My brother has all of the musical stuff. He’s the one who bought me my ukulele. He’s the one who wakes up and goes downstairs to strum a few riffs through the orange amps in the basement.
The other day, I walked downstairs, to where he was playing on one of his electrical guitars, and I asked if I could borrow his tuner, for my uke strings had grown stretched in the few weeks I hadn’t played…stretched and out of tune.
Through the years, he has used different tuners, testing out different preferences. He handed me one that I had never seen before–a little black tuner. It had a face no larger than the face of a watch, and a clip protruding from the back that clipped onto the head of the stringed instrument of your choice.
I clipped it to the top of my uke and started tuning.
For me, tuning a stringed instrument looks like: you play the same note over and over, moving the tune-keys minuscule amounts with each stroke, trying to match the subtle string vibrations (producing the “sound”) to the tuner’s recorded memory of those vibrations.
For some reason, though, I couldn’t get the strings right.
I took the uke to my brother, asked him to look at it.
The tuner’s face has a digital “needle” in the middle, that swings to the right and the left, depending if one’s note is “too sharp” or “too flat.” Dead center, then, means that the string is in tune.
My brother plucked each string. As each string was plucked, the needle would be one needle’s amount of space to the right or left–either too sharp or too flat–close, but never perfect.
“Well,” he said, “are you even trying?”
He corrected the strings–perfectly in tune.
I feel like my heart is like the so-close-but-not-quite-right tuner these days. Over the past few days, I’ve been offered a couple of jobs and asked to head very large volunteer positions, the kinds that would take months and months, and full-fledged effort for all of those months.
None of them seem perfectly in tune. Maybe close, but, not perfect.
Well, then, I ask myself: what would be in tune?
(One time, Father Ryan asked, me, “What is the plumbing of your heart?” This, I think, is a similar sentiment.)
Do you know what I love? Or, at least, I think that I would love? To move into my broken city of the too-high insurance rates and the food dessert and renovate an old-but-still-sturdy house to be a place of art and community and connection. And have bees, too, and chickens also. I don’t know why, but this is somehow one of my dearest dreams.
Lately, though, I’ve been asking my heart: is it that you want, or, really, to build a home/ family and your Detroit-dream seems like a way that you can do that in this rocky road you’re navigating where there isn’t exactly too much on the vocation-horizon?
I don’t know.
I don’t even know if I’m moving the tune-keys of my heart correctly, helping them find the sweet-spot where all would be well and dandy.
I also ask myself: does an in-tune heart even exist on earth? I mean, every single person ever still faces temptations of despair and anxiety and all else. There does not seem to be, in my estimation, a “happily ever after,” while one is still mortal. Valley of tears and all that.
I don’t know.
Last weekend I gave a talk.
A young man asked a question: how do I know if I am to be a priest?
The (very nice) guy-I-was-presenting-with and I tried to cover all of the basics in a few quick moments.
What I should have said, though, is “discernment.”
You just start trying, right? You start plucking the strings, moving, acting…and then you pause and listen to see if you’re getting closer to having the heart in tune.
A friend in my young ladies’ group told us last week of the analogy of our hearts being like sailboats.
If they’re tied up at port, nothing can happen. It’s only when they’re open to the wind of the Spirit, that a boat can really do what it is meant to.
And, frankly, I don’t know what this means for me as a person. I don’t know how to find the most in-tune things.
So, I literally just keep looking at places on zillow.com. And maybe that’s a bad idea, I don’t know.
I’m also pondering getting a nose stud.
Because, when all else is out of your hands, keep moving, right? Keep trying. Keep tuning.