Sunday, May 07, 2017

The Power of Music

I spent last week holed up in my office painting the massive bookshelf my husband had installed while I was away in Ontario, so it was a good excuse to dig out some old CDs and take an auditory trip down memory lane.
That's not always a good idea, you never know what memory a song will trigger, and I'd forgotten what Jann Arden's self-title 2005 album sounded like -- and what I meant to me that year. When the second song, "Where No One Knows Me", came on, it was a blast from the past.
A blast right into the future.

When this album came out in 2005, my divorce was not yet final and my father was not yet in the nursing home. It was all going to happen -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- but the waiting was torture. So that song got played a lot that summer because it reminded me of leaving Vancouver and heading east to find happiness: Got my suitcase, got my dog, I'm packing up my life so far/Got my pictures, got some cash, I'm getting out of here at last.
Listening to this song fifteen years after that long drive across the country and I heard this line: Got my hands on the wheel, got my foot on the pedal/Gonna drive til I drop, til the tires turn to metal./Gonna sleep when I'm dead, gonna laugh like the devil/Gonna find some place where no one knows me.
And I'm like, How did Jann Arden write this song about my life? Now, as it was when I first heard it, it's like she was in the passenger seat of my car, keeping me company as I implemented my getaway plan: Go to Pugwash. This song captures precisely how it unfolded (even if a big part of me was still clingy and resistant).
How did she know?And this is why we love music, this is why we each have a soundtrack of memories that, no matter how good, bad or ugly, keep us coming back for more. Remembering is important, and memories have a power to strengthen our present.
Despite what I said earlier, it's not always a bad thing to allow a song to trigger unexpected memories years later; it's a way of dealing with the past but it's also, as in this case, an unexpected opportunity to celebrate how far you've come on that road. 

So I kept painting and I kept listening, and there was "A Perfect Day" with this line: You've gotta pull your head up, stand your ground and face it all/You've gotta hold your heart out to the universe/If you believe in who you are my shining star...All you weary, all of you on your own/Listen clearly, follow your voice back home...
The paintbrush hovered above the shelf, paused by my shock. I realized I'd been listening to this in that year. The year my divorce was granted and the year my father was admitted to a nursing home. How did she know? Okay, sure, there are other songs with the words "heart" and "home" in them at the same time but honestly,
two songs on one album,
in that year?
In the year before I would hold my heart out to the universe and find a home for it?

These songs were in my brain, in my veins, in the cells of my body as I let go of two men who broke my heart in such different ways, and as I met the one man who would put the pieces of that heart back together, with duct tape and wood glue.
I'm not calling Jann Arden a psychic or anything but it's remarkable to listen to the songs on that CD more than a decade later and be able to see the entire winding road that took me from packing up my life so far...and following my voice back home.
She's my shining star.

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