Friday, June 11, 2010

The Soundtrack of my Life

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I recently completed this journal page on 10 songs that changed my life. I love how the page turned out. Every time I glance over it, one of the song titles will catch my eye and I will instantly hear a line or two of lyric in my mind. In that moment, I am actually transported back to a different time and place. I experience the perfect blend of nostalgia and relief.

The power of memory is strong…strong enough to remind me that I do not wish to re-live any part of my life, however intense or however happy. I am content to live in the now, but it is comforting to know that with just a few notes, my past and I can join for a brief second.

Just a few days ago, I received an email from Mama Kat that contained several writing prompts. One was to write about the soundtrack of your life. I knew that this writing would perfectly complement my journal page. In the spirit of reflection, I thought I’d share this soundtrack of my life with you. These songs are all equally important and are presented in delightfully random order.

“Yesterday” – The Beatles
Love was such an easy game to play,
Now I need a place to hide away,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

I grew up listening to The Beatles. They were one of my mother’s favorite bands. It is no wonder that after experiencing my first real heartbreak at age 14 I turned to the familiar crooning of the Fab Four. This song was particularly poignant in that the words mirrored my disillusion while the melody enveloped and comforted me.

“So Lonely” – The Police
Just take a seat, they're always free
No surprise, no mystery
In this theatre that I call my soul
I always play the starring role, so lonely

Who would’ve guessed that I would have to go all the way to Germany to discover the beauty of The Police? I studied in Hamburg in 1990, the year I turned 18. It was an amazing experience, filled with exploration and freedom. I spread my wings, lived a little on the wild side…well, wild for a small town girl from Omaha, Nebraska. I might have lost my henna-dyed hair and my nose ring, but I will never surrender my love for punk music.

“Thunder Road” – Bruce Springsteen
The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely, Hey that's me and I want you only.
Don't turn me home again I just can't face myself alone again

I will always think of my husband Jim when I hear this song. It is always there…in his smile, the way his eyes crinkle at the corners, how he holds me as we dance across our living room. This is the score of us falling in love.

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have you found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

I will always and forever associate this song with loss. It is bittersweet to hear even now. Although I have come through a stronger and wiser woman, I cannot help but feel the sadness, the grief of that time.

“Black” – Pearl Jam
I know someday you'll have a beautiful life
I know you'll be a sun in somebody else's sky, but why
Why, Why can't it be, Why can't it be mine?

I first heard Pearl Jam in the fall of 1991 when I started college at UNL, along with Nirvana and Soundgarden.  I was poised on the brink of adulthood and this angst-filled music resonated with the many chords of change within me. When I became pregnant and gave birth almost exactly one year later, the Seattle sound was still extremely popular on college campuses. In my mind, this particular song became an anthem of all I had left behind in choosing to have a child on my own at age 20, a decision that I have never regretted but altered my life dramatically to say the least.

“She Will Be Loved” – Maroon 5
It’s not always rainbows and butterflies
It’s compromise that moves us along
My heart is full and my door’s always open
You can come anytime you want

This just means so much more when you truly understand how love works.

“With Or Without You” – U2
Through the storm we reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I'm waiting for you

I could have picked nearly any song off of U2’s The Joshua Tree as this entire album made an impression on my young and fertile mind. When this album was released in 1987, I was a freshman in high school. I was just discovering my own musical tastes and U2 was like manna from Heaven. I was figuring out that I had a mind and starting to dream of the places it might take me. I was part of a team. I got my driver’s license. I fell in love for the first time. And inevitably, I had my heart broken. “With Or Without You” takes me to the highs of that time and then abruptly leaves me sobbing in my driveway, sitting in my yellow VW bug until the windows fogged completely over and my mother had to come out and coax me inside.

“The Boys Of Summer” – Don Henley
But I can see you, your brown skin shining in the sun
You got your hair combed back and your sunglasses on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong

All it takes is hearing the first few bars of this song to take me back to summer camp, young love and feeling like I was becoming a woman. It is a heady feeling that always leaves me smiling.

“Closer To Fine” – Indigo Girls
I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all

Ahhh…a young student’s anthem discovered on a college campus. If you’re over the age of 35, you know exactly what I am talking about.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – The Rolling Stones
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need

I first remember this song from my early childhood. My mother was also quite the Stones fan. I can never hear this song without picturing my mother driving with the windows down, a cigarette in hand, the radio turned up and singing at full volume with her head thrown back and a smile on her face. It fills me with a tremendous sense of gratitude and wonder and love. I am so thankful for my mother. For the love of music she fostered. For the intellect she nurtured. For the moral compass she instilled. For all the songs we sang together.

I still love the Stones. I often play this song on my iPod in the car. I don’t smoke and I can’t stand the windows being down when I drive (except when I am in a convertible, duh). But I sing at full volume with a smile on my face and my head thrown back…just like my mom. My son sits in the seat next to me.

And I can hear him singing along.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Your journal page is fabulous! I considered this prompt, but was afraid I would date myself with the choices. I'd have picked "Yesterday" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" as well. I tell people I want "You Can't Always Get What You Want" at my funeral, but they just laugh and tell me it's one of the things I can't have. ;-)

    Stopping by from Mama Kat's.


  3. Ahhhh the Indigo Girls!! Love them! Such a great list of songs!

  4. Such a great page! Its lovely!