“Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life.”
–Jean Paul Richter
I unplug my charged phone, pour my coffee into my Yeti and drag myself to the car and let out a big sigh. My most agonizing daily routine has begun, and there seems to be no way to get past the inevitable. I make the 45-minute commute to work, uneventfully, and besides the sprinkling of meetings throughout the day the only thing I look forward to in the next 9 hours is lunch and leaving. Even then, I have 45 minutes of unabashed, blandness of a drive to return back to my new normal. This dredge of an existence is tolerable, but with so many things on my mind, the solitude has only allowed my brain the opportunity and motive to beat me down physically and emotionally.
At first, I thought the quiet time to think was healthy, giving me time to work through my problems and calm my mind. But for me, it has turned into the battlefield of my life, where my brain and heart are locked in this epic struggle for my sanity. They both use unconventional but effective means of causing their carnage. The constant barrage of guilt and regret, mixed with lethal doses of fear of the future, leave my brain in overdrive and my heart empty. We all lose in this war.
I finally decided that I am done being caught in the middle, I no longer want to play. I had to do something to change the conversation in my head. At first, I thought something mentally engaging, but the conversations on NPR or any other talk show caused emotions that are not beneficial to my cause. Granted the Friday morning gardening show was amazing, but they all still couldn’t hold my attention and at best only added to my concerns (stupid weeds and pests).
I thought the best way to get into a better mood, at least just a different one, was to reach back to a time that I was genuinely happy and carefree. Where my worries were not causing me pain and my failures could be brushed off with a shoulder shrug.
God bless 90s hip-hop music! Reciting every lyric in Ice Ice Baby and trying to understand what was wrong with me and my dance abilities when the Humpty Dance came on. Every song that came on randomly on Pandora was a surprise, which constantly pushed my happiness skyward. I no longer worried or regretted past decisions, heck I no longer thought of anything but the words in the songs that I held so dear many decades ago. This music was fun, mindless, and got me moving. I am by far one of the best chair dancers you will ever meet, and if you don’t, believe me, I’m pretty sure the cars passing by would back me up. My outlook on life has changed, maybe for just that instant, but it was a well-needed rest from reality.
To me, music is more than just the sound and beat, but it provides the gateway back to those memories that were being created when I first heard the very songs being played. When I hear Sir Mix-A-Lot I’m thrust back to middle school, where you weren’t cool if you couldn’t sing every word, or the feeling the electricity in the air as Eye of the Tiger echoes across Tiger Stadium on a football Saturday night. I just don’t hear but I feel every emotion, and with those feelings comes all the memories. My mood instantly changes and I am transported to that very place in time in my life, for me this form of therapy is my escape from reality.
I can tell you detailed stories of my time spent at Lalapalooza, on the parade grounds listening to Cowboy Mouth, the time I stumbled upon a Snoop Dogg concert in DC, seeing No Doubt open for 311, going with my college friends to see Run D.M.C, or that the fact my friend picked his first roommate because they both loved Better Than Ezra. All those parts of my life are important and significant because of the soundtrack they provided to it. I recall what we were doing and what we were feeling, so music is essential for me to just get away. There are times I forget that, and I’m so glad I get reminded in the most amazing ways. Just a random song will make my world a better place, or bring me back to some not so fond memories. Either way, I am alive and I feel.
I know that when I need to clear my mind, and be happy I just need to pick the background music to bring me there.
As I have gotten older, the lyrics mean so much more than just rhythmic poetry set to a beat. Now I listen to my favorite songs, and I can feel the emotion overflowing with each chorus. My favorite music not only puts me into a better mood, it helps me think deeper. I no longer listen to John Denver or Pearl Jam songs the same, because now they have meaning. I not only have favorites because they get me moving and smiling, but they speak to me. They are me. I share those songs with my friends, because when I do share a meaningful song I want those that I care about to know me more. I want them to know my mood, where I came from, what is important to me, and how I see the world. Music is important.
Besides hugs, there is nothing more intimate than sharing your inner being through music. If someone sends you a link to a song, asks you to listen to this, or just mentions this is their favorite song, they are giving you a piece of them, that they may have never shared with anyone else. It is important, and they have let you in. Listen to the song, understand the words, and feel what that person is asking you to feel.
If you love or care for someone, share with them the soundtrack of your life. When words fail, music speaks.
The thing is, Caleb still hasn’t hit his groove on his music tastes. He openly admits, that he can’t stand the junk they play over and over again on B97 (they play the same popular stuff repeatedly, everyone has that kind of station), and I honestly don’t blame him. I have looked at this chasm in his life as an oppurtunity to give him something that would help him as he grows. We started with the foundation, everyone needs to know the most important artists of our time (well my time, he’s still a baby) before they can appreciate anything else. So I quickly put together playlists of Johny Cash, Queen, John Denver, Metallica, Nirvana and everything 80s we cold get our hands on. We walked down memory lane, and I tried my best to explain to him what each song actually meant to me. Each song had a story that had touched my life. Caleb was able to see a new part of me. We definitely become closer each time a different song is streamed across the radio.
I know that he will find his own niche, and it may not even come close to mine. I really just wanted him to know that music is important, not only to fill the silence but to be a way to bring make memories, and help with whatever is bothering you at that time. I taught Caleb to turn on the music, close his eyes, let it embrace him and let it talk to him in a way that is meaningful. Music is the best therapy for all your problems.
Nothing makes me smile more, when we both sing the chorus for Take On Me as loud as we can. We may not have the talent, but we sing for ourselves.
On this one particular day, I changed into my gym clothes and asked Google to play my Beck Radio station. I laid down on the living floor, and closed my eyes to aid in the transition from work thoughts to focusing on the present. As I lay there, familiar songs came and went, each bringing their own set of euphoria, but not all of them for the past. I reminisce about the times Caleb and I heard that very song, and the look on his face as he finally understand why I consider these songs significant.
One day soon Caleb will share with me what pleases his audible palate, and then we both will become even closer.