I don’t know about some of you guys, but music figures largely into everything that I do. I love to dance, I love to sing badly (to my dog or in the car, and sometimes to my dog in the car), and I love love love to go to live shows. My husband and I drove 3300 miles from Seattle to Red Rocks to see Peter Gabriel this summer, for example.
Yesterday, I went out for a run and purposely chose not to take my iPod so that I could clear my head and think a bit. What came to me as I was running slowly up a hill was that the times in which I feel crummy about aspects of my life are the times during which I am living to someone else’s soundtrack. I’m dancing to the wrong music. Do you ever get that feeling? It’s like someone changed the station on you.
I had a bit of a related revelation last year. In all my decades, I hadn’t figured out that sometimes my thought patterns were reflective of a victim’s perspective. I always thought of myself as a strong survivor of a traumatic childhood and that I sometimes had gloomy periods. Finally, I realized that the gloominess was being driven by the perspective. Whatever I was feeling, whatever I was thinking, whatever I thought I needed but didn’t have, I linked it all back to my rough years with my mum and how they set the stage for my current life. See, I’ve always said out loud that “you can only blame your parents until you reach a certain age… like, 18,” but there I was, still falling into that hole. I think the golden moment from the last year, though, it that I’m finally fully aware of when I’m falling. And man, awareness is everything if you’re trying to change a thought pattern!
Now, ‘tis true that my mum had a verbal soundtrack that was full of some pretty potent poison. When I was a kid, I learned some entirely destructive ways of thinking about myself, and some totally awesome swear words. What I’m learning to do now is reframe the bad stuff —instead of lamenting my circumstances I am trying to embrace them for the strength and empathy that they have given me in life. I’m keeping the swear words, though. Can’t quite get the delivery down the way Mum had it, but I’ll keep practicing. (Who should I practice on, though? Hmm. That one is tough).
I’m also compiling my own soundtrack. Instead of listening to the broken-record echoes of a voice that tells me I wasn’t enough as a daughter, I am tuning in to the station that is on my happiness frequency. I preset it in memory so that I can find it with one button. And, perfect for me, it plays 80s hits, every day, all the time. No more Rachmaninov. Bring on Echo and the Bunnymen.
p.s. I actually did compile a soundtrack to my life, as you can see. Have you ever tried it? It’s really fun. I could have listed many songs and albums per year, but have limited to the one or few that really brought back the memories.
I’d love to hear from you on what songs in your life soundtrack are your favorite or most memorable, or which of your a-ha moments has helped you make a shift in your thinking. And rock on, polka, or shimmy, whatever it takes, just have a great weekend, hey?
The Soundtrack to My Life – Songs and Albums, People and Places
· 1973 – Tie a Yellow Ribbon (Tony Orlando and Dawn) – my first ever album
· 1974 – This Way Is My Way (Anne Murray) – my second ever album
· 1975 – Bad, Bad Leroy Brown (Jim Croce) – it got the most play on my K-Tel Greatest Hits LP
· 1976 – South Pacific (Various Artists) – my first figure skating solo
· 1977 – Saturday Night (Bay City Rollers) – dancing in my friend Lisa’s living room
· 1978 – Paradise by the Dashboard Light (Meatloaf) – I totally knew what they were talking about, too.
· 1979 – Carmen (Bizet) – my all-time favorite figure skating solo
· 1980 – Beth (Kiss) – my seventh grade boyfriend liked this song a lot. This is a shout out to Brent.
· 1981 – Another One Bites the Dust (Queen) – There ain’t no other like Freddie Mercury
· 1982 – Heat of the Moment (Asia) – class field trip to SFU library with my Grade 8 science teacher
· 1983 – Urgent (Foreigner); Photograph (Def Leppard) – my Grade 9 birthday pajama party
· 1984 – Running With the Devil (Van Halen), Crazy Train (Ozzy Ozbourne), Rock You Like a Hurricane (The Scorpions) – the start of my metal year
· 1985 – Anything INXS, Things Can Only Get Better (Howard Jones), Obsession (Animotion), Black Cars (Gino Vannelli) – the start of my preppy year
· 1986 – Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears) – sung as Nobody Wants to Govern the Moon by my friend Teri, Pretty in Pink soundtrack
· 1987 – songs by the Monkees, Buffalo Soldier (Bob Marley), the entire So album (Peter Gabriel) – crazy, crazy days living on the kibbutz in Israel
· 1987 – Bad (Michael Jackson) – I thought the waiter in the disco in Mykonos, Greece was really cute until he started dancing to this song
· 1987 – Where the Streets Have No Name (U2) – same disco in Mykonos. It was quite the night, it was quite the year.
· 1988 – Happy Hour (The Housemartins), A Little Respect (Erasure), Blue Monday (New Order) – speaker dancing at Diego’s nightclub in Burnaby, B.C. I really did.
· 1989 – Bamboleo (Gypsy Kings) – played from ghetto blasters on the shoulders of young men everywhere in Istanbul; Wild World (Cat Stevens) – another stint on the kibbutz in Israel, much mellower than 1987
· 1990 – Texas Flood album, Couldn’t Stand the Weather album (Stevie Ray Vaughan) – still remember where I was when I heard about the helicopter crash; I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (Sinead O’Connor)
· 1991 – Texarkana (REM), I’m Free (Soup Dragons) – on the road in Australia
· 1992 – Achtung Baby (U2) – my first CD, given to me by my boyfriend Bob. Nice guy, that Bob.
· 1993 – Alive (Pearl Jam); Come As You Are (Nirvana); Road Apples album (The Tragically Hip); Little Earthquakes album (Tori Amos) – it was a complicated time
· 1994 – Aye (Angelique Kidjo) – her voice slays me; Enter Sandman (Metallica) – dancing/thrashing in a Johannesburg nightclub
· 1995 – Bewitched (Luna) – it was all we freaking played when I worked at Coast Mountain Sports; What’s the Story Morning Glory? (Oasis) – in heavy rotation at my Kitsilano apartment in Vancouver
· 1996 – 1998 – Whatever my boyfriend Harry was listening to. I know, lame, hey?
· 1997 – Wannabe (Spice Girls) – I so wanted to be one. I know, lame, hey?
· 1999 – Jagged Little Pill (Alanis Morissette) – the break-up CD. Bye bye Harry.
· 2001 – Money City Maniacs (Sloan), And You (Edwin) – on the road in West Africa, listened to a lot of homey Canada music in the “hotel” brothels at which I roomed.
· 2002 – Poses album (Rufus Wainwright); Sympathique (Pink Martini); anything by Zero Avenue – such a great band. I wonder whatever happened to them.
· 2003 – Waltz for Koop (Koop) – back when boyfriend-turned-husband Francis used to make me CDs with music that he thought would make me drive slower
· 2004 – Float On (Modest Mouse) – a solid drive-fast song
· 2005 – My Humps (The Black Eyed Peas) – TOTALLY KIDDING
· 2007 – Back to Black (Amy Winehouse); Hips Don’t Lie (Shakira) – on the one and only cassette tape that played throughout a five-day work road trip in northern Cameroon; Unwritten (Natasha Bedingfield) – theme song for The Hills, which I watched every day for six months on French MTV. Only got three channels, people, so cut me some slack.
· 2010 – The Fame album (Lady Gaga) – it was catchy, no?
· 2008 – 2011 – reliving my youth through bands that refuse to give up. Concerts attended included Tears for Fears, The Police, Def Leppard, Van Halen and AC-DC. And of course, the amazing Peter Gabriel at Red Rocks. I’d drive those 3300 miles again in a drumbeat.
Great post, Laura! You've done an impressive amount of traveling. 🙂 I've never been good at remembering artist/song/album names let alone dates, but when a song I haven't heard in ages plays, I can always sing along (very badly!) and remember the time in my life that was marked by the music. I too feel incredible emotion through music and consider it a close second to the #1 passion that moves my soul, dancing. Autum
Laura Zera says
Thanks so much, Autum! I've seen you post about dancing on your FB page and it always sounds like you're having a blast! Dancing is so good for the soul (which is probably why Zumba has become such a phenomenon). We all could do with a little more dancing, I think. Why, that's going to be my October/fall resolution!
Great post Laura! When I got married, I wanted to create a special present for my 3 special friends who served as my bridesmaids. As I moved into a new chapter of my life, I wanted to also honour them and what they meant to me over the years. So I created 'our soundtrack' – effectively our hits that we danced to over the years. Each song was filled with a wonderful memory matched with a photo of us. Funny enough, when I think of special moments and events, I always think of them through the rhythm of 'a theme song'. The soundtrack of my life keeps growing…and the beat continues! "Keep dancing like no one is watching!"
Laura Zera says
Andrea, what a great idea! And don't you find that playing those songs just takes you right back there? Love it! Thanks for posting.
Whenever I hear the Netherlands album by Dan Fogelberg, I'm back at college, walking across campus with my Walkman (that dates it — and the album was already several years old by then!) and listening to what became my anthem album my first years at school. I remember the lyrics: I'm learning to fly and this feeling is like nothing that I've ever known." It was a time in my life when I felt like I was learning to fly — and succeeding. Wonderful memories for me!
Thanks for reminding us what a big part music plays in our life. And right now, I do feel like I've taken control of the jukebox and am now guiding the soundtrack for the next chapter of my life!
Laura Zera says
Aaaaahhhhh, Walkmans. That brings a tear to my eye. We were so cool with our Walkmans (although did you ever try jogging with one? Awkward!). Thanks for sharing one of your faves, Diane!
Jodi Aman says
I was thinking of the song "I need a hero." This would be in my soundtrack when I was young. Now I hope I am that hero for others! Thanks for this inspiration!
Laura Zera says
Thanks for your post, Jodi. Are you thinking of the Bonnie Tyler song? I bet it would have an EPIC video, too! And I checked out your blog — with the wonderful work that you do, I am sure that you are a hero to many! All the best.
Whenever I read a post by someone who writes on a personal level, I am always impressed, because it takes balls of steel to do so. You and I have a rough childhood in common, but for different reasons. I wrote about it in a blog too (on my original website, gone now) and I know that it's a challenge to put yourself out there like that. Congratulations on reclaiming your life and taking care of your wounded inner child. Not everyone can make that journey. As for music, it has literally saved my sorry ass on many occasions, and I can't imagine living a life without it. The Doors are the constant soundtrack of my life, and I suspect, will always remain so. Lovely to have you following on Twitter, we are now mutual stalkers 🙂
Laura Zera says
To cinemaprofound, thank you so much for that lovely, supportive comment. I often struggle with just how 'out there' to be but have heard from many other writers that the best writing is honest writing. It's a process in and of itself, but I'm getting more comfortable in my vulnerability, I think! And yeaaaaaah, The Doors rock!
I really like the idea of a soundtrack for life. Yours was fascinating and I feel like I got to know you a little better. I do soundtracks for my characters so why not myself?
Laura Zera says
Or you got to see what I was like when I was young, lol! It was a fun exercise to do, Cindy, and it brought back some great memories. You should totally try it!