Archive for the ‘music’ Tag

Bleed It Out

In an earlier post, January I think, I talked about seeing the good, even on bad days.

“Seeing the good, even if it’s only one small thing, when everywhere there is darkness and chaos, is the most important facet to my campaign toward self-improvement. Because, in my most secret, private self, I know that if there is ever a time when the tally board of positives hits absolute zero, that’s when my spirit will truly despair. I have to know, like Samwise Gamgee, that “there’s good in this world” so that I have “something worth fighting for”.”

Sometimes seeing the good takes work, digging in your heels against the disappointment and sludge and refusing to capitulate to the urge to catastrophize what’s happening and give up on finding the silver lining.

Other times, seeing the good requires acknowledging the hard stuff, stiffening your neck and fighting the darkness with a little of its own medicine. As I said to a Facebook friend last night,

“Sometimes you just need some hard-driving music and truth in lyric form to shake the demons from the tree.”

Sometimes you just have to “Bleed It Out” (credit: Linkin Park) to make room for the less jagged, mind-consuming stuff.

I’ve been having a hard time with negativity lately, feeling a little overwhelmed with the quantity of stressful, sad, rage-inducing crud going on in my world. Though I keep working at reframing the negative and keep trying to find things to be thankful for daily, the last little while has been fairly rough. But I’m not a quitter and I’m determined to kick this slump.

So yesterday I decided that drastic measures, in the form of some angry/emo music, were called for. I was mildly irritated to find that my music library is slightly deficient in metal and rage-rock. But I was able to scrape together 11 songs into a playlist that is sufficiently dark and indignant to play at obnoxiously loud volume in my headphones that it drowns out the clamor of the stress, anxiety and insecurity my inner critic has been shouting at me lately.

It’s beginning to work, too. I had it on repeat most of the day while I slogged through tedious research and data gathering. It helped focus my mind on being productive, rather than being obsessed with the negative things. I’m happy with that as a positive outcome of my struggle.

Here’s my list. What additional tracks would you suggest?

More Lyrics of Me

A couple of months ago I posted about seeing myself in the lyrics of some songs I heard that day. I was surprised at the pattern I detected and that some of the artists of those songs were so different from me, yet sang experiences that resonate so closely to my own life. One of my readers, an author whose work I admire a lot, posted a comment that when we become aware of these types of patterns, we’re supposed to pay attention to what they reveal about our path forward. I find that concept both unnerving and intriguing.

So when I felt the same resonance with lyrics of some weird, and at least one relativity obscure, songs I’ve encountered recently, as well as an oldie that’s almost an anthem by now, I thought I’d post again.

I still haven’t sussed out what the message is or what path is being revealed, but it’s interesting to note when and in which songs I recognize myself. Here are four lyrical places in which I found at least parts of me:

Who Needs Sleep? by Bare Naked Ladies

My hands are locked up tight in fists

My mind is racing filled with lists

Of things to do and things I’ve done

Another sleepless night’s begun…

Who needs sleep?

(well you’re never gonna get it)

Who needs sleep?

(tell me what’s that for)

Who needs sleep?

(be happy with what you’re getting

There’s a guy who’s been awake

Since the Second World War)

American Girl by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Well she was an American girl

Raised on promises

She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there

Was a little more to life

Somewhere else

Missing Piece by David Choi

There’s a missing piece

Inside of me

Trying to figure it out

But it amounts to nothing

I want to realize

But nothing I find

Ever feels like the real thing

Can you empathize?

I don’t know

What I’m looking for

But I’ll know

When I find it

I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor

I’ve got all my life to live

And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive

I will survive

They’re little snapshots of parts of my mind and life, these lyrics. Some are melancholy and some just fun. They’re not all of me, but the hopefulness in that last one is closest to my heart right now. It’s what I’m focusing on, building on.

Have a great weekend, all. I hope it’s filled with great, hopeful things.

Lyrics of Me

I seem to be in a weird, contemplative head space lately. I see patterns and make connections between things that probably aren’t truly connected, just coincidental. And I seem to be fairly nostalgic, reminiscing more and spontaneously remembering random experiences from my past much more frequently than I recall doing previously. So, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised at the connection that struck me as I drove to work this morning.

I don’t like to listen to talking on the radio – not commercials, not DJ commentary, not even most news reports – so I change stations frequently and listen to a variety of music genres. I also usually just concentrate on the music, the melody and instrumentation and harmony, without focusing on the lyrics. But for whatever reason, today the words were at the front of everything. As I surfed the frequencies on my 20 minute drive early this morning, I heard a bit of everything, from pop to rock to country. And on each station I heard at least one section of lyrics that seemed to speak directly from my life.

Getting glimpses of my own struggles in the words of popular music can be so validating and freeing. It makes the insecurities fade a bit, makes me feel less cut-off from whatever my brain is defining as “normal” at the moment. Sometimes that spark of recognition in the lyrics of a song burrows under my skin and occupies my subconscious for days until I’m able to internalize the message it holds for me. It’s a relief and a comfort when that happens. One of those from my past, one that helped me through the tough times of coming out to myself and others, recurred today:

I’m not a woman

I’m not a man

I am something that you’ll never understand

~ “I Would Die 4 U”, Prince and The Revolution

Yet that glimpse of me in song can also feel foreign, in a way, when the words in the context of the song speak of someone so different from me. It’s hard in those moments to understand how a sentiment that exactly summarizes some aspect of me can be speaking the truth about someone who is nearly opposite of everything that I am. I’m challenged to contemplate that issues I’ve associated with the various marginalized demographics I have occupied in my life can also be challenging for those I’ve mentally categorized as mainstream, often privileged, in those very dimensions. I’m certainly not a rock star on the road, but this is one I’ve struggled with for years:

And you feel the eyes upon you as you’re shaking off the cold

You pretend it doesn’t bother you but you just want to explode

Most times you can’t hear ’em talk, other times you can

All the same old clichés: “Is that a woman or a man?”

And you always seem outnumbered, you don’t dare make a stand

~ “Turn the Page”, by Bob Seger

Then there are those surprising lyrics from songs you’ve heard but never really listened to before. Those can be fun sometimes, like when you realize for the first time that Led Zeppelin dropped Tolkien references into “Ramble On”. But those surprising lyrics can sneak up on you, hitting hard with words that seem to reveal a truth that you’ve missed or refuse to acknowledge. Those sneak attack lyrics can suck big time, especially when they’re the last song just as you pull into the parking lot and the message dawns on your way into a work day full of stress and challenge that won’t give you a moment to sit quietly and work through the shock. Words in this category today from a singer with a name that’s particularly apropos:

We’ve just been lonely too long

Nothing’s wrong that can’t be cured

With a new love

All you need is someone like me to

Be sure of, to be your love

~ “Lonely Too Long”, by Patty Loveless

Today has been a mixed bag of lyrics of me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all, to eke out whatever lesson is to be learned. So this post feels a bit unfinished because I have no profound conclusions to impart. But I hope that sharing this little bit of my mental landscape gives you something to ponder.

Mangled Lyrics 

I have always had a challenge with “ear worms”, songs that get stuck in your head and repeat incessantly. As a kid, I shared the joy of them with everyone by singing them loudly until I exhausted whatever malicious energy feeds them. But as an adult I have to be conscious of the fact that that extremely annoying habit might induce aggression or get me committed as insane. 

So I learned a long time ago that I can usually kill an ear worm by replacing it with a go-to song that my brain finds comforting and non-invasive. I let that song play in my head, a little louder than the other, and let its rhythm overtake the other. Something about that process flips the off switch and I can generally get on with my day or relax enough to sleep. 

I say this usually works, because sometimes it doesn’t. When I’m particularly stressed, for example, and the insidious song is somehow connected by my brain to the stressor, even that trick is unreliable. 

And now, to accompany the extreme stress and anxiety I’m experiencing from the elections, comes the fresh hell of ear worms of mangled lyrics that tie the songs and stress even closer together. 

No peace within, no peace without. Joy. 

For a week now (at least since the election), I’ve had a soundtrack of alternating song snippets punctuating my every waking moment. First up is my brain’s twisted version of the refrain from “Everything is Awesome” by Tegan & Sara from the LEGO Movie, only its “Everything is Awful” over and over again. Followed closely by a version of Fun’s “All Alright”, in which my brain supplies slightly modified and completely accurate lyrics of “It’s not alright, no it’s not alright, it’s such a mess inside of my head and I’m not alright. No it’s not alright, no it’s not alright, I’ve got nothing left inside of my chest and I’m not alright.”

So that’s fun. 

I can’t decide if my brain is trying to help me or kill me. Maybe it’s an affirmation of my feelings, a biochemical validation that’s supposed to help me through until I am alright? Or maybe it’s just one more layer of stress and awfulness designed to make my head explode. I don’t know. 

But my go-to, ear worm-killing, comfort song* isn’t helping. And the peaceful moments alone that I desperately need to still the screeching static in my head are infiltrated with these ceaseless songs.   

I need a new trick to turn off the unwanted music.   

*I can’t say what it is or its power will fade, like Samson and his locks of hair…or something. 

29 Days: Top 5

Today was a very long day. It was full of fast-paced decisions, on-the-spot demands, and unexpected executive pinch-hitting. I acquitted myself well and am satisfied with the outcome. Professional satisfaction is a good thing about today. 

But another good thing about today was an unexpected non-work discussion with a work friend I only get to see in person once a year or so. A few years ago we were joking with each other and, to razz her a bit, I responded to her completely irrational attack on the merits of Fleetwood Mac’s music by vowing Stevie Nicks to be the world’s best singer. My friend reminded me of that silliness today. After disabusing her of the idea that I really meant what I’d said (she’s one of the greats, but not the greatest), we debated our choices for our personal top 5 favorite female singers. All jokes aside, I like where I landed. My choices are all about voice, not looks, writing talent, band, or off-stage personality. Just who’s voice do I like to listen to? Here’s my list:

  1. Madonna 
  2. kd lang
  3. Sarah McLachlan
  4. Stevie Nicks
  5. Patsy Cline

Who’s on your list?

Quick Hits

Just a few odds and ends to round out the weekend:
  • I spent today watching cheesy made-for-TV movies with my sister-in-law. We hung out in our PJs, had sandwiches. Chatted about nothing. Hollered at the idiots on TV about to get clobbered by the obvious villain standing behind them. Laughed at the absurdity. Thoroughly enjoyed the hokeyness of it all. It was a wonderful Sunday. 

  • I like Talenti Sea Salt Caramel gelato a lot. The little caramel truffles inside are a good bonus. 
  • I may not be a marketing expert, but I am an experienced consumer and I know what I like. I also know what I don’t like and what’s insulting. The trend lately among advertisers to insult intelligence, appeal to base emotions and rely on the grossly absurd to “boost” their brands is infuriating. And only makes me NOT buy their stuff.  I mute the tv or change the channel to avoid the worst of them. But stupid commercials proliferate and I’m over it. 
  • Harry Potter books on CD are soooo addictive. That’s all that plays in my truck. Just about to finish Prisoner of Azkaban…again. I love these stories (except Order of the Phoenix, which I despise as the most unfair, frustrating book ever written), but the more I listen to them, the more questions I have. Chiefest among them is: why does no one talk to each other in this world? I know, I know…tension, story arch, yada yada yada. Still, tell me that Harry wouldn’t have been better off if Lupin hadn’t explained his relationship to James and their boyhood shenanigans during one of those dementor sessions, rather than waiting for Harry to do something desperate! (Yes, I know, I’m a bit too invested in a children’s story for a grown butch. So sue me.)
  • My iTunes shuffle is getting stale. I need new music, but haven’t heard anything I really like. What’s the best way to find good new music?

Important songs

Writing 101 day 3 begins a commitment to write for at least 15 minutes every day. Today I’m supposed to free-write about the three most important songs in my life and what they mean to me.

Free writing is more difficult than you’d expect, if done without cheating. I’m supposed to just keep writing and not stall to re-read, edit, or think about what’s supposed to come next or correct anything. That goes against the thirty years of habit I’ve developed, from high school to today. But I’ll try.

I don’t know if I know which three songs are most important to me and why. Music, as I’ve written before, is critical to my happiness. But judging which song is most important for any given reason is something I’ve never really thought about.

Off the top of my head, I’d say one song that has had a significant presence in my life is the hymn “Amazing Grace “. Not only was it my mother’s favorite and often heard floating from her lips whenever she was busy or concentrating, it was the basis for many choir exercises, youth group sings, and church services in my youth. It was sung at weddings and funerals and holiday gatherings. I’ve heard its core structure in many other songs. Its message is uplifting and comforting. But its ubiquity has given it a secondary meaning, made it an integral part of the fabric my life’s story.

Another song that has already begun to root itself into my life’s story is a pop song from an Australian band, A Simple Plan, called “Jet Lag”. My Lulu introduced this song to me ale hen we first started dating, because it reminds her of us. The song is about a couple separated by long distance and many time zones and their struggle to get back to one another. The refrain’s complaint that “you say good morning when it’s midnight” and “time zones making me crazy” are so spot-on to Lulu’s and my difficulty being separated by 9,000 miles and 15 hours, makes this song particularly appropriate for us.

And, finally I’ll choose John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” as the third. I loved the song as a kid when I heard it on the radio, because it is a simple melody in a range my voice could cover comfortably. And it was a change from the country music I had to listen to with my parents. But then, last year I sang it to my Lulu during a Skype date, while sitting on my front porch enjoying a spring evening. The simple pleasure of having a quiet moment together and singing a love song to my girl fixed that song in my heart as a favorite and, I’d guess, one of the most important in my life.

My music

I’ve heard others comment on the musical quality of someone’s voice. And music has long been used as a comparison device for any number of romantic or sentimental notions. People wax poetic, many with great skill of description, imbuing their prose with lyrical grace as they speak of the moving, restorative, healing, calming and spiritual power of music and their love’s likeness to this musical miracle.

I find myself drawn to these comparisons and metaphors, as well, because music is so fundamentally moving. It’s universality can connect people from polar opposite demographics and walks of life. People who can’t even speak the same language, can often find common ground in the music they experience together. And the emotion, the artistry and spiritual expression in some music, sometimes not even intentional by the composer or performer, stirs the soul in ways no other stimulus can.

Except for love.

That’s why love and a lover’s voice is so often compared to music, a symphony, the melody, harmony and soundtrack of the soul. Love and music reach to the deepest depths of our being and move, motivate and transform us in unique and fundamental ways. Love and music are elemental forces that work on a level that requires no language and is independent of conscious influence.

That’s what my beloved is to me.

She is the music, the symphony of my soul, the melody that accompanies the progress of my life. Her voice stirs my emotional response like no other’s voice can. Hearing her sing makes me happy. Every. Time. The sound of my name and her terms of endearment for me from her lips is a welcome, motivating drumbeat that can’t be recreated by anyone or anything.

I’m so thankful for the blessing my Special Femme is in my life. She is the light, the joy, the blessing that immeasurably enriches my life. She is the symphony of home and heart that calls to me, moment by moment, day by day, regardless how many miles lie between us.

My Lulu is the music of my soul.

Thankful for…music

As blessed as my life is, I still do experience a significant amount of stress from my job and…life. One of the most effective ways for me to deal with stress is to listen to music. Indeed, I generally have a song or three running through my head at any given moment. It’s like a soundtrack for my life. 🙂

Aside from stress relief, I find that music helps work go more quickly and blocks out distractions. Depending on the task at hand, just about any kind of music will do (excluding spoken-word and rap, which too easily distract me): classical, rock, alternative, folk…you name it! The breadth of sound and nuance of expression transport my mind away from the pressure of the day or the stress of the task, and free my brain to think more clearly and creatively.

Also, also, plus, and…I’ve recently discovered a whole new level of meaning in the lyrics of some songs. Since discovering first hand what it’s like to love completely and be loved in return (I know, eeeew with the mushy!), certain songs now have a layer of significance I was previously incapable of understanding. Those meaningful songs now punctuate my day with bright little spots of musical joy and make me smile while I think of Special Femme.

I’m thankful that so much amazing music exists in the world, that it’s accessible to me, and that I have healthy ears with which to listen to it.

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