When I was a girl, we had a red and white record player. I remember having just a few 45s and albums. With the albums, I’d play my favorite songs over and over, picking up the needle and counting over to the beginning groove of that selection. My family sometimes complained about hearing the same song repeatedly. Later, when there were 8-Track tapes, I’d punch in just the numbers of my favorite songs, and of course, I did the same thing when we switched to compact disc. There were many albums that I never heard straight through because I was so stuck on certain songs. I guess they were the soundtracks of my life.
I think about the soundtracks that I get stuck on now– depending on my mood or the issue I’m dealing with. When I headed out one evening for my first date, I happened to find an old Mary Chapin Carpenter CD in a box in the passenger seat. It was her album, Party Doll and Other Favorites and I’d forgotten I had it. I put it in the player and her voice rang out with “I’ll take my chances. I don’t mind working without a net.” That song, playing at that moment as I drove across town to meet him, empowered me. I said to myself, “I can do this,” even though dating after over forty years as a married woman– felt awkward.
“I’ll Take My Chances” became my song of power from that night on. Days later, when I was scammed by a man on one of the dating sites, I was so angry and felt foolish. I took a drive, playing that song repeatedly, still picking up the needle and going to that same groove. I righted my course, saying to myself, “It’s not my fault that others’ are dishonest and out to deceive.” There are risks with online dating, as with the old style of dating, and I wouldn’t be pushed down by a scammer, or anyone else.
“I’ll Take My Chances” became my kick-butt song that would be the soundtrack I’d play to help me through this time in my life.
There are times when the tune I need to hear is a song of silence. I remember when I went on my summer journey to Kentucky in July of 2016. I stayed 2 weeks at an artist’s residency about an hour from Lexington. I was the only one in residence and didn’t know how I’d handle those weeks by myself with no wifi and no television. But soon, I relaxed into the rhythm of that place and could hear the sounds of the environment: a distant rooster, cow mooing from a neighbor’s pasture, sound of the muffler on a passing car. Without the distraction of music or television chatter, I could hear myself think.
Later, I’d read on Wikipedia about entrainment that in the “biomusicological sense refers to the synchronization of organisms to an external perceived rhythm.” We humans match our rhythm to the sound around us. In that Kentucky farmhouse, I matched my rhythm to the rhythm of silence and found myself feeling more at peace.
It was a reminder that I could be more mindful about choosing that rhythm. Those choices impacted my mood. It occurs to me now that when we were swing dancing at the Elk’s Lodge on Sunday nights, our bodies moving to match the beat of the music was also entrainment. How those evenings of dancing boosted my mood, energizing me for the week ahead.
Sometimes, I need songs of faith to enhance my personal worship, carry me through a tough time, or to be a healing balm for my heart. Songs of faith are what came to me in April when we were called to Mama’s bedside at Parkview. We were so fortunate to be present for her last two days of life. Taking her hand, talking to her, I thought of how she always loved it when we would sing as a family– that is everyone but her. My older sister would play the piano and Daddy would pick out a favorite hymn. Mama would sit in a chair and listen but never sing– saying, “Y’all go ahead. You sound so good.”
Those final two days with Mama, songs kept floating to the surface that we’d sung years ago. Our voices helped to balance the sad sound of her labored breathing. Singing the words helped to anchor me as our lives were changing, saying goodbye to our dear mother, knowing this was our last time with her. Music helped me through those tough days.
Recently a friend emailed me to check in, see how I was managing through the divorce process. He’s been married a long time and said he couldn’t imagine going through that after forty years. He’s deeply faithful, a man of the cloth, but the darkness of depression sometimes pulls him down. When that happens, it’s hard for him to see the light; he’s in that slimy pit of mud and mire, trying to grab hold but can’t quite get his grip. That had been the case for him lately. He asked me for some word that would help him.
I wondered if in my emails and blog posts, I’d made things sound easier than they’d been. In my post, I can only briefly describe what I’ve gone through; the span of time is collapsed for the sake of a personal essay that’s around seven hundred words. I assured him that I’d had dark days like him when I wondered, “Why God?” and found it hard to have faith. There were days I couldn’t summon the words to call out to God; at those times, I turned to music to speak for me.
I shared with my friend the song, “Way Maker” written by Nigerian gospel singer, Sinach and translated into over 50 languages. I like the emotional, live performance of Darlene Zschech and William McDowell. That song has helped me with its lyrics and feeling to release my doubts and fears when I couldn’t find my way. I played it on Youtube many times over the past year and a half. I identified with the words:
“Even when I don’t see it, You’re working
Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working
You never stop, You never stop working”
That became the soundtrack of my days going through divorce. And I know that in future times of trouble, I will go back to that song because it was faithful to pull me up. I hope it will minister to my friend, who is hurting.
Those have been the soundtracks of my life. Now I wonder, what is the soundtrack of your life? Does that music boost the courage you need for this time? Does it pull you through your dark night of the soul? Is it an album of silence, helping your heart to settle down and your mind to clear?
Do you need to change to a new soundtrack to help you out of the old grooves you keep returning to? Is there music that you’ve never listened to that’s waiting for you now?
These are questions I’ve asked myself and I hope they’ll be of use to you.
May you find the soundtrack that helps you on your path– wherever it’s taking you.
Blessings to you all.