When I received the email message for this assignment (Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?), I stared at it and felt more ancient than I ever had in my 65 years. Why? Because there must be close to 1,000 songs–actual songs, concert pieces, instrumentals–in several genres (classical, rock, R&B, experimental) that I love, each bringing to intellect and emotion memories that are etched as indelibly on my soul as my own name. Almost all music is important to me, and many pieces flood my being with multiple echos of relationships, places, individuals who have passed through my life… For the first time in a long time, I could not even begin to conceive how to start, where to start, when to start, and what to express.
As for the twist (You’ll commit to a writing practice)… well, I actually do that already: whether writing a blog post or writing in my “traditional” hand-written journal, I already write for at least 15 uninterrupted minutes each day. I should modify that a bit: there are rarely such long moments when I am not reassuring a dog, removing a persistent cat from my keyboard, my husband entering a room talking, or just the normal distractability of my ADD (yes, you can have ADD until you die of old age!).
Right now, as I sit here trying to type in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way, I am also thinking about getting my car over to the inspection station since I am already almost 2 months overdue (thankfully, the authorities of my island home are more concerned that I have the appropriate plates on my car, indicating that car taxes have been paid, than if my car is safe to drive), the suggestions and instructions given by my drawing instructor during yesterday’s session, trying to figure out where I have previously met the artist who appeared in her studio who said we already knew each other, trying to remember to call my oldest friend (in terms of friendship length, not age) and how to dial the US from this God-forsaken island, trying to figure out what I omitted or added to my pot roast last night that made it less good than usual, etc. Even as I express these thoughts, I keep coming back to the fact that so much music is important to me that I cannot possibly choose any three, even by random selection processes and explain their meaning to my life–especially since there are many songs whose lyrics I used to know by heart and have just now vanished from memory and consciousness.
But the assignment is to select three songs, so I will try to select three than have had some sort of an effect on me, even if I cannot remember the words, the performer/composer, or even the title of the piece. And I’ll start with a Shostakovich suite in some minor key that has taken me over the years from comfortable listening in the first movement, to strife and anguish in the second, and, in the third movement, the resolution that I know where I am going and how strong I am.
For the second, I cannot include a single song, but I can select a group–The Four Seasons–who always, always call to mind my first (and perhaps only) love. I broke up with him during college, mostly because I was scared to death that I was unworthy of him, no matter what lame excuse I gave at the time. It doesn’t matter now, and–in retrospect–the breakup was definitely in his best interest, as he was quickly picked up on the rebound by a woman who was waiting for a chance to pounce on him the minute I broke his heart. To be honest, I liked her very much both before I met her and when I finally met her at a high school reunion. When I first learned that they had connected, I felt very sorry for myself, but honestly honestly honestly was incredibly happy for him. So which Four Seasons song? All of them. We were both, he and I, great fans, and every Four Seasons or Frankie Valli song that comes on the radio reminds me of him and brings back fond memories–as well as heartache and questions like “what if…?”
Frank Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year” and all the other songs he sang that reference aging and growth of wisdom become my third choice. He makes me recognize the progress I’ve made over the years in the way I look at the world, in my acceptance of the variants of cultures as learned from the various representatives of those cultures, the way I can accept the nuances of cultural mores that differ from the one I was brought up in. And his songs remind me that in many ways there has been no change in me at all. I still become angry over injustices of any kind, I still cannot understand the tenets of very “traditional” Christians who speak of Jesus’ teachings yet fail to see that they act in ways or live their lives in direct contradiction of those teachings–not all Christians, just far too many for me to understand just how clearly they understand those Bible passages they so passionately discuss while failing to see their own hypocrisies. I do not paint all Christians with the same brush, nor all Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Budists, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, or any other religious belief out there. I understand good people trying to live a good life–for real, not for show–and I have gained the wisdom to know the difference between “not a very nice person” and “a truly good person.” I did not mean to get into religious philosophy or belief systems here, and I apologize for including this as part of the stream of consciousness writing. I myself am completely enigmatic, and have few people in my life that I truly believe are “friend.” It’s not that I have enemies–or not many, anyway; it’s that I find that people who get to know me tend to have only one of two opinions: 1) What a bitch; or 2) Hey, Girlfriend! No one is ambiguous about me, and that’s OK. Because I have grown into an age when, although I still lack social self-confidence and continue to be self-critical about everything new I attempt, I am a far better person today than I was fifty years ago when I thought I knew it all. Like Sinatra, I’ve learned that I know nothing and that I must continue learning with an open mind.
A note of clarification: during the writing, I did go back and correct spelling and other things. None of the words were changed, although once I rearranged the words to make somewhat better sense. This is not because I am a perfectionist, but rather before these little activities give me think time to work out how to express the next concept in my mind. For those people to whom words come easily–whether or not actual writing does–such activity would be a distraction from stream of consciousness. But I do not have the facility with words that most writers have–and perhaps should have–and so I correct while my mind finds words (any words) to continue on. So if I have a verbal weakness, why do I write? Because each time I write, I get just a fraction of a bit more adept at putting words together–those words that in some way begin to describe the concept or picture in my mind’s eye. Even after–what–55+ years of practice, I have phenomenal problems with words. When I speak, it is very difficult for me to express my ideas logically. I often resort to analogy or metaphor, which are almost as hard for me, in order to make myself understood. When I ask, “Does that make sense? Did I give you an idea of what I mean?”, I never know whether the nods and yeses or positive-like murmurs are genuine. So I generally ask questions rather than speak. When I do speak clearly, it is about a subject that is so passionately dear to my heart that I gush words that somehow bring on complex ideas. Most people back away when I get like this; but a few people “get it” for real, and those people become my friends. And we walk off or shut ourselves off from the rest of the company as we explore each other’s minds. We are “big picture” people who seem to understand each other no matter what picture we’re discussing at the time.
The last few sentences of the addendum have strayed far from the explanation I was attempting to make about my difficulty with words, for they suggest that I can efficiently communicate with people who think in the same manner as I do, even if they don’t agree with my view point. I’m no brilliant person. I do have a doctorate, although I worked my butt off writing up the dissertation. I’m not the “people person” I so admire in others. I know that I don’t know, however, and there are many songs, instrumental pieces, orchestrations, and all the various elements of musical expression which flood my senses and cannot be narrowed down to a set of emotions or thoughts or understandings. Instead, they make me feel small and insignificant in a universe far too vast for me to comprehend. I admire theoretical physicists and philosophers who try to make sense of the universe, but also find that too often they deliberately limit their focus to something they believe they can understand. I almost failed philosophy in my freshman year at college because I thought too many of the professor’s lectures and much of the class discussion that supported the professor’s were, frankly, bullshit. And now I find it interesting that two musical names mentioned in the actual body of this assignment are Frank/Frankie, and that both are derivatives of Francis… Oops! Here I go again…