Hello there, long time no write! I’ve been doing some new things with my days, and suddenly, I realized that I now have no time! I’ve really missed writing here, though, and I’m going to squeeze in whatever I can.
Today, I was listening to an old mix CD I had made in college. Yes, I’m old enough to have still used CD’s in college, but I did have an iPod too. It just had a tiny screen and lots of clicky buttons. And it weighed at least a pound. Anyways, I was listening to this CD as I drove around town, and I realized that the songs on that CD were not songs I had even thought about listening to in a long time. And then I quickly reminisced about all the other music that seemed to define my college years, and I had the sudden thought that the music we listen to regularly says a lot about who we are at that moment in time.
As I thought about it, I found that the idea that tied much of my college music together was anger. To give you a good example, during my first year of grad school, a dear male friend of mine took me to visit an old roommate and friend that had transferred to a college in North Carolina. She and I had both recently gone through difficult relationships with members of the opposite sex, and we needed some time to commiserate with one another. Our mutual friend who drove me up there now refers to this trip as the “angry girls” trip. The main feature of our visit was listening to Kelly Clarkson’s album, Breakaway, which is mostly a collection of angry or sad songs, most of them completely appropriate for after a big fight or a breakup. Our friend still cringes whenever he hears on of those songs. It may seem silly, but at the time I found in those songs a connection to the disappointment, pain, and anger that I was feeling just then.
And yet, if you had asked me to describe my attitude or feelings during those years, I probably would not have described myself as particularly angry. I don’t think I realized at the time just how much I was fighting against my circumstances and my own inner self. I was trying to define myself, trying to distinguish myself from my family, from my childhood, and from the rest of the people at the University. I didn’t know how to do it gracefully, so I beat about like a moth trying to escape a spider’s web. I also was finding that I wasn’t sure I liked some of my attempts at establishing my identity, and I think I was a bit at war with myself over who I would become. Nothing like an internal struggle to make you angry. I wondered, as I thought about it this morning, if perhaps I wasn’t as conscious of what was going on in my heart and mind because I had the music to tie into. Stick with me here. I really feel that the music had an effect on how I processed my emotions and circumstances. On the one hand, it helped me move along by giving me an outlet and a cathartic release for my emotions that might have stayed pent up inside me. So perhaps my angry music helped me move on from being angry more quickly. On the other hand, I know that sometimes the music just reinforced what I was feeling and allowed me to stay angry as I repeated the same liturgy of anger and depression over and over. In that sense, I was putting my feelings on repeat, just like I put the songs on repeat.
But what does this mean to you? Well, for one, if you are having a really bad day/week/month, and need something to help you get those feelings out, I can highly recommend that Kelly Clarkson album. But then, I also recommend you don’t do what I did, which is put your feelings on a constant loop of repeats. It’s one thing to be angry, or hurt, or sad, or afraid. Those are all legitimate emotions, and it is critical that you recognize, accept, and deal with them. The danger is when you allow those emotions to swirl around you and become the constant soundtrack of your life. Yes, belt out an angry song so you don’t build up emotional pressure. Go ahead and listen to a song that makes you cry when you need to let the sadness spill out. But then change the station, put on a new album, and listen to something that inspires you or puts a smile on your face. Soaring classical, the bubbliest of bubblegum, perky pop, something country that makes you want to Texas Two-Step (even if you have no idea what that really entails)…use the power of the music.
History and experience tell us that music has a profound ability to affect us. Isn’t that what we were just talking about? Music has the power to influence our moods, thoughts, and emotions. Remember King David, before he was anyone important, was boy with the gift of music. Back then he wore a tunic and played a harp. If he were around today, he’d probably have some kind of goatee and play a guitar. And guess what his job was, aside from being a shepherd – he was invited to King Saul’s palace for one thing – to play music and calm Saul down when he was on the edge of mental breakdown. And it worked! David played, and Saul felt better.
So think about it. What is the playlist of your life right now? How does it reflect your feelings or mood at this moment in your life? Furthermore, how does it affect your feelings or your mood? Do you need to turn the music up, or do you need to turn it off and finds something else to listen to?