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?
10 hours ago