Music has a way of bringing me back to myself in the most unexpected ways.
It’s not that the effect of it is unusual; I have to believe that it happens to most of us. Humans have been making and sharing music to express our joys and sorrows since we decorated our first caves. It’s just that when it happens it’s usually at an unexpected time. When I was a teen I’d sit around for hours poring over music, embedding into my core, infusing it with whatever teen drama was occurring at the time. Over the course of my life I’ve had a soundtrack develop, evolve, and guide me through some spectacular highs and unbearable lows.
Tonight one of the women in my TRX class started singing along when Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself began playing halfway through our torture session. She’s about 5’4″ with all white hair that was swept up in a pony tail. Her face is accented by a pair of heavy black framed glasses. She wears oversized tie die t-shirts and sweat pants that come to her knees and reveal a ankle tattoo. As she sang a sly smile crossed her face. At once I could see that the song sparked memory. We shared a glance and I smiled conspiratorially in return.
It was Unexpected.
Yesterday I was listening to Dierks Bentley’s latest album, The Mountain, when the song Living came on. At first it was just background noise but then at some point I started listening. Then I heard the words. And finally I felt them.
Some days you just breath in
Just try to break even
Sometimes your heart’s poundin’ out of your chest
Sometimes it’s just beatin’
Some days you just forget
What all you’ve been given
Some days you just get back
And some days you’re just alive
Some days you’re livin’
“Living” Dierks Bentley, 2018
What made this unexpected—and not so unexpected, Riser is one of my go-to songs for when I’m deep in the emotional shit and need a pick me up so of course Dierks would do it again, his entire album The Mountain is basically my Arena Anthem soundtrack FFS—was that I was working and thus not really paying attention to the music.
On Sundays I drive for a meal prep company, dropping off pre-made meals all around the metro area. I don’t have much time between Google Maps yapping at me to turn in 600 feet to listen to the words of anything. Usually I just tune them out and go with the beat.
But then something Unexpected happened. The words about just breaking even, about just being alive, just barely breathing, they jumped inside me and made me put the song on repeat.
You see, for the past three, naw, more than that, for a lot longer than I wanted to admit I was just breathing, just being alive. Compounding that is a freak disease that restricts my airway and makes it hard to breathe. I’ve hand seven surgeries to open it up thus far. Nothing (or so I thought) could feel as isolating as the sound of your own haggard breathing whilst you sat still. Further fuckery to my life plan was being the target of a cyber harassment attack and the resulting chaos, isolation and soul crushing fear that ensued.
Sure, in the past three years I’ve gone places and experienced highs that have left marks on my soul—like seeing the Rolling Stones perform in Havana, breathing in the air at the top of Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest 14er, adopting my threegle and most snuggly beagle Ella Jane, finding my true tribe—but it’s all been overshadowed by this constant fear of losing it all over again. This year I’m finally feeling like I’m living a little more, feeling a little more trusting, letting myself get out in the world without a sense of paralyzing dread.
As I’m driving and feeling this song all of my fears, worries, doubts, mourning and anxiety bubbled up. But they didn’t consume me as they normally would. I just… was. In a flash I saw me the past three years. And I saw how fucking brave I’ve had to be to stay alive through it all. And I started crying. Not tears of fear, of worry, of self doubt. But tears of oh my lord I am a MF bad ass and no one can tell me any different.
It was Unexpected.
I’ve been avoiding writing a lot lately. So much so that it’s causing anxiety for me. Writing is one way for me to organize and understand my thoughts. Not all of this may make sense to you but you certainly wouldn’t understand a damn thing if you could hear them wobbling around inside my head. Not writing is hard for me. Not wanting to write something, anything, is downright painful.
One of my clients, who is a therapist of sorts, recommended that I spend time actively avoiding writing instead of passively avoiding it. She said spend an hour a day avoiding it and see what shows up in your dreams. She never said it would show up when I was awake.
Whatever it is, it’s Unexpected.
Like you never die
Blues a little bluer up in the sky
Your highs a little high
You feel that fire you’ve been missing
Some days you’re living’