Tuesday, May 26, 2009

There'll be sad songs

Like most people I'm sure, there are songs that remind me of specific times and places in my life. When I hear those tunes on the radio, I am instantly transported. "Don't Speak" by No Doubt: to high school, the year DH and I started dating. "Come Away with Me" by Norah Jones: the three months that I worked at Bed Bath & Beyond as we prepared to move to St. Louis. "O" by Damien Rice: the bus tour of Ireland that we took with 30 retirees who shamed us with their ability to stay out late drinking while we collapsed in exhaustion in our beds. (Yes, that's beds plural. Apparently old people prefer not to sleep together, so all the rooms on the tour had twin beds. Either that or they were totally screwing with us.)

Sometimes it is just coincidence that marries a song with a moment, like the summer before high school when I was on a church trip to New York, and I was waiting to use a pay phone outside an Espirit outlet and heard "Tempted by the Fruit of Another" by Squeeze. I have absolutely no idea why that particular association has stuck with me all these years, but it's in there permanently now. Wasting valuable brain cells, obviously!

Most times, though, it is more intentional on my part. I love putting together collections of songs -- or what we called "mix tapes" back in the Dark Ages -- that become a soundtrack to a certain season or event. Yes, iTunes loves me, and the feeling is mutual.

When we were going through IF the first time, my iPod and CD player in the car were chock full of Patty Griffin, Damien Rice, and old Counting Crows. What my Dad would call "suicide music." (I completely disagree with that label, for what it's worth. He listens to talk radio, which makes me want to commit suicide more than any song I've ever heard, ever.) Anyway, there was an obviously melancholy quality to the music I listened to then. But it was comforting... like the artists understood the depth of pain that follows a failed cycle. They experienced it in a different situation (usually the end of a relationship) but we were going through the mourning together. We cried together and clung to hope for the future.

After Bean was born, I couldn't listen to those songs anymore. My heart just wasn't there... life was different. I didn't feel that pain and I didn't want to. I spent a year apart from Patty Griffin and her haunting lyrics, even though she was so crucial in getting me through treatments.

Luckily Patty doesn't hold a grudge, because I'm back at her door now. My CD player in my car still plays upbeat tunes as Bean and I happily cruise down the road. But my iPod has been refilled with the sad songs, which I listen to sometimes while doing chores as Bean naps. It's my continued effort to compartmentalize (which is still going pretty well by the way) and purge the sadness and fear in private, leaving me free to appreciate and enjoy my daily blessings.

I personally don't feel that listening to Tori Amos singing about how she's "cried a thousand oceans" increases my despondency. On the contrary, it's almost like a support group. Bottling up is SO not a good idea, and this way I can recognize my emotions, live with them for a moment, and then continue with my day. I can understand why some people don't get it, but really I believe it's healing for me.

So how about you? In your own life, do you find yourself influenced by music (life imitating art), or do you more often seek out music to fit your mood? What interesting song associations do you have?


  1. Great taste in music. I have trouble cleaning the kitchen without listening to dance music from the 80s. The songs, Imagine by John Lennon and White Wedding by Billy Idol remind me of my deceased brother.

  2. When we were TTC I needed to hear the lyrics to Rascal Flatts' song "Stand" before going to baby showers.

    "Cause when push comes to shove,
    you find out what you're made of,
    you might bend till you break,
    Cause it's all you can take,
    on your knees you look up,
    decide you've had enough,
    You get mad you get strong
    wipe your hands shake it off
    Then you stand"

    Even as I cried through parts of it, this song gave me the courage and inspiration to get up and go on and KNOW that somehow I could.

  3. LOVE your post!

    I'm more of a music-for-my-mood type girl. LOVE Jack Johnson or Norah Jones or other mellow stuff when I'm lesson planning or grading papers. LOVE 80's or other upbeat early 90's when I'm exercising or cleaning.

    Check out my blog when you get the chance, I'm nominating you for an award! :)

  4. Oh, I remember lying for hours on my bed as a teenager listening to music (often on repeat) and daydreaming of boys and the future.

    Now, I tend to listen to music based on activity and mood. Like upbeat of dancing around with Champ or cleaning. Slower, softer when reading or otherwise chilling. Not that much of the latter happends these days!

  5. I could relate to this post very well. Music is a huge part of my life. Don't Speak was my freshman year after my boyfriend broke up with me. The talk radio thing- ugh. That's my husband. I have so enjoyed introducing Luv Bug to music that wouldn't be considered regular kid music. I can't wait to teach about all different types of music.

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  7. I love Damien Rice, too. He puts on a good concert.

    Three of my IF songs were Constant Craving, Part of the Plan, and Gethsemane.

    I love your taste in music!

  8. Wonderful post! A couple songs from my past are "One Headlight" by the Wallflowers, that happened to be the theme song of my honeymoon, since we drove 14 hours to upstate New York and heard it no less than 50 times on that trip. Oh, I used to be a Tori Amos, Indigo Girls, Sara Mclachlin type girl. Now I go with my moods. I probably don't let myself 'go there' too often anymore with the big-time reflection stuff. When I do, I'm always surprised at how quickly the tears come.

  9. You do have great taste in music...proven by the many "mix tapes" that you have created for me over the years! Thank you for broadening my music horizons.

  10. Just me again...for some reason, AFD links you to a blank blog, from when I created a gmail account. So confused.

  11. Certain songs take me straight back to a moment, just like your Squeeze experience. And I've also had to say goodbye to artists for a while because of a difficult association. Sarah Mclachlan and I parted ways for a long time because she reminded me of a weird relationship from college. My main infertility song was One Moment More by Mindy Smith. Still makes me teary.

    B made me a mixed CD while I was pregnant with Z, and I'm sure I'll forever think of that time when I hear one in the future.

  12. You have great taste! I am a huge music-lover... in fact, I have a hard time accepting anything new, because I am so attached to my oldies from the 90's! ;)

    I listened to "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" by Iron and Wine during my IF journey, and still do. They lyrics remind me of a bird who cannot fly, which is what birds should do... and I related after my tubes were both removed- unable to be a mother again. Amazing how much music can move in us.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog! I love to see the familiar space needle pop up on your profile. Even though I am on the Eastside now...


  13. Definitely music-for-my mood.
    During treatments I listend to a lot of Dixie Chicks, even before their own IF troubles and songs about it.

    After my miscarriage(s) I listened to a lot of country. "my baby is gone" themed music took on a bit of a different meaning for me.

    In HS, I listend to a lot of Tori, though. Little Earthquakes probably kept me sane through those 4 years. I owe her a debt of gratitude, indeed.

  14. First, I have to say you had me at Turk & Karla.... :o)

    Thanks, new reader with a first comment! Returning the favor...

    Second this post intrigues me after reading the first paragraph. I'm waaaay past my bed time, so I'll be sure to come back tomorrow.

    Take care!
    P.S. Tell me your DVR has How I Met Your Mother, and we might be long lost twins. :o)


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