Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Sophrosyne who lived among the rolling hills of a small midwestern town. She swung her arms wide in the high grasses on the hill behind her parents’ house, singing with abandon, pretending that she was Maria von Trapp, the sun caressing her face until she fell, giggling into the grass, disappearing from the world.
She indeed had everything her heart could want, two parents who loved her, two brothers and a dog who may have as well. The demands on her time were minimal – to care for her things, to help in the rotation of setting the table and doing the dishes. She asked for a piano for Christmas, and sure enough, her parents provided one for her. She would sit at its wide deck of toothy musical possibility finding satisfying chord structures, emulating as best she could the easy playing style of others.
As she grew, Sophrosyne’s simple tastes changed, through exposure to the finer things by her parents; she would listen at the top of the stairs on those rare evenings when the under 15s were exiled to the upper story, as the adults below discussed Shakespeare and literature, while dining on gourmet food. She could hear the clink of their glasses and the tinkle of silverware on the china with the gold edge. She began to dream about a similar life of intellectual fulfillment, surrounded by a loving husband and more or less obedient children.
As time passed, she benefitted from a fulsome education, at private schools where she witnessed again the finer things of the world, sometimes first hand, and sometimes as through a slightly foggy glass frosted with her breath, upon which she doodled “I want” with a longing that left her breathless. She never lost her gratitude for the opportunities that she experienced, just occasionally her perspective wandered about what she wanted or needed. She progressed to university, where she piled her plate with the sweetmeats of close study of literature and fine arts, and immersed herself more wholeheartedly in theatrical pursuits. There she learned to collaborate and about the exquisite satisfaction of long hours of intense and focused review of passages of music and text in the company of like-minded thespians. It filled her mind and her heart.
Sophrosyne longed for more. She longed for love, and sometimes for escape from the worry that there was more to have, to master. She traveled far and wide, filling her belly with life experiences and her young and hungry mouth with food and drink and languages that she had studied while at university, utilizing them in her quest for love and a richer life. She missed theatrical pursuits, however, and yearned to find her soulmate.
She returned from her travels and began a life in the theatre, almost instantly meeting the man who became her partner in all things. Their initial theatrical collaboration translated into an easy partnership of similar interests, a mutual appreciation for the arts, for good, simple food, for the company of close friends. Sophrosyne began paring away the external wants like drink, that had served to numb her worry, and instead relied upon her partner for the calming comfort that thoughtful dissection of a problem together could bring. They thrived, knowing that they had everything they needed.
They raised a more or less obedient child together, watched proudly as he went off to begin to make a life, looked for love, while striving to find an avocation that would satisfy him. Sophrosyne returned to university, this time, not as a student, but as a theatrical collaborator. She loved the work there, and the friendships with her colleagues and the satisfying proximity of supporting the next generation of theatre makers as they discovered and explored their passions. And she continued to doodle, this time, more about the happy and fulfilling life she and her partner had created.
But, far too soon, Sophrosyne’s partner began to fail in health, and she watched as the inevitable happened, and she again found herself alone. The aching and ancient yearning returned, and she struggled to remember that what she had was enough, her gratitude sufficient. Now her doodles were darker, more poignant. She cherished the outreach from their son, who checked in with her faithfully to report on his and his family’s life.
Life at the university filled the nooks and crannies of loss and desire, doodle polls arriving with a regularity, filling in Sophrosyne’s calendar with activities and meetings, while she continued to examine what she wanted vs. what she needed. She needed to recapture the doodles of her youth, not the breathless longing, but that feeling of endless musical possibility.
Sophrosyne pulled out the bench, listening to its satisfying scrape across the floor. She sat at the keys and began to doodle.