Vienna Waits


You have to learn to pace yourself                                 Slow down you crazy child

Pressure                                                                                You’re so ambitious for a juvenile

You’re just like everybody else                                          But then if you’re so smart tell me,

Pressure                                                                                 Why are you still so afraid?

You’ve only had to run so far                                             Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?

So good                                                                                You better cool off before you burn out

But you will come to a place                                             You got so much to do and only

Where the only thing you feel                                         So many hours in a day

Are loaded guns in your face                                            When will you realize…

And you’ll have to deal with                                              Vienna waits for you?



Musicians may be our modern day poets. Their words are both lyrical and mystical, as if they know the human experience, before it unfolds for each of us. One of the most prolific for me is Billy Joel. His words seem to haunt me, both in difficult times, and in happy memories. He seems to understand the juxtaposition of opposing forces that is life.

I have always felt an internal war ongoing, the pull between wanderlust and the dutiful spirit. I want to go, to see, to do; so many places I have yet to see, so many would-be experiences await. There are mountain passes to be climbed, symphonies to be heard, paintings to be viewed, flowers to be cultivated, people to meet, cultures to experience.

But, there is also the pressure of the here and now at home. My family needs me. And, I liked to be needed. My work email and phone are rarely silent, and I feel compelled to answer their call, regardless of the hour. The pressure is a weight on my shoulders; I hear it like a drum in my head, it constricts my breath, disturbs my sleep.

Sometimes I feel I am like Atlas. Except, I am not Atlas. I am only me. I am not particularly strong; though I cannot handle pressure well, I cannot shrug. I’m afraid what might happen if I did.

Even in these moments, when I’ve had a disappointing day of set-backs, endless edits, and the exhausting mental table tennis of corporate politics, I know pressure is not everything. There is more to life. Vienna waits, and I hear its siren song.

I recall a day, bright with warm sunshine, after days of chilly rain. We sit at a café table, with gaily colored umbrellas dotting the cobble-stone square, sipping bubbly Italian sodas, squinting in the sunshine. It’s glorious, and a marvelous day awaits, churches and museums housed in palaces, their age virtually telegraphing the history they have to share. It seems I am never so happy as when I’m touring a historic place. I’m not sure what the draw of these old stories is for me. But, I love them, these stories, Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–Of cabbages–and kings. To remember them makes me smile.

But, I cannot go to this place every day. That is not a realistic life. These are rare moments of wonder, to be experienced and cherished for years to come. Memory is a sweet thing; to take it out and taste it, like a favorite candy. But, it’s also bittersweet. Sadness often follows, as I miss these trips, and they are fewer in recent years. Wanderlust stirs, as a sudden wind rustles leaves.

I’m not so sure what makes me so impatient, never wanting to wait, always eager for the next thing. Sometimes I wonder why I am forever hurrying throughout my days. Do I really get more done this way, or is it I’m just harried in all I do? Still, slowing down, and savoring life are difficult concepts for me.

Yet, in recent years, I have felt my ambition cooling. Perhaps it’s fatigue or having achieved some goals, I’m not sure what to do next. Satisfaction in all of it can be an intangible thing; trying to pin a wave to the sand. The tide is forever going out again, and yesterday’s success is quickly followed by today’s new challenges.

It’s comforting to know that Vienna is still there. It’s not going anywhere, and I’ll get back there in my own time. Perhaps the true secret is realizing that Vienna is not a place. Vienna is a state of mind, available anywhere, anytime. All I need do is close my eyes and breathe. The pressure can wait.

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