feeling like nothing that I want is possible.

My wants have been singing a chorus of “either-ors.”

Either I can eat donuts (and gain weight) or I can lose weight (and never allow another delicious, chocolate-coated donut to cross my lips.)  Either I can make tons of money (and never be at home because in order to make serious money one must leave the house) or I can be a stay-at-home mom (and subsist on noodles since I’ll never earn enough money by staying at home or working from home).

I could go on … but I won’t. You can see the fallacy of this logic, can’t you? I can see it as I write it. But, when you are living it, it’s a different story altogether.

When looking at your options, your wants, your choices, it is easy to fall into the either-or trap.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Another way exists. One that is more harmonious.

The way that encompasses “both-and.” The way that creates harmony.

It is possible that I could eat donuts and lose weight … if I actually exercised. It is possible that I could make tons of money and be a stay-at-home  mom … if I leveraged a business vehicle or career choice.

It’s all in the way I choose to frame the choice – to compose the music of my life.

The musical nature of reality and the soul entails the coming together of differences. To a great extent, the art of music is a process of “arranging” different themes, pitches, rhythms, and timbers, and in a musical psychology, our various moods and traits each could find their place in an emotional harmony and counterpoint. Thinking psychologically, we often try to eliminate inner conflicts and competing desires and longings, but thinking musically, we may be able to find a way to appreciate the many elements that make us up and allow them to be independent and yet in tune with one another…. [Harmony is]… a way of joining many different tones not only so they sound good together but also so they can then progress to the next set of tones in a meaningful and creative way. ~ Thomas Moore, The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life

It is possible to create a harmonious composition with seemingly disparate wants.

Marrying disparate wants merely requires you to open up to enough to acknowledge that your wants can live together – if you use your creative ability to weave them together in a way that is appealing and meaningful to your ear.

It starts by recognizing that no musical composition would be complete without high notes and low notes, fast tempos and slow tempos, loud tones and soft tones.

Our wants are similar. Some register high on the scale of wanting (I want it right now) and others low (I want it someday). Some are so hot that we feel ready to ignite and others provide a steady, low-burning flame. Some shout until we no longer can hear ourselves think and others whisper to us in the shower.

But we can blend them together – in time, sequence, pacing, and perspective – to create beautiful music. With a little imagination. With a little patience. With a little soul-searching.

We can create a harmony of both-ands. Beautiful music indeed.

I'd love to pop into your inbox. Subscribe to get blog posts, an occasional newsletter, and other good things.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one } July 15, 2012 at

I like the ideas in this post, Andrea. I’d add this, too: When I’m feeling like I can’t have what I want, I realize it is because I’m choosing other things I want.

Example: I want to be a full-time blogger. What stands in the way? Not enough time to do the work I’m doing to pay bills and do the work required to grow a blog that could replace that work. I could find the time if I didn’t do all the things I do to mother my kids (or nurture my romantic relationship and friendships). I can view this through a frame of deprivation (not enough time! work without enough satisfaction!) or I can view it through one of plenty: I’m choosing my kids (and other relationships) and economic security because they matter more to me than full-time blogging. At least, right now they do. “Choose” being the key word.

Looking at life as a symphony–or, perhaps, an opera (more rock opera than traditional)–I can see that there will be time in other acts or movements for a different kind of music. Helps me enjoy the tunes I’m playing right now. recently posted..Make your own DIY Solar ChandelierCheck out Kat’s awesome gazebo lights–curbside & craigslist treasure!


Andrea Olson July 16, 2012 at

Rita … I always appreciate your perspectives! Choice is indeed the operative word and we can choose a harmonious composition. Seems to me you are definitely doing that, my friend.


Cigdem Kobu July 17, 2012 at

For people like us, the art is not in eliminating. The art is in blending and arranging. It’s the art of orchestrating our desires and doings as if weaving a marvelous Persian rug with different figures and colors here and there. Here is to refusing to choose! Here’s to “both-and”! We are multipassionate and multidesirous composers of life, and we love it!
By the way, I’m still rejoicing in the sweet, joyful chat we had a few weeks ago. Let’s repeat it :)


Andrea Olson July 18, 2012 at

You are speaking my language! Thank you, my friend. Looking forward to another talk soon. :)


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: