Life in 6 Songs: Vol. 20 (Liz and Teresa)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We 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 through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Liz from Living With Autism and Teresa from Grateful Rider. I met Liz last year after she stumbled across my “Grace” post. I clicked with her poet’s soul immediately, and I still marvel at how lucky I am to call this brilliant, soulful and artistic lady, a friend. I’m very grateful to WordPress for allowing our paths to cross … and I am glad to have crossed paths with Teresa too! She and I have a lot in common, (recovery, the South, and a love for animals) but I think we truly bonded over our shared love for Lyle Lovett; we’re both still peeved at Julia Roberts for breaking his heart all those years ago. (Let it go…I know…but still.) Please take some time to get to know both Liz and Teresa. You’ll be glad you did!

And . . . Join me in congratulating Liz on six years of sobriety! While Liz doesn’t self-identify as an alcoholic, she writes candidly–and oh so beautifully (Caroline Knapp, anyone?)–about the reasons she quit drinking six years ago, including health, care-giving, anxiety and what she called her ‘freight train’ days, in her July 19 post: “Autism and Alcohol: reflections on an anniversary.”

Drinking and smoking were part of an identity I had constructed; this was about being young, free and creative. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I might be using it to assuage anxiety or relieve stress.

It’s one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve read in a long while; I know you’ll agree.

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

"Lady Sings the Blues" by Anni Morris (avail to purchase via RedBubble)

“Lady Sings the Blues” by Anni Morris (avail via Redbubble)

~~~

Liz (from Living With Autism)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond           

I’m going to kick-off as the 1970s open at an (English) football match. After she left my dad, mum started taking me to watch Sheffield Wednesday on Saturdays; this was something she had done with her dad as a child and I think was a way of reclaiming her identity. Going to football matches was not something I wanted for my life, however; the only thing that made it bearable that summer was Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” playing over the loud speakers at half time. Something in the lyrics made me long to escape:  Ain’t nothin’ here that I’d care to take along (maybe a song).  I would be 18 before I could get away, but when I did, it was in a battered Renault 4 I named Rosie.

Song #2:

Isis” by Bob Dylan

When I left, at the end of the 70s, I was escaping a man as much as a place; looking back I am amazed at my younger self for having the wit and strength to run. What the relationship had gifted me, however, was Bob Dylan; while my peers had been pogo-ing to The Stranglers and The Damned, I’d been listening to Dylan’s back catalogue and poring over his lyrics. I would carry this legacy of music and poetry for the rest of my life. For years I assumed Johanna (after “Visions of Johanna“) as a middle name and I would call my son Dylan partly as homage. My son is 20 now and severely autistic without speech; I blog about living with autism at dylanandliz.wordpress.com.  I could easily write my life in seven Dylan songs but have limited myself to just this one:  for my daughter, Isis.

Song #3:

Shipbuilding” by Elvis Costello

At the start of the 1980s a friend played me Elvis Costello’s Get Happy.  I loved the album’s energy and Costello’s clever word play; with Steve Nieve on piano, EC and the Attractions were something special.  Costello did self-deprecation and joy but didn’t shirk from social commentary; Thatcher’s Britain may have been politically and economically challenging but it was exciting musically. I couldn’t find a clip I liked of “New Amsterdam” - my iconic Get Happy song – so here’s a version of “Shipbuilding,” from slightly later in the 80s, showcasing the dazzling Nieve.

Song #4:

I’m Lucky” by Joan Armatrading

As well as getting happy I got lucky in the early 80s, winning a one year scholarship from London University to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. As I walked through the departure lounge at Heathrow airport in September 1981, Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me was playing over the speaker system. Human League were from  Sheffield; I had danced with them at the Crazy Daisy (a city night club) as a teenager. Now they were famous. When I arrived at UMass no one had heard of Human League. I had to re-tune my ear that year; my new friend Roberta and I listened to Joan Armatrading’s “I’m Lucky” over and over in her room (I can’t find an 80s clip but this is a good one).

Song #5:

Kitchen Man” by Bessie Smith

At the end of my year at UMass I got a job with a social change organisation in Boston. The work was hard but I loved the camaraderie and joy of late night dancing at the 1270 on Boylston Street (a gay club in those days and perhaps still). (Ed. Note: Looks like it closed in 88, Liz.) That was the summer of love as well as revolution; music, dancing and partying on the beach.  By the end of it, I’d fallen for one of my co-workers:  we quit our jobs, loaded our few possessions into his Volvo 65, and set off for California.  Of all the songs we listened to, this is the one that brings it all back.

Song #6:

Wild is the Wind” by Nina Simone

No I couldn’t stay, I was told; I’d been given the scholarship with the expectation that I would return.  I had a hard time raising the money for the flight back, never mind saying goodbye. The night before I left, in a restaurant in San Francisco, I heard Human League playing on the radio; so they had made it. Back in London, embarking on graduate study, I met a musicologist; that relationship had a profound effect on my musical landscape, introducing me to Bach and Scarlatti. Listening to classical music altered the way I thought about music generally; I realised that what I was really interested in was the way women sing the blues. This, in turn, would influence my writing and my development as a poet. How to choose between Nina’s “Lilac Wine,” “Four Women” and this?

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?):

Wickerman” by Pulp

And how about this for a bonus?  At the beginning of the 90s work had taken me to the south coast where I met Dylan’s father. When the relationship broke down I accepted a temporary post in Sheffield to be near family while Dylan was young.  Another child, a marriage, an autism diagnosis and divorce later, those three temporary years have become 20. Some days I remember that I didn’t mean to be here – what happened to “Cracklin’ Rosie”? Mostly, I can’t imagine myself elsewhere. History repeats itself; I found my way back to where I started and in the process discovered why mothers leave marriages and daughters leave mothers. One of the delights I have taken in my return is the music of my home city; here is Jarvis doing it proud. “Wickerman” features my childhood landscape where, against all expectations, I live happily in the valley of the ridiculous toy horse.

Thank you for reading and to Christy for hosting. (Thank you, Liz! Readers, don’t forget to check out Liz’s beautiful post: “Autism and Alcohol: reflections on an anniversary.”)

Liz’s playlist:

* Liz blogs at Living With Autism. She is from the UK.

~~~

Teresa (from Grateful Rider)

Song #1: 

Only The Good Die Young” by Billy Joel

I lived an adventurous, outdoor horseback riding life as a young child, an unencumbered outdoor lifestyle.

Introduced to alcohol and by 15, I was a blackout drinker.

Then my battle cry became “only the good die young,” as I justified my behavior and choices.

After all, “Only the sinners have fun.”

Song #2:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Eric Clapton

Just because I needed to believe something better existed than what I was living.

Song #3:

Mozart’s “Requiem D Minor

Couldn’t look in a mirror. Hated to hear my name.

Sleeping on a loaded revolver.

Wrote thank you notes to all who had been so kind to me through my difficult childhood.

It played over and over.

I could not, not drink.

Song #4:

We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

A group of drunks loved me back to life.

I discovered my Family of Choice.

We sang this song on the bus rides to meetings from the treatment center.

Song #5:

Ordinary Miracles” by Barbara Streisand

I could not believe how sweet life became.  I could cherish a smile from a stranger, find delight in the smallest unexpected places.

This song absolutely touches my soul for its celebration of the ordinary things I hope never to take for granted.

Song #6:

Natural Forces” by Lyle Lovett

Living a life in recovery has enabled me to make deliberate choices, to not sit on the fence and be passive about my world.  So after 24 years,  I chose a divorce and my horse. Grateful for choices, strength, and wisdom.

Yes, home is where my horse is.  God willing I will always have a horse to ride and love and a dog to trot along beside me.

Bonus song #7:

You Put the Flame On It” by Charles Bradley

Until this past May, I had not considered I would ever love again.
This song captures my great surprise at falling in love for the first time in over 30 years!

 

Thank you so much Christy for hosting this fantastic journey through our lifetracks, and thank you for inviting me to share mine. (Thank YOU, Teresa!)

Teresa’s Playlist

* Teresa blogs at Grateful Rider. She is from the coastal south of the United States.

~~~

Thanks again for being our guests, Liz and Teresa!

Tangerine

Dipping my toes into reverie and free writes and peach ice cream on this beautiful summer day, and wishing each of you a day just as beautiful. – Christy

Tangerine Sky by lislazuli (via)

Tangerine Sky by lislazuli (via)

Stop.
Dry your eyes,
go sit on the porch
in your favorite rocking chair
The one that reminds you of
tangerines and peach ice cream
of Nina Simone and mandolins
of her.

Drink in your sorrow from a paper cup
and watch as the sinking sun
slips away into an infinite pool
of cloud and sky
Streaks of orange and red as rich as the
over-ripe peaches you would pick
with her
for ice cream.

Look into your cup
See the deep orange swirl of the sorrow you drink.
Notice the taste on your tongue
Sweet like a juicy tangerine.
Feel the evening breeze against the fine hair on
your bare arms and
on your sun-kissed shoulders.
Breathe in
and then let it go.

See the breeze blow specks of orange and gold
like tangerine dust
into the world around you.
Look into your cup of sorrow
Once full, now empty.
The air smells sweet
Like Tupelo honey and sunshine
Like mandolins and peach ice cream
Like tangerines.

Does she still remember times like these?

 

Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin

Life in 6 Songs: Vol. 19 (Matticus and Archita)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We 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 through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Matticus from The Matticus Kingdom and Archita from A Journey Called Life. I’m a long-time follower of both Matticus and Archita; I love them both and am thrilled to have them join us. Please be sure to leave them some love in the comments, and stop by their blogs to say hello (hit “follow” while you’re there!).

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

music_energy_by_1mudkip88-d4n770f

“Music Energy” by 1Mudkip88 via DeviantArt (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

~~~

Matticus (from The Matticus Kingdom)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel (1964/original version)

We were a traveling band, er, um, clan… um, family.  Yes, that’s it.  We were a traveling family.  I grew up in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and it was a 90 minute car ride to the nearest big town (an actual shopping mall), a 2 hour drive to our nearest family, and a 3 hour drive to the family we visited most.  So, we spent a lot of time cruising the deserted highways listening to music.  My dad, my main inspiration for music, had created a mix tape (yes an actual tape) of good songs for the family to sing along to on those long rides.  The Kingston Trio, The Mamas and The Papas, The Beach Boys, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Simon and Garfunkel.  I loved that tape.  I can remember singing along to every single track, but the one that always resonated with me most was “The Sound of Silence.”

“And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains, within the sound of silence.” 

There was something about the harmonies of the two voices that I loved and still find myself drawn to all these years later.  The song is a bridge across my entire musical experience, from my earliest memories of singing along in the car, to my discovery of other songs with harmonies, to seeing the world for how it truly is and finally understanding the message in the song in its optimism and cynicism.

Song #2:

Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen

From that original mix tape, we graduated to rock and roll: guitar riffs and pounding beats.  I can still vividly remember my dad drumming on the steering wheel and when the song demanded more emphasis on the center console, as we drove to scouting events in the nearby mountains.  With just the boys in the car, the tunes were cracked up, our voices were raised, and the songs fueled our adventures.  The most poignant of these was “Born in the USA.”

“I’m a cool rocking daddy in the USA.”

I latched on to it probably mostly because I thought it was a song about national pride and at that age (the tail end of elementary school) I’d had six years of saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and six years of being taught that the US was the greatest country in the world.  I was in love with our country.  And, even though the song may not actually be preaching that, it still does remind me of how great a country it is.

Song #3:

Black Gold” by Soul Asylum

The Grave Dancers Union album was the first one I picked out on my own, without influence from either my dad’s or my brother’s choice of music.  I had selected it for the song “Runaway Train” which was getting a lot of play on MTV as I entered Junior HIgh, but it was the song “Black Gold” that I ended up loving the most.

“Two boys on a playground, Tryin’ to push each other down.  See the crowd gather ’round.  Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.”

Junior High was a very tough time for me, I was bullied nearly every day.  I never felt like I belonged.  I didn’t enjoy any of my classes.  I didn’t want to be there.  The angst in the song, while not a direct correlation to my own, the feeling of it, the passion and despair matched my own.

Song #4:

Best of You” by Foo Fighters

In college I was in a turbulent relationship.  We courted each other, the idea of being a couple, pretty much our entire Freshman year.  She was unlike anyone I had met before.  She was something (someone) new to reflect the new person I wanted to be after having a rough go of it in Junior High and High School.  The summer before our sophomore year we official became boyfriend/girlfriend and for the next three years we were inseparable.  Our senior year, I proposed and she said yes.  And then we graduated, entered the real world, and things fell apart.

“Are you gone and onto someone new?  I needed somewhere to hang my head without your noose.”

Our relationship lacked the key ingredient of trust and when we transitioned from spending nearly every waking moment together to working opposite shifts, it tore us apart.  While I original identified with Blink-182′s “I Miss You,” over time my sadness morphed to anger.  “Best of You” allowed me to scream along in my pain and passion to the unresolved feelings of sadness and rage.

Song #5:

Seven Cities (V-one’s Living Cities Remix)” by Solarstone

The years following my broken engagement were spent lost in a jumble.  I was trying to find myself again, trying to find what I needed in my life to be happy, and trying to come to terms with being in the real world.  I spent a lot of hours every day with headphones on, beat matching, mixing tracks on my turntables.  (Hello…DJ!)  This wordless song was one of the first electronica songs that I fell in love with.  It was one of the reasons I started dj’ing in the first place, and its quiet buildup, its progression, to a frenzy of fat beats amidst a beautiful melody are a wonderful mimic of my journey to self discovery.  The joy in the song is the joy in finding those couple of things I need to be happy: my family and time in the mountains.  That’s it.  It’s that simple.

Song #6:

Everything” by Michael Buble

A college roommate’s sister’s friend (did you follow that) walked through my front door one night and changed everything.  My first thought on seeing her and being introduced was, “Who is this girl?”  We’d only been dating for 2 months when I told my parents, “There is something about this one.” 

We dated long distance for 18 months, with one or the other doing the 180 mile drive (door to door) nearly every weekend.  I think we only missed two.  Then when there was an opportunity for me to move (my job was displaced) I moved to be with her.  Another 18 months of living together and I proposed.

“And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times, it’s you, it’s you, you make me sing.”

“Everything” was the song we danced to at our wedding, and it was that line that really sealed it for us as the perfect choice.  Our life together has been one adventure after another, and there is no end to that in sight.  We are crazy about each other.  We are crazy together.  Calling her The Queen fits nicely in with the theme I have in The Matticus Kingdom, but she truly is my Queen.  It feels wrong to have this song in my 6, it isn’t a rocker, but the dj in me knows that there is a song for every mood, moment and audience.  And you have to play the right song even if it seems wrong to you.

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?):

Just Be” by Tiesto featuring Kirsty Hawkshaw

“Just Be” is a perfect little wrap up for my life story.  A trance song as homage to my dj days, and Tiesto is one of my favorite music producers still.  The sound of the song seems depressing but the lyrics are uplifting.  It has moments of calm and moments of frenzied, driving, beats.

“I was lost and I’m still lost, but I feel so much better.”

This world is all kinds of mixed up; there is something beautiful about accepting that as a truth and moving forward anyway.  There are so many ideals on how we should be living in this world that it can be easy to lose ourselves in the struggle to live up to the myriad of competing pressures.  I know I struggled with it for a long time, and sometimes I still do, but . . .  for the most part I have acknowledged that it is okay to be lost in that regard — I can still find moments of beauty and happiness.  Sometimes those moments last a few seconds, and sometimes they last for months on end.

Matticus’s playlist:

* Matticus blogs at The Matticus Kingdom. He is from California.

~~~

Archita (from A Journey Called Life)

Song #1: 

Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones

I was a teenager when the song came out. I saved money to purchase the cassette because audio CD was very expensive and we did not have a CD player. My best friend told me that the CD version sounded better and clearer. I said, “Things that we cannot reach always sound better.”

I remember, my mom loved the song and asked me to start playing guitar. “You have music and lyrics in your blood,” she said.

More than a decade passed. I did not get time to go back to music class. Life is not a bed of roses still. But “Come away with me” is one of my most favorite songs, even now; it reminds me of my unfulfilled musical aspiration and my mom’s words.

I love this version more now:

Song #2:

You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain

Sometimes your favorite person’s favorite song can become your most favorite. It happens. It happened to me. A decade ago someone dedicated this song “You’re still the one” to us, because most probably that person liked our love story, because most probably it was my husband’s favorite song. We listen to this song during special occasions. We hold our hands when we listen to this being played in an unknown restaurant or shop, and march on to future, happily.

Song #3:

What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

Really, who doesn’t love “What a wonderful world”! This is my most favorite song. I smile every time I listen to this part:

I see friends shaking hands.
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying,
“I love you”.

There’s so much hope in little things, we forget to see them on foggy days.

I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more,
Than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Whenever I feel pretty low I replay this and remember to list down my gratitude for all the wonders of this wonderful world. That line “They’ll learn much more / Than I’ll ever know“ restores my faith in humanity and civilization.

Song #4:

Ho Hey” by The Lumineers

Whenever I listen to this, my finger touches the volume button. I don’t know why “Ho Hey” reminds me of my days in a small town for some time, a few dilemmas there, my lonely long walks in the suburbs and weekend trips to DC. I love that memory and this song a lot.

Memory is weird. It stores moments and match with a set of lyrics without giving you any logical explanations.

Song #5:

Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

Judging people by how they look, or asking people’s opinions on how I look – I detest both. I want everyone to love this song, send some love to Bruno Mars for the lyrics. One item on my bucket list is attending a Bruno Mars concert. Whenever I’m not doing anything, not even thinking, you’ll find me listening to Bruno Mars. Especially this song:

Song #6:

Home” by Philip Philips

I lived a part of life crossing connecting airports. Just like every frequent flyer I kept dreaming about going home. I don’t fly that much anymore after two surgeries on my knee. I stay on road, most of the times, to photograph this beautiful world, and to connect some dots. “Home” is my regular road-trip song. It reminds me of my very special first road trip, the joy, anxiety, fear. I relive that moment every time I hear it.

Bonus song #7:

Where Do I Begin” (Theme from Love Story instrumental) by Francis Lai

All six songs that I mentioned here are close to my heart because of their lyrics.

Song 7 is the instrumental that I play in the evening when I cook happily after a busy day, or when I feel homesick or really sick. I feel content with what I have each time I hear it.

Archita’s Playlist

* Archita blogs at A Journey Called Life. She is an Asian Indian who lives in the USA, listens to songs in six different languages and tries to learn Spanish, “just because of the lovely melancholy of some Spanish songs.” Archita said. “Here though I am talking about English songs only. But if you want, I can talk about others too, including “Ghazal,”** “Baul“** and even eastern classical music.”

(** Editor note: I hope I selected good examples of “Ghazal” and “Baul,” Archita. I found the music very relaxing and meditative, and hope others do as well. -christy)

Archita was generous enough to provide some follow-up information on Ghazal and Baul for us:

About Baul: “Baul” songs are very interesting. Baul singers are mostly spiritually liberated people, they use contemporary words about rural lives of a part of India. Today I found this UNESCO link about Baul songs and those singers. I think everyone will come to know about them more from this link.
About Ghazals: I love Ghazals written by Mirza Ghalib a lot. (The link you posted is a collection of songs of my favorite Ghazal singer, I love all of them.) Here’s another link which you and other readers will perhaps love. This song is written by Ghalib and the translation is here (via allpoetry).
Thank you so much, Archita!

~~~

Thanks again for being our guests, Matticus and Archita!

Forgiveness, Church TV and Red Lights

I don’t normally watch church on television. Weekends find us usually watching whatever sports may be on.

We tend to watch more sports on tv  (image via)

We’ll even watch rugby. Those guys are tough! (image via)

Last weekend though as I was flipping around looking for soccer (futbal, if you prefer), I saw a local preacher talking and decided to watch for a minute. Like I said, I don’t normally watch church on tv, but this was a little different; the preacher on tv was female. And not only was she female, but she was an African-American female.

Big whoop, Christy, right? Where have you been? The 1950′s?

No, it’s not that. See, I live in a “small” town; it’s conservative, it’s stuffy, it’s the type of town kids can’t wait to leave. It’s not a young town–the majority of people who live here are old–and it’s definitely not progressive.

(I feel compelled to say that we only moved here to take care of my husband’s mother, who, yep, was old. It was the right thing to do at the time. Of course that took me away from my own mother who was not so old and who was dying of cancer. But that’s another topic for another day, maybe. Or maybe not, since there is nothing I can do about that now. And I really am trying to embrace this whole “Letting Go” thing I took on for my 40th birthday. I guess I felt compelled because I don’t want you to think I’m old or stuffy or conservative or stuck in a small town, though I may be two of those things now. But Let it Go already, Christy, move on . . . )

Okay, so anyway, I remember when the church announced it was hiring a female to come in to minister. “Oh my goodness! They’re doing what? Oh my, oh my, oh my!” You could hear the whispers all around town.

When news got out that the preacher was also black? That was just the cherry on top. Nobody really said too much about that, but you could feel it in their tone. “Did you hear about the new preacher they hired? Did you know she’s . . . fe-male?” With eyebrows raised and layers of emphasis on the “fe-”, as if you could lump everything that is non-white-male within the confines of raised eyebrows and two little letters.

But you know what? Everyone loves her. She’s young, vibrant, relevant, funny and straight-shooting. She’s even made me consider going to church because of how well she blends real-life lessons into religion. I feel like I could even overlook the whole God thing and instead consider it a self-help course.

The first time I saw her on tv was Christmas Eve. I decided to watch because I had heard the gossip and whispers when I went in town to “The Wal-Mart” and I was curious to hear what she had to say. (Okay, maybe I was curious how others were reacting to her.) Something happened as I watched though — I was glued to the tv. She was talking to my heart, and I couldn’t not listen.

or dog shows . . . (image via)

This little guy is glued to the tv too . . . (image via)

That night she was talking about “Letting Go.” Of anger, of resentment, of anything holding you back from living the life you want to live. But it’s not just letting go, she said, it’s embracing and doing the things you need to do (not the same as want to do) to get you to that life you want to live.

She shared a story of letting go of her own anger.

I had a lot of unresolved anger in my heart then, so I listened raptly as she talked about going to the shopping mall, joining the throngs of other last-minute shoppers, and circling (and circling and circling) the parking lot looking for a spot. When she finally found one, another car swooped in like a snake and stole it away from her. She shared how her heart filled with rage and her mouth filled with profanity and she wanted to get out and give THAT OTHER PERSON a piece of her mind.

Her anger grew and grew until she felt like a smoldering volcano. This anger made her think about all the other things that had made her angry, so not only was she upset at this other driver, she was now angry at her mom, her fifth grade teacher, her first husband, and the person who had 30 items in the “10 item or less lane” at “The Wal-Mart.”

Because anger loves to incite anger, her anger spoke to my anger. And there we were, two little angry volcanoes.

But she knew that she had to let this anger go. It wasn’t helping. Instead, it was making her miserable.

So she chilled out, did her shopping, and as she was leaving the mall, she saw a lady in the parking lot having car trouble. It was dark by then and she was late for an appointment. “I don’t have time for this tonight! I am late, late, late. I know someone else will help that woman,” she thought.

So she drove away. And at the red light leading out of the mall, she realized every other person was probably saying the same things to themselves. Even though she was late and even though she really didn’t want to, she turned around at the red light to go help.

She went on to talk about compassion and some of the hardships she had encountered in life, even some of the challenges she faced moving to this small town. Honestly, I don’t remember it all, but I remember how I felt. I remember thinking this lady gets it.

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
Dr. Maya Angelou

So the other day when I was looking for futbal and happened to see her on tv, I stopped flipping, and I watched.

This time she was talking about forgiveness. And again, it was like she was talking directly to me. See, I’ve been harboring a resentment and waiting for an apology from a friend for something that happened years ago. My friend offered to apologize, but she wanted to apologize on her terms. Screw your terms, I thought, I’m the one hurt, you should apologize just the way I asked. It made me angry (which in turn, opened up those anger flood gates, just like the preacher in the parking lot, and there I was again, a little angry volcano). Why can’t she just do what I want her to do?! Now she needs to apologize for this too!

Volcano via BBC

Have you ever been so angry you could spit fire?
The Indonesian volcano Anak Krakatau erupts at night (credit: Getty Images/Tom Pfeiffer/VolcanoDiscovery) via BBC Earth

But this preacher . . . she talked about forgiving others, get this, even if they don’t apologize. Not only that, but even if they’re not sorry. What?! Blasphemy! I don’t want to forgive, I want to be angry. I’m justified here. Yeah, so what? In the notorious words of Dr. Phil, “And how’s that workin’ for you?”

Then she held up a book and compared it to a little annoyance. She handed the book over to someone in the congregation, and said, “Hold this out at arm’s length. Don’t let go.”

Have you ever tried this? It starts out easy. It’s just a little book, it barely weighs anything. “Piece of cake, right?” she asked.

But after a while, that little book starts feeling like War and Peace. Soon your hand starts aching. And then your arm starts shaking. And then you start sweating, and pains start traveling to your back. Then your entire body starts trembling until you can’t stand it any more. You have to drop the book.

What starts out like a little tiny annoyance will build and build and poison every inch of your body . . . if you aren’t willing to let it go.

Like most, I’ve heard the quote, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (It’s a biggie in recovery meetings.) But I don’t think the meaning really sunk in until I saw that poor little man holding out that book with his arm shaking, ego and stubborn-pride being the only things keeping it up. And for what? Why do we let ourselves suffer so much? The person we’re angry at isn’t suffering. They’re probably not even thinking about us!

You don’t forgive to let the other person off the hook. You forgive to let yourself off the hook. Drop the book already. Forgive, move on. Let. It. Go.

While forgiveness will always be a hot button for me, I can accept that some things are in the past. They can’t be changed. So I can either continue to let myself suffer as I hold up this book that is now the size of an entire Encyclopedia series, or I can drop the book and move on, for my own health and sanity.

Forgiveness. Acceptance. Letting go. Self-care. I can call it whatever I need to call it, I just need to do it. Maybe next time I’ll be smart enough to not pick up the book in the first place.

To close, let me tell you a quick story about me and my mom:

Mom and I were on vacation a couple of years before she got sick. We were relaxing in our hotel room flipping through the channels on tv. Guess what we land upon? Church. The preacher was screaming and jumping up and down, he was sweaty and red-faced, and we were absolutely mesmerized.

“Jesus is coming!” he shouted. “Are you ready?! What are you doing?! What are you doing right now? You’re at home, watching The TV! Jesus is coming but you’re gonna miss Him because you’re at home watching tv! When your friends ask you, “Hey did you see Jesus? He was just here.” you’re gonna have to say, “Nope, I was at home . . . watching The TV.”

It became one of those things Mom and I would laugh about, especially after she got sick.

I’d call her on the phone, “Hey Mom, whatcha doin’?”

“Not much, Christy, just watching tv.”

“Just watching tv?!  Jesus is coming back, and you’re going to miss Him, Mom, because you’re at home watching The TV!”

And then we would laugh and remember better days. Even now, typing this, I have to laugh. My god wouldn’t care if I was watching tv. My god could preempt any tv show he or she wanted in order to get a message to me.

And now I have to smile and shake my head, because I just realized maybe my god has been preempting shows getting messages to me:

  • Let go of anger.
  • Help others, even when you don’t want to.
  • Accept apologies, even those you don’t receive.
  • Drop the book.
  • If you’re flipping channels, don’t be afraid to watch a little church. Sometimes that’s how important messages get to you.

And, sometimes, you can change your life at a red light. (Jonny Lang as preacher? Now there’s a church I’d never miss.)

A chance to breathe
While sitting at a red light
You look around
reflecting on your life…

“Red Light” from Jonny Lang’s album Long Time Coming

How about you? Ever watch church on tv? How do you let go of anger? Still waiting for someone to apologize to you? Why/why not?

* A special thank you to Michelle (MamaMick) for inviting me to buzz around her newest personal writing blog The Hidden Hummingbird Diaries. I’ll be posting poetry and playing with new creative projects as my alter-ego Christina’s Words. Come say hi and check out my first two pieces “Words, Unread” and “The Secret: A Golden Shovel Poetry Challenge.”

Life In Six Songs: Vol. 18 (Karen and Kristen)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We 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 through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Karen from Mended Musings and Kristen from Bye-Bye BeerI fell in love with each of these beautiful, kind-hearted and talented women after I discovered them through Christy’s space. I’m so happy to have Karen and Kristen 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!

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Karen (from Mended Musings)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie

I discovered David Bowie when I was 12, rummaging through my dad’s record collection. It was a year before “Let’s Dance” made him a pop sensation and with his sudden popularity, I hated having to share him with the world. Throughout my teens, I made it a point to introduce every friend I had to what I considered to be his real music (essentially, anything before “Let’s Dance”). I have countless favorites but for me, Ziggy Stardust is where it all began.

Song #2:Tu Solo Tu” by Selena

In our days before having kids, my husband and I went to Mexico nearly every weekend for 2 years. Very often, we’d be on our 5th margarita, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes while a Mariachi band played 6 inches from our table. I didn’t always understand what they were singing about but Selena is clearly singing about love – drunk and passionate only for your love. That’s still us, just not drunk!

Song #3:Stuck In A Moment” by U2

All of my bad choices were coming to a head when this came out and this song gave me the hope that I could face the consequences, survive and move on. I did and I still get teary eyed when I hear the song.

Song #4:We’re All On Our Way Somewhere” by Templeton Thompson

I had the opportunity to meet singer/songwriter Templeton Thompson 11 years ago when I took the Living Centered Program at Onsite in Tennessee. She and her husband came to perform some songs for us and I was struck by how authentic and down to earth she was. That program started my road to recovery and this song helped me see that I wasn’t the center of the universe. I listen to it whenever I need a reminder.

Song #5:I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was overcome with hormones and would cry at anything remotely sad. I even cried over a wasp’s nest that my husband removed from our porch because I felt bad that the mama wasp would be searching for her babies. I could only listen to non-offensive, cheery music and I must’ve listened to this song a thousand times. When I found out I had to have a c-section because my son was breech, I was filled with worry but as I lay on the table, I noticed that “I’m Yours” was playing in the operating room. It was one of those God nudges and I knew everything would be alright.

Song #6:Heal Over” by KT Tunstall

When I hear this song, I think of wrapping all of the women I love and cherish in my arms and holding space for all they are and are trying to be.

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?):

Thank You” by Alanis Morissette

Being grateful for everything – not just the good – has changed my life.

Karen’s playlist:

Karen blogs at Mended Musings. She is from Tucson, Arizona.

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Kristen (from Bye-Bye Beer)

Song #1: Dancing Queen” by ABBA

My grandmother came by boat to this country when she was in her 30s, leaving behind a husband and young child and contracting a nasty case of tuberculosis that nearly killed her. I come from hardy stock, though, and she built a good life over the years by working hard and saving money and re-surrounding herself with family. When my brother and I were kids and went to visit her for the weekend, she’d take us to Sears and we’d help her pick out the latest LPs. We’d go back to her house and listen to them on a beautiful console in her living room, and she would later pack them up in a box with pairs of Levis to ship back to relatives in the old country.

I guess my grandmother grew attached to some albums and never gave them away because this was one song I remember dancing to in her living room again and again. She’d move her glass-centered coffee table to one side of the tiny room and we’d twirl around barefoot in pajamas and huge smiles.

Song #2:Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd

I’m sorry to jump from wholesome living room dancing to degenerate pot smoking, but that’s how it went for me with little fanfare. Me and my best friend got high with this guy she was seeing and he put me in charge of steering his boat while they made out in the cabin below. It took all of my concentration to keep the boat straight, though I did get distracted by the sight of two raccoons paddling by in a canoe. Later, we rode into town in the boy’s Camaro with the windows down and this song playing and I had the distinct feeling I was still on the boat. This was some good pot.

Song #3:Birthday” by The Beatles

I’m riding in a coach bus up the gold coast of Australia with 50 other exchange students from all over the world. I’m 17, skinny, shy, but I’ve discovered the magical powers of being in love. I had a huge crush on this beautiful Dutch boy everyone else loved too because he was one of those people that just made you feel included and important. The coach driver was also a good sport and let us bring up mix tapes to play over the stereo system. I turned over mine, which took a lot of guts on my part. Mix tapes have always felt too personal, like musical diaries. Inexplicably, the last song on my mine was Birthday. It came on and I held my breath and the Dutch boy acted like it was our anthem and got the entire bus to sing along.

Song #4:The Spider Bite Song” by The Flaming Lips

One night when my husband and I were newly married, we locked ourselves out of the house while we were both high as kites. My husband was shirtless and I was crippled with paranoia at the thought of knocking on our neighbor’s door to ask for our spare key. We both toyed with the idea of him wearing my shirt, but it would have been much too small and, well, pink. Reluctantly, I rang the neighbors’ bell and stooped to pet their cat to avoid eye contact while we made small talk and they fetched our key. I tried oh so hard not to think about my husband wearing my tight, pink shirt until I was safely back home.

The reason I chose this song is because we listened to the Soft Bulletin album a lot that summer. It was a childless, carefree time in our lives. The spider bite mentioned in this song was actually an abscess from a heroin needle that one of the band members tried to hide. Heroin never was my drug, but in those days I definitely romanticized addiction as something far off and floaty, like it could never touch me.

Song #5:Waiting for Superman” by Iron and Wine

This is one of those rare covers (of another Flaming Lips song) that sounds prettier than the original to me. This song always appealed because it’s about life feeling too heavy to deal with. In the several years before I got sober, everything felt too heavy. Big things, little things, everything. I kept going, but I didn’t see any hope and watched my drinking spiral out of control and it really scared me.

Song #6:Hoppipolla” by Sigur Ros

The lyrics are in a language I don’t understand, but I chose this song because it feels very hopeful and uplifting. The video has warring factions of geriatric pirates jumping in puddles and a surprisingly happy ending. I haven’t seen how the rest of my life will play out, but it’d be cool if it went something like this.

Bonus song #7:Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley

I keep getting this song stuck in my head…the line “every little thing’s gonna be all right” especially. This is my message to you.

Kristen’s Playlist: 

* Kristen blogs at Bye-Bye Beer. She lives in the USA.

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Thanks again for being our guests, Karen and Kristen!

Editor’s Note: Thank you for stopping by and reading these fabulous stories by Karen and Kristen. While playing in Christy’s space, I must have knocked over a plant or two and accidentally turned off the comments. Everything is fixed now. Comment away!!