By Robert Provitera
We don’t cry over spilled milk, but must we keep spilling it?
I have never been much of a milk lover. I always went for the orange juice container.
My parents would use milk every morning for their coffee, so it always made its way to the front of the refrigerator. “Early to bed and early to rise” was fine for grandparents and parents, but for me, it was the opposite. By the time I made it to the kitchen in the morning (or afternoon), the early risers had moved practically every refrigerated item on the shelf to the front of the pack. The orange juice always seemed like it lived way back in prehistoric times, far behind King milk and its merry band of condiments.
I want orange juice, and I want it now. That’s it. I’ll have nothing to do with milk, ketchup, or anything else that stands in the way. That was the coldhearted truth about my self-centered adolescent morning thought process. That line of thinking directed my hand toward the back into the ancient history of that refrigerator in search of the bright orange cardboard rectangle that cradled my favorite pulpy liquid wake-up call. Too often, that process would eventually find me on the floor with a paper towel cleaning up spilled milk and whatever else was blocking my quest for the juice. I would have climbed over all of it and gone straight to drinking the prize had my family not boldly directed me otherwise.
I didn’t seem to grasp the truth about who I was then and why my workflow was so wrong until I had been recording music for some years. Producing a song in the studio is like building a house from the ground up. The good carpenter knows it's not wise to install crown molding before the sheetrock is taped, spackled, then painted. The successful contractor knows it’s not wise to add a subfloor and frame before pouring the foundation. The music producer knows it is not a good practice to add vocals and keyboards parts before the drums and bass guitar are correctly placed. The music can be a sloppy mess if you do, and you spend more time cleaning up with less fruitful results that still leave you thirsting for better.
With my head out of the refrigerator, over the years, I have spilled more than just milk. Through trial and error, I did build a house, a recording studio, and plenty of songs.
I spilled my overzealous ambitions all over those projects and learned most of my lessons the hard way. Stubborn self-centered grabbing on impulse has never served me well. It took building songs, a house, and some thawing out to get me to understand how crucial proper sequence and order are.
Sometimes you have to move the milk and whatever else is in the way before you get to the good stuff. I love crown molding and beautiful embellishments, but I am prepared to get spackled first. I may even breathe in some sheetrock dust before I get there.
I was embarrassingly much too old when I finally looked in the back of the refrigerator and realized it was never the milk after all. I needed to get out of my way first. Once I started to proceed in the proper order, life got much less messy. My way is not the best. I thank God I didn’t get my way. If I did, there’s a good chance I would not be here to share these thoughts. Let’s be honest enough to say there is good structure, sequence, process and order that makes sense with or without our strong will. Let’s look carefully at what our place is and how to proceed before we grab. Maybe we don’t cry over spilled milk, and better yet, we even stop spilling it.