Soundtracking Life

I was never a fan of Ally McBeal despite having far more in common with her than I care to go on record about at this point in my life. There is one episode of the show that still sticks out in my mind however. Ally saw a counselor who urged her to adopt a theme song for her life. I knew it was meant to be a joke, but I was struck by the fact that I did this already. My life was as scored as a Broadway musical.

Music is one of the reasons I survived the years of care-taking associated with my late husband and then later widowhood. My iPod literally saved my sanity during the months that Will was in hospice, and the year following his death. One song is particular comes to mind from that time. The Middle by Jimmy Eats World. The chorus is even now a very powerful influence. It never fails to pick me up or push me onward, and I always seem to hear it just when I need to the most.

It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride.Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything (everything) will be alright (alright).

It was a shared love of Grunge that bridged some of the ten years between Will and I (I was a cougar before Demi and Madonna). Will introduced me to Metallica, and I convinced him that rap and hip-hop were real forms of musical expression although he never learned to like it much.

There was one song from around the time Will and I were first together that we heard nearly every time we were listening to the radio as we drove from here to there. So incessantly did it dog us that Will was prompted to dub it “our song”. Though a less likely suspect for a romantic song you couldn’t possibly find, it is eerily prophetic in retrospect. The song was What It’s Like by Everlast.

God forbid you ever had to wake up to hear the news
Cause then you really might know what its like to have to lose

Before my second husband, Rob, and I fell in love and were still just Internet friends who exchanged prolific amounts of email and conducted long IM chats into the wee hours, he would send me mP3’s he had essentially liberated from his public library. Canadians are big on the idea that music should be allowed to roam the bandwidths like free range chickens.

Some of the first songs he shared with me were by a group called tOOL. Jambi and Right in Two were songs Rob had listened to over and over in the first months after his wife, Shelley, died. Despite the volumes of words we exchanged, the music we shared opened up our lives and souls to each other as much as anything did.

We’ve discovered since that we both have the annoying (to other people) habit of playing a track, or tracks, over and over until we somehow satisfy our souls need of it. I don’t know what Shelley thought of that, but it drove Will crazy.

I was inspired by the tOOL songs to actually track down the CD and buy it ( I wasn’t corrupted enough to “liberate” music yet) partly as a way to get to know Rob better, but also because I knew that Will would have loved this music. I wasn’t as fixated on the lyrics as Rob was although I usually am a words girl. Lyrics are essential to me. A single line can strike a chord within me to a point that I have collected music from artists I would never admit to listening to for fear of ridicule simply to have those few words to connect with. But I hardly heard the words to the tOOL songs at first. It was the sound that drew me. Bass that penetrated bone. Flesh-searing guitar. It brought Will back, and at a time when I needed to still feel him in such a visceral way. Eventually though I came to hear the twisted humor in some of the writer’s songs, and I came to know the music as Rob.

The first romantic song Rob sent me was Desperately Wanting by Better Than Ezra or was it Got You Where I Want You by the Flies? The latter he played for me as we drove back to meet up with our wedding party after the photographers took us off to be photographed in the shadow of the Canadian Rockies. The first CD he sent was Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits followed shortly after by The Tragically Hip. I rather doubt the other patrons at the Holiday Inn appreciated that as much as I did. The first time we made love it was to the oddest collection of heavy metal songs that just happened to be on his laptop at the time. The first time we danced though – a month later – was to a carefully crafted playlist he’d spent hours preparing for just that moment in time.

I couldn’t imagine a life without a musical background. How would you keep your memories in order? Pull them up with perfect recall? Feel the same emotions? I can’t listen to Desperately Wanting and not remember the week before Rob and I first meet in Idaho Falls. The afternoon of racy emails when we both should have been working. Just as I can’t hear Mazzy Starr’s Fade Into You and not remember that Will chose that for our first dance at our wedding reception after hearing it in a movie we watched together one night on television. And although it is now rare that I hear the Everlast song, whenever I do it is at a moment when I am wondering about directions or decisions, and I always take it as a sign that I am on the right track.


This was originally an anniegirl1138 post reworked for 50 Something Moms.

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