One Year After the Boston Marathon Bombing

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.

In the past year, we have seen courage, resilience, and acts of compassion that far outweigh the heinous horrid acts committed that day.

Next Monday, the 118th Boston Marathon will take place. Many of the spectators, volunteers and runners who were injured will be watching. Many of them will even be running, some on new prosthetic legs, including Heather Abbot.

Today, in memory, I repost my piece “As a Runner I Will Run (Thoughts on Boston).”

It’s been a while since I’ve gone for a run; I haven’t run since I said goodbye to Spot. But today seems like a good day to start back. No, scratch that. Today is the perfect day to start back.

So today, and tomorrow, and next Monday, and the next . . . I will run.

As a runner, as a volunteer, as a spectator, as a human being, I will run.

I’ll be Running — you guessed it — on Sober.

***

I had to do some soul-searching before deciding this – I didn’t want to take the spotlight away from Deanna or Josie who shared their “Life in Six Songs” yesterday. But they are both survivors–Josie is even in training for a 5k–I have a feeling they’d understand. But please do visit their post and then visit their blogs; they are phenomenal ladies.

***

As a Runner, I Will Run (Thoughts on Boston)

originally posted April 16, 2013

As a runner, I am devastated.

Of course, simply being human makes me sad–my eyes take in images from the news, my ears hear over and over again the sounds of explosions and people screaming–of course, we are all sad. But this. As a runner, I feel this in my gut, and there is a mournful, wailing, angry force that pulls and constricts and tortures my insides. “This could have been you,” it taunts again and again in my ear, “this could have been you.”

And in a way, it was me.

As a runner, I have been there.

As a marathon runner, I have seen the crowds that gather to cheer and support running loved ones. I have high-fived eight-year old boys gathered along the side-lines. I have smiled gratefully at their moms standing behind them– “thank you!” I try to squeak out after miles and miles of exertion have stolen my voice. I have taken cups of water from volunteers lining the roads. I have given thumbs-ups to medical staff as I trotted by their tents. I have found inspiration from law enforcement working the races–even comparing them to song characters afterward.

I have smiled at race photographers, hoping for that one decent race picture. I have “oohed” and “awwwed” and petted dogs belonging to race spectators. I have gratefully read every home-made sign intended to urge us runners along–even those “You’re almost there!” when we’ve still got ten miles to go. I have smiled and taken a banana from a four-year old girl with the softest looking curls of golden hair I have ever seen–and I don’t even like bananas. I have savored the final stretch of a long race, eyeing the finish line, then scanning the crowds for friends and loved ones, before calling up all of my remaining energy to simply cross the finish.

I have been there.

Getting ready to cross the finish line of my first half. That's me in the blue shorts. My dad took this photo.

Getting ready to cross the finish line of my first half. That’s me in the blue shorts. My dad took this photo.

At my very first half-marathon in Virginia, my dad wedged himself into a prime viewing spot at the finish line. He stood upon soundstage boxes, probably climbing over trash cans and barricades just to cheer me on. It was a big event, there were thousands of runners. I wasn’t among the first finishers, not even close. I was slow. He was at the finish for a long time waiting for me and cheering on the others. He would have been at the finish line at Boston too. He would have been waiting for me, probably for a long time. My mom, sick with cancer, was at home getting updates from my dad on the phone; she would have been at Boston though.

I am the Boston runner who mourns her father and her mother.

My husband was there during my first marathon. In fact, he was at each mile waiting for me during the last six-mile stretch; driving on ahead of me to meet me with a water bottle that I was too tired to carry. He would have been at Boston waiting for me too. I would have found him on the sidelines and hugged him before going on to finish.

I am the Boston runner who mourns her spouse and children.

True, I wasn’t at Boston, so I can only imagine the pain the runners of Boston are feeling. I can only imagine the “what ifs”:

What if I had run faster? What if I hadn’t stopped to used the bathroom? What if I didn’t have to keep stopping to tie my shoelaces? What if I hadn’t had cramps? What if I hadn’t walked, and then walked some more? What if I hadn’t deferred from the heat last year? What if I told them to wait at the hotel for me instead? What if my flight had been cancelled? What if the weather had been a little bit cooler, a little bit warmer?

What if I had seen something? What if I had said something?

What if I hadn’t run fast enough to qualify? What if I had listened to my doctors and not run on this bad ankle? What if I hadn’t stopped to pet that dog? What if I had? What if I hadn’t said “I love you.”? What if I had never decided to run Boston? What if I was just a slow, thirty-something, recreational runner with no shot of ever being fast enough to qualify for Boston, sitting at her dining room table wondering “what if I had been there?”

What if I had been there?

So many questions and so much sadness, so much anger at a senseless horrendous crime.

As a runner, I know those that ran Boston will never run another race again with the same innocence and excitement. Running has been altered forever in their lives. Some will stop running. Most will not.

Most runners will continue to run, because that is what we do. When we are faced with pain and confusion and questions and heartache and loss and anger, we run. Running is how we survive, running is how we cope.

As a runner, I am devastated.

As a runner, I will run.

Today, as a runner, I will run for Boston.

And tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, I will run. I will run for those that cannot. I will run for every volunteer, every spectator, every family member, every friend, every young child, and every dog that has ever lined a finish area. I will run with renewed gratitude for as long as I am fortunate enough to do so.

As a runner, I will not cower in the face of terrorism.

I will move forward, and I will run.

Life in 6 Songs: Vol. 6 (Deanna and Josie)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

We know that some of you may still be fiddling with your taxes and procrastinating to the very last minute. That’s okay! Put the receipts and checkbook away for just a moment, please stop crying, and jump into something a little more fun and engaging.

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! Christy, Jennie and I challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” That is the challenge we issued, and, my goodness, how you’ve responded! We are thrilled and grateful with how enthusiastically this series has been received. Thank you!

The series runs every Monday, through the end of September. You are welcome to check out our past volumes. We’re currently booked out several months, but If you want to join in, please do! We’ll find a way to feature everyone by the end of the series, even if we have to do a mega-volume or two. The submission form is HERE on Google DocsFeel free to ask us any questions in the comments below.

Our special guests this week are:

Deanna from My Muted Voice and Josie from The Miracle is Around the Corner. These ladies are awesome and we are so honored to have them share their personal stories with us. Please be sure to leave them some love in the comments, and stop by their blogs to say hello.

Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!

"Black White Music" by RomanceXGirl Via Deviantart.com

“Black White Music” by RomanceXGirl Via Deviantart.com, CC-3.0

~~~

Deanna (from My Muted Voice)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum

While I never actually ran away, this song describes my adolescence in the best possible way. I dreamt of running away, but mostly I just wanted to die. One day, I had had enough, when my mom threw me out of the car on the way to school. I walked the rest of the way there planning my suicide, but deep down that wasn’t what I wanted. I just wanted better, “normal”. So, I stopped at the counselor’s office and made the plan that if someone would actually listen and help, I wouldn’t go through with it, but if they just patronized me like everyone else, I’d just go home and kill myself. As you can see, I met a wonderful lady who saved my life.

“so tired that I couldn’t even sleep
 so many secrets I couldn’t keep
 promised myself I wouldn’t weep
 one more promise I couldn’t keep
it seems no one can help me now
 I’m in too deep
there’s no way out
 this time I have really led myself astray”

Song #2

Life in the Fast Lane” by the Eagles

Once I graduated high school, I moved out and finally had freedom — which is what you think you want until you realize that all that alone-time forces you to think too much. I needed a constant escape to forget the abuse, the life I wanted to leave behind. I worked in a strip club (even briefly as a stripper), acquired a drug habit and found love in an abusive relationship. Life was one, big, violent, drug-filled party.

“There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face
She pretended not to notice, she was caught up
in the race.”

Song #3

Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley

I moved away with a loser who did get me away from drugs, but too bad he liked to show me who’s boss. Finally, I got away from him too and this time found love with a wonderful man who became my first husband for all of the right reasons. We lived life to the fullest and had a great time doing it. Bob Marley, Dave Matthews and Incubus were always playing at our house. He was the first person to ever make me feel this way and it was the first time, my life was finally on the right track.

“Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
 Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!”

Song #4

Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

And then, it all went to shit, basically. My marriage fell apart and we were too young and I was too damaged to know how to save it, so I watched my life fall to pieces. This song followed me everywhere during that time and, looking back, I can see that although it was painful, it was a huge turning point in my entire life. This is when I would find myself and face my demons head on. This song is so powerful to me, I can barely hear it without tears welling up in my eyes.

“Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life?”

Song #5

The Resolution” by Jack’s Mannequin

And just when I figured myself out, I went on and married a man I had no business marrying. While I can see why I made other choices in my life, this one was just a mistake, plain and simple. When it was over, I was in a dark place emotionally, feeling like a failure. And then I realized that I was finally fighting for myself. I left him because he was another manipulating narcissist that I somehow kept finding myself with. I knew I needed to figure how to break the pattern.

“And you hold me down
And you got me living in the past
Come on and pick me up
Somebody clear the wreckage from the blast
I’m alive
And I don’t need a witness
To know that I survived
I’m not looking for forgiveness
Yeah, I just need light
I need light in the dark
As I search for the resolution”

Song #6

When You Got a Good Thing” by Lady Antebellum

When I least expected it, with the worst possible timing, right in the middle of my separation, I met my husband. He is by far, my light in the darkness. He’s taught me what love is, what trust is and what it means to be in a healthy, loving and passionate relationship. He’s the whole package and while I had to make so many mistakes to find him, it was worth every painful moment.

“Oh, I can’t believe I finally found you baby,
Happy ever after, after all this time,
Oh, there’s gonna be some ups and downs,
But with you to wrap my arms around,
I’m fine
So baby, hold on tight,
Don’t let go,
Hold onto the love we’re making,
 ‘Cause baby, when the ground starts shakin’,
You gotta know when you’ve got a good thing”

Song #7

Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai

No matter where I am, what I’m going through, music and dancing have always soothed my soul. For my bonus song, I think these lyrics do well at summing up my life, plus I’ve never been able to sit still while listening to it. Ever.

“I feel the thunder see the lightning
 I know this anger’s heaven-sent. …
 Hey- dancing nothing left for me to do but dance
Off these bad times I’m going through just dance,
Hey got canned heat in my heels tonight baby
 You know know know I’m gonna dance yeah
Off all the nasty things that people say.”

 

Deanna’s Playlist:

* Deanna is from Las Vegas, NV, USA but lives in Germany. She blogs at My Muted Voice.

~~~~

Josie (from The Miracle is Around the Corner)

Song #1: 

Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel

Come out Virginia, don’t make me wait
You Catholic girls start much too late

My name might as well have been Virginia, I was so the girl in this song! I was almost unbelievably innocent for all my childhood, into my 20′s, 30′s, in some ways I still believe that naiveté lingers on. I was a late bloomer in many respects, and my friends have endless tales on having to educate me in the ways of the world. Some days I am disgusted with myself for this quality, other days I am enchanted by it. Good or bad, though, it’s who I am!

Song #2:

Under Pressure” by Queen with David Bowie

Chippin’ around, kick my brains ’round the floor
These are the days – it never rains but it pours

And like any good, innocent Catholic girl, I put all sorts of pressure on myself throughout most of my childhood and beyond. Pressure to get the best grades, pressure to have a lifestyle that would be deemed suitable, pressure to get my degrees quickly, pressure to have and raise the best possible kids. In some ways the pressure served me well, and other times, it caused other issues to pop up …

Song #3:

Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode

And I just can’t seem to get enough of (…?)

… And one of those negative consequences … all or nothing thinking that led me down quite a few wrong paths, all of which led to excess. Excessive eating, drinking, you name it, if I liked something, I was all in, and most of the time those extremes led to further issues.

Song #4:

Show Me What I’m Looking For” by Carolina Liar

Save me, I’m lost
Oh Lord, I’ve been waiting for you
I’ll pay any cost
Save me from being confused

Most times this extreme thinking would eventually force me, one way or another, to re-examine and try something new. But the re-examination never went deep enough, and I would jump from one addictive thing to another in the hopes of curing what ailed me. During this turbulent period of my life, I kept thinking I had a handle on things, when really I just wasn’t asking the right questions. Until finally, the consequences of addictive behavior got so bad, I was forced to come to a screeching halt, and finally, FINALLY, get to the heart of the matter. Once I was given the gift of an accurate emotional diagnosis, I could, at long last, get on the right path…

Song #5:

Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine

Can you hear the horses?
‘Cause here they come

… And what a miracle it is to finally live in the solution, rather than the problem! Choosing the path of recovery from addiction solved more problems in my life than I even realized I had. It was like taking those first deep breaths after being underwater for too long … just pure, sweet relief!

Song #6:

I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash

I can see clearly now the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way

Life is simpler, calmer, easier, more vibrant, and just “do-able.” So far at least, it feels like no matter what comes at me, I have the tools to handle it. The girl from song number one would have never said that!

Bonus song #7:

I am Woman” by Helen Reddy

Oh yes, I am wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price, but look how much I gained

I really struggled with the bonus song, because there are so many great ones from which to choose. But I think Helen says it the best … all of my experiences, good and bad, have created the strong, beautiful, wise woman I am today, and it’s impossible to regret a single thing, because every life event brought me to the place of peace in which I reside. Life is good, and I am grateful for all of it, and most especially I am grateful for Christy, Michelle and Jennie for giving me this exercise. Thanks for the fun!

Josie’s Playlist: 

 

* Josie is from the eastern United States. She blogs at The Miracle is Around the Corner.

~~~

Thanks again for being our guests, Deanna and Josie!

Red (Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty)

Highway at Sunset via SparkleberrySprings

Highway at Sunset via SparkleberrySprings

 

The highway stretched ever forward into a setting sun. Sparks of gold and ruby red melted across the sky.

“My colors! I must text the wedding planner!” she said, stretching across the seat.

 

They found her phone in a pool of blood, ruby red.

Her lifeless arm stretched ever forward.

 

***

Written in part with The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty. (For this week’s challenge, you must write a fifty-word story. Not five thousand, not five hundred, but precisely fifty words.)

***

 

Dummy (Free Write)

My mind is a strange place. I keep most of the strangeness hidden from others, but where is the bravery and authenticity (and fun) in that? So let’s dip our feet into the strange murky waters and hope that nothing decides to bite our toes, shall we?

This is a free-write from a couple months back. You’re welcome to psychoanalyze it. I have a few theories, but like dreams, free writes can draw from multiple moods and experiences and dark corners, so who knows. It was one, when done, I looked at and said, “where the fuck did that come from?!” Oh yeah, grittier language than usual in this one, just a heads-up.

***

Dummy

This repeated image of a car crash dummy running over and over again into a wall.

Go ahead. Smile and wave. Pay no attention to the road ahead. (via)

Go ahead. Smile and wave. Pay no attention to the road ahead or the big brick wall waiting for you. (via)

One of those crash test dummies smiling through the window waving at me in the observation room – the rows of plastic chairs like pre-school chairs – heavy red and blue plastics – some of the edges snagged and jagged like a dog’s chew toy. Who chews on a plastic chair? Especially in pre-school? The chairs that crick and crack and are always uneven, rocking back and forth, so you fold up a tiny wad of paper – fold, fold, fold, and stick it under the shorter leg which is all well and good until you breathe and your weight shifts and the chair slips off again and instead of trying again you say, “fuck it, I’m done beating my head against the wall. It breaks every single god-damned time and I’m tired of throwing my back out just to sit here watching a dummy beat its head against the wall over and over again reminding me over and over again that I am a quitter, every time, over and over again.

The dummy crashes again.

Looks at me and waves.

Its head lolling off to one side, neck severed by crunched metal, radio station playing Johnny Cash. I have, been ungrateful, I’ve been unwise … Let my spirit be unchained. Dummy looking at me, waving, ready to go again, over and over again, as if to say,

“Is that all you got? ‘Tis but a scratch!”

And me, I sit in my crooked chair and laugh,

“I have got to fix this chair. It’s driving me fucking crazy.”

Dummy grins.

Crash, bam, thank you ma’am.

Its heart popped out of its plastic chest on that last impact.

Sits flopping on the floor at my feet, like a purple puffy blowfish, swollen and ugly

and broken.

I pick it up. It’s squishy and sweet-smelling, like grape Hubba Bubba chewing gum, in my fingers–

I chew on it some. Suck the liquid sugar out of it until it dries up–

foldable, malleable.

I fold it into an origami bluebird, maybe more of a starling. And stick it under my plastic chair’s wobbly leg.

And it fits perfectly.

As I sit back down to watch the carnage unfolding before me–

the dummy crashing

over and over again.

As I sit in my plastic chair,

and feel the heart

still beating–

faintly–

at my feet.

I haven’t quite let it die

or maybe it just

won’t

die.

It squishes under my chair leg,

My shoes are stained with blood and muck,

But now they smell like grape Hubba Bubba too

So I don’t mind.

Do you?

***

Nods to Charles Bukowski and Johnny Cash.

“Unchained” by Johnny Cash

***

So who is the dummy and who is the observer? Are they separate or the same? Do you chew gum? Do uneven chairs drive you batshit-crazy too? What’s one of your pet peeves? 

Oh! Did you happen to see last Friday’s post on WordPress.Com News on what niche bloggers can do to drive traffic to their site? If not, be sure to check it out. Running On Sober got a very nice mention (thank you, Krista and editors!). And thank you friends and readers for your support and loyalty. Here, have some chewing gum. Ummmm. On second thought, let’s stick with the Fritos.

 

Life in 6 Songs: Vol. 5 (Sheena and UnPickled)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

That is the challenge we issued, and, my goodness, how you’ve responded! We are thrilled and grateful with how enthusiastically this series has been received. Thank you!

Some quick housekeeping:

We are currently booked out through September. We’d still love for you to participate, but please know it may be a while before we can feature your soundtrack. We don’t want to dissuade you though, because we may have some cancellations, but we wanted to give you that heads up. If you want to join in, please do! We’ll find a way to feature everyone by the end of the year, even if we have to do a mega-volume or two. The submission form is HERE on Google Docs.

If you have already expressed interest, you should have received an email from either me, Michelle or Jennie to the email associated with your comment. If you haven’t, check your spam folder; and if you still haven’t, shoot me an email at runningonsober at gmail, as we may have an old address for you. Feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below.

Okay, back to the challenge:

If you are a new visitor, welcome! Michelle, Jennie and I challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” The series runs every Monday, at least through September. You are welcome to check out our past volumes.

Our guests this week are:

Sheena from Not a Punk Rocker and Jean from UnPickled. I happen to think they’re both pretty awesome, and I love their raw and honest (and often very funny) posts. I’m so happy to have Sheena and Jean here today! Please be sure to leave them some love in the comments, and stop by their blogs to say hello.

Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!

Via Pixabay.com, public domain.  http://pixabay.com/en/compact-cassette-musicassette-mc-157537/

You remember these, right? Everyone better say yes. How about using a pencil to spin the little dials around? Via Pixabay.com, public domain.

~~~

Sheena (from Not a Punk Rocker)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

When I Fall in Love” by Nat King Cole

The good memories I have of my childhood were in the sanctuary of my grandparents’ house. Seeing certain items remind me of those days, but specific smells and music really put me back in those moments. This reminds me of being there, listening to Frank, Rosemary, Mel and Etta on their 8-track player.

With these artists, I could concentrate on the voices and how they worked with the big bands and orchestras vs. a cacophony of synthesizers.

Song #2:

Rain on the Scarecrow” by John Cougar Mellencamp

I remember the video for this song and the tie-in to Farm Aid. It was my first glimpse at using music to speak up for a cause, and it caught my attention because of the words and not just that I liked JCM at the time:

The crops we grew last summer weren’t enough to pay the loans
Couldn’t buy the seed to plant this spring and the Farmers Bank foreclosed
Called my old friend Schepman up to auction off the land
He said John it’s just my job and I hope you understand
Hey calling it your job ol’ hoss sure don’t make it right
But if you want me to I’ll say a prayer for your soul tonight

We Are the World” definitely had its message, but this one struck me hard. I grew up in a rural area where farms were getting to be few and far between. Thus began my first thoughts of “rebellion” in the name of causes and change.

Song #3:

Lake of Fire” by Nirvana

The Seattle sound hit it big when I was in high school, so of course everyone had to be “really into grunge”. My depression and other issues continued to get worse during this time (almost considered “Lithium” here). I was always questioning what was the point of life and started wondering if death was the only escape to it all.

Now the people cry and the people moan
And they look for a dry place to call their home
And try to find some place to rest their bones
While the angels and the devils
Fight to claim them for their own

This song, as shown on “MTV Unplugged”, was beautifully done. I wonder what music would be like today if Kurt Cobain was still here?

Song #4:

Closing Time” by Semisonic

This gets quoted whenever someone has a major life change, but there’s a reason why.

Every new beginning is some other beginning’s end.

So far we are still willing to let some things end in search of new beginnings even with the risk involved.

The line “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” also stands out because at some times, before and after having the kid, I didn’t always have a home to go to. Plenty of nights I was at the mercy of friends with couches.

I also considered “Everything Falls Apart” by Dog’s Eye View and “Bad Reputation” by Freedy Johnston.  I was lost–emotionally and sometimes mentally–during this time, and I was constantly having to explain where I was and how I got there.

Song #5:

Someone Saved My Life Tonight” by Elton John

I relate this song to the moments I did finally take that leap and leave an abusive relationship, and then years later a destructive one. With all that happened, I had those in my life who thought it was “better” to stay in these situations than be a single parent because of “how it looks”.

The someone who saved me? The kid. I’ve said before he didn’t even realize what he was doing, but without him I would have stayed. Looking out for his life saved mine.

Song #6:

Beyond the Sea” by Robbie Williams

Being near the ocean brings me a sense of peace and serenity; it also fills me with energy from the activity provided by nature: birds swooping, waves crashing, the tides shifting.

“Beyond the Sea” is a song about love and the sea, though not quite about love for the sea, but that’s OK. It evokes enough of an image, and that works for me. I think we figured out, I am meant to be near the water.

Maybe I’ll eventually find love again, maybe not. I know I will be OK either way.

I prefer the Bobby Darrin version, but when Finding Nemo came out in the theaters, my son was so entranced by the Robbie Williams version during the credits we ended up buying that one too.

Bonus Song #7 (If you could wrap up your life story in ONE SONG, or if you have a personal theme song, or even a song you want played at your funeral, what would that song be and why?):

Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon

This is off of the album The Wind which he kept recording as his health went into a drastic decline. My mother had time to plan her funeral, so we had to play “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” neither of which my brother or I can really listen to now 15 years later.

It will be up to my son if he wants to have a funeral for me or not (it’s about his needs at that point, not mine,) so if he wants music this would be a good one to play.

Sheena’s playlist:

* Sheena blogs at Not a Punk Rocker. She is from Virginia.

~~~

Jean (from UnPickled)

Song #1: 

Let It Be” by the Beatles (The 70′s, my childhood)

I am seven and visiting my uncle’s farm, where my six older cousins represent all that is cool and worldly. They know how to ride horses, drive tractors, bake bread, and play guitar. I want ever so much to grow up and have breasts and be like them. One afternoon I come into the house — To pee? To steal a fresh bun from the counter? It had to be something important to bring me inside from their glorious farmyard of hiding places, hay bales, animals, and freedom – and I hear someone playing guitar and singing a song–a real song–not a church song but a song from the radio, “Let It Be.” I am fascinated. I did not know a person could just pick up an instrument and start playing and singing a Beatles song. The unimaginable had just become possible. It’s the first time I realized I can just DO things, and anything is possible. I sit at her feet and worship. I am hooked for life on music and possibilities.

The girls in this video remind me of her playing that day:

Song #2:

Be My Number Two” by Joe Jackson (The 80′s, high school and falling in love)

I’m seventeen and every song perfectly describes my life somehow. Every party has its own soundtrack, every drama is summed up by a lyric, and I have time to listen over and over again to the cassettes in my Sony Walkman while I brood and write and wait for my life to begin. I fall madly in love with a be-mulleted blonde named Ross who arrives in my Grade 12 social class like a god from above. Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp cassette loops endlessly in his (second-hand) ‘77 Mustang and I learn every word to every song on the long drives out to his parent’s acreage for fondue suppers.

Jackson’s “Be My Number Two” breaks my heart with its opening piano riff and perfectly sad lyrics. I can’t possibly know that thirty years later Ross and I will still be together – children grown, grandchild on the way, loving and grateful for one another. Our life will not be perfect, yet all we dream of and more.

Song #3:

Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (The 90′s, which I missed entirely)

I am a young mom with three sons in four years. I am exhausted, anxious, and intent on doing things right. My husband and I own a business, but I do most of my work from home between play dough, play dates, and play school. I wear the same pair of denim overalls every day. One day I hear that rock legend Kurt Cobain has died and I have no idea who he is. They say he created the grunge movement and I don’t know what that is, either. I know all the lyrics to the Aladdin soundtrack and every song on the Sharon, Lois, and Bram cassette in my green minivan, but I am completely out of touch with the world. I am most upset to realize that Nirvana’s big hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a mystery to me. ME! The queen of music and lyrics has become lost inside my own home. Years later, YEARS later, I will seek out “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to see what I missed: “Here we are, entertain us!” Ooooooh, THAT song. Well, I know THAT song. I just didn’t realize THAT was the song.

Song #4:

Short Skirt, Long Jacket” by Cake (The New Millenium, career years)

Our kids are all in school, and I have my days free to take on the world. I burst out of the gates from early mommyhood into the fresh air of a world that is all about me from 8 AM -3 PM daily. I send the kids off on the school bus and await them when they return, but in between I am taking on the world and doing every job, task, opportunity and challenge that comes my way with a voracious appetite for achievement and success. I am the girl in the “short skirt and the long jacket,” touring the facility and picking up slack. Instead of pulling me aside and making gentle inquiries as to my mental health, the world reinforces my over-achieving behaviour and I receive impressive awards, news coverage and even make the cover of a national magazine. I love my life and manage to keep my insecurities and weaknesses under wraps, hidden from the world. I begin the innocent habit of sipping wine at night to take the edge off and cuddle with my kiddos and handsome husband to watch some family tv, and I feel like life is as perfect as it can be . . . but something dark looms.

Song #5:

The Obvious Child” by Paul Simon (Settling into my 40′s . . . and myself)

Some people say a lie is just a lie and I say, “Why deny the obvious, child? Why deny the obvious, child?” I share this song to represent coming to terms with how my perfect, fabulous, amazing life was slowly going off the rails. How could something be so wrong when everything looked so right, was heralded as good, and fit the mold of success and perfection? I had developed a slow and steady dependence on alcohol that was quietly becoming a burden and despite my daily heroics of being utterly excellent at everything. I was crumbling with the shame of this terrible secret. A lie is just a lie. Why deny the obvious? I needed to quit, so I quit. No one knew my secret – that I was an alcoholic OR that I had quietly gotten sober.

I started to write about it [at her blog UnPickled] and talk about it [on The Bubble Hour - a podcast Jean co-produces] and now, well, the world knows.

(PS – Paul Simon is a genius – every song he write is perfect lyrically and musically. Every single song. Download Graceland and close your eyes while you listen to that whole album. Genius.)

Song #6:

Hold On” by Alabama Shakes (The future…)

Late 40s, soon to be a granny, I am a sinewy old girl who fights for my good health. I’m not a natural beauty but I know how to fluff my hair and wear mascara and I clean up pretty well. In the summer months I run the hillside paths near my home – and by run I mean shuffle and sweat to music. Everything about this song makes me smile – the abandon that Miss Brittney plays and sings with, the perfect bass line, the crisp lyrics, and the message. C’mon girl, you gotta get back up. You gotta hold on. I have another 40 or so years ahead, and I’m embarking on the next chapter with all of the skill and energy that propelled me in the past, plus all of the perspective and healing that recovery has brought into my life. I wish this for everyone who hurts, who struggles, who fucks-up. Hold on. You gotta hold on.

Bonus song #7:

Company” by Rickie Lee Jones

Funeral song . . . teachable moment (ie, “The Dance,” “What a Wonderful World,” etc.) or blatant emotional fuckery? I’ll go for the later – I want audible sobbing at my funeral!

I’m going for “Company” by the fabulous Rickie Lee Jones (her 1979 album unlocked my words and soul – one of the great songwriters of our time)

I’ll remember you too clearly
But I’ll survive another day
Conversations to share
When there’s no one there
I’ll imagine what you’d say

Jean’s Playlist: 

* Visit Jean at her personal blog UnPickled , or check out her podcast The Bubble Hour. Jean is from Alberta, Canada.

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Thanks again for being our guests, Sheena and Jean!