the significance of songs

Earlier this week, Dolores O’Riordan died. She was the lead singer in an Irish band called The Cranberries. Several of my favorite musicians and singers have died in the past couple of years, and several much more influential on me than Ms. O’Riordan. However, her death flooded my mind with memories, and the realization that for me, music is a marker of time, experiences, and emotions.

In 1993, I embarked on a one-year journey to study abroad. For those of you who are too young to remember a time before cell phones and WiFi: this was a BIG DEAL. Young people taking off around the world with only hand-written letters stuffed in envelopes and MAILED, with a stamp; and occasional, expensive phone calls to keep in touch…parents NOT really stressing-out for lack of up-to-the-minute photojournalistic updates BECAUSE THERE WAS NO SUCH THING. . . ahem. Sorry. I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah. . . so, equipped with a cassette-playing powder-blue Sony walkman, (that hyperlink is for the youngins again) a few mix tapes (young folk may have to look that up, too), and my one bag of clothing, I set off for a year at a university in France. First stop before reporting to university: the home of a friend who was an exchange student in my high school.

The first day I awoke in France, I lingered in bed a bit, unsure of whether anyone else was awake (turns out it was afternoon already–oops). I took a moment and plugged in my headphones, pushed “play” on the walkman, and Dreams was first in queue (lyrics here). As I looked out over the impossibly narrow street, observing vehicles smaller than I’d ever seen in the U.S. (we did love our big cars), listening to the chatter of another language waft up to my window, those first lines struck my very core:

Oh, my life is changing everyday,
In every possible way.
And oh, my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems,
Never quite as it seems.

MY life was changing. Right then. In that moment and for all the moments to follow. I couldn’t have dreamed anything like this, yet there I was. In truth, my life had all been changing all along, but I hadn’t paid attention the way I did right then. Those lyrics called me into an awareness I’d never quite appreciated before. The lyrics were powerful, and that year-long exchange experience would be marked by that one song.

You know, I watched this TEDx talk not too long ago; at the beginning, Wayne talks about his the way he recalls things as being linked to movies that he watched. And I thought, “Oh, good. I’m not the only one whose mind works like this.”

I wonder: If I made a playlist of my life’s moments, what would it reveal? What would yours? I would love to hear what would be on your playlists!

I just used my SMARTPHONE to snap this image of a photo in my album. Haha! That’s nuts. When I was young, I would see a photo like this and say: Wow, that’s looks old-timey. Now MY kids are saying that about me and my photos of my past. . Dammit! Anyhow, this was the view from my bedroom in my friend’s apartment. What a change that was!

#pinterest #goodthings #fail

I have a Pinterest account, but I’m rarely on it. I should be. I own a photography business, so I really should be. . . but I’m not. I mean, who needs it? I am that person who made post-worthy birthday parties before there was a way to “post” anything at all. Hell, Hedwig (a Harry Potter reference) levitated in my dining room during a wand-choosing wherein party guests had to find the wand for them (“…the wand chooses the wizard, Harry…”). Sometimes Hedwig levitated, sometimes she didn’t…and that bunch of 6-year-olds were awestruck! Yeah, I do pretty all-right without Pinterest. Yet sometimes . . . sometimes I venture onto the site and use an idea.

If you and I are connected via social media, you may have seen this photo on New Year’s Day:


along with the accompanying text: “On 1-1-2017, we put this container in our kitchen and encouraged everyone to write down something good they experienced at least once a week. Today, I have emptied that jar and we will read them together. I can’t wait!”

This sounds great, right? I thought so, too. I thought this would be a great way to gain insight into my family. . . to learn what’s important to each of them. I envisioned going through, each of us choosing a square, unfolding it, and wistfully sharing the Good Things we’ve written. Yeah, well, so much for that. Let’s start with some immediate observations:

  • I seemed to be the one who actually stuck to the practice most faithfully
  • I really love camera club
  • I really love my French conversation groups
  • my spouse’s ‘good things’ mostly centered around only things that I did (this might be for another post–or for therapy, I’m not sure)
  • it appears I favor my eldest kid

Yeah. So, let’s take a look at that last one. Let me just say: my eldest lives away from home (he wasn’t around for the reading) and every time I saw him was, indeed, treasured time. But here’s the thing: it isn’t as though moments with my other kids weren’t mentioned or equally treasured, it’s just for some reason, they were written in more general terms, like “A house full of teenagers!” or “Seeing siblings engaged in meaningful conversation.” Now, had we had the session I envisioned–you know, the one where we share the story behind each thing written–the trio would have learned that they, too, had a fair amount of mentions. But no. Mentioning my eldest by name seemed disproportionate, even to my own ears. I noticed the kids’ enthusiasm quickly subside, and their exit was swift after the last paper square was read. #awkward #fail #mykidswillneedtherapy

Well, we put that jar back on the counter with the intention of doing it again this year. My spouse and I both proclaimed lessons learned and vowed to be particularly aware of what we write. That seems odd, though, doesn’t it? Does monitoring what I write change the intent of the practice? Shouldn’t I just write what genuinely made the day or week good? By changing my thought, I change what I write. By changing what I write, I change the authenticity of the sentiment . . . and then, somehow, it’s no longer “real.” And NOT being real . . . well . . . that’s just not a Good Thing.