Praying At The Church Of Rock And Roll
“A million miles away, your signal in the distance…to whom it may concern. I think I lost my way. Getting good at starting over every time that I return”
-Foo Fighters “Walk”
How do you soothe? How do you comfort? Not others-yourself, because sometimes that’s just the way things work out. I think it’s easy to comfort others. Sometimes it doesn’t even require words…just a hug, a sympathetic ear, or the offer to buy the next round. But soothing yourself? Getting inside your head and talking yourself down from the ledge? That’s tough and there are times that propping yourself up, giving yourself the old ‘one for the Gipper’ speech is not only your best option-it’s your only option.
On September 11th 2001, I found myself in a church. It was my youngest son’s first day of pre-school and his school just happened to be located at a Presbyterian church (for the record, I am neither a Presbyterian nor a church goer). I pulled into a parking space just as the radio broadcaster announced that the first tower had fallen. I walked my blissfully unaware three-year-old inside, kissed him good-bye and walked down the hall that connected the pre-school classrooms to the church. I sat quietly, alone and I squirmed. I reflected, thinking about my friends and family members that I knew were in New York City right that very minute, hoping that they were safe somewhere. I squirmed some more. I felt helpless, numb. I tried to pray, really I did, but praying is not my strong suit. I was never very good at it and always assumed, because my prayers so frequently seemed to go unanswered, I must be doing it wrong. So I left the church, walked out to my car and began shuffling through my CD’s. I needed to find something to listen to. To bring me comfort. To soothe me. While hymns, scripture, and prayer brings solace to many people, I get that from music. That day, my first pick was U2. The first song I needed to hear? “One Tree Hill.” My go-to song that always seems to find my strength through my sorrow. It’s a song I’ve long associated with my dad, who passed away, when I was a child. When I visit his grave, before leaving, I often blow a kiss upwards and say; “I’ll see you again, when the stars fall from the sky.” From there I listened to “Bad”, “Unforgettable Fire”, and “God Will Send His Angels.” All were eerily appropriate. Next I queued up the Beatles, “A Day In The Life”,“Yesterday”, and “In My Life.” Eventually I moved on to Bruce Springsteen, “Born In The USA”, “My Hometown”, and “The River.” And that’s when I realized, after an hour or so of listening to music, I felt calmer and more at peace than I had in the church. By no means am I writing this to be blasphemous or controversial. It’s just how my brain is wired. I pray at the church of rock and roll. I worship the gods of music. It’s where I seek comfort. It’s how I self-soothe.
I’m always amazed and impressed by people that can randomly quote bible passages to suit any predicament. Yet, when I’m in crisis, can just as easily quote Lennon/McCartney, Tyler/Perry, Bono and Grohl.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, the top three songs that I attached myself to were Don Henley’s “The End Of The Innocence” because, that’s exactly what it was - the end of my innocence. “How To Save A Life” by the Fray, because that’s what I was trying to figure out, how to save my life. And, when I had to really get out of my head, “Lose Yourself”by Eminem, because it was so easy to get myself lost in those lyrics and it made me want to fight. Even today, when any of those songs shuffle into rotation I feel both peaceful and empowered. When I wrote my book-I filled it with lyrics that correlated to what I was experiencing at the time. When my editor read it she suggested I remove the chapter breaks and let the song lyrics move the reader through the story. She said it was a really unique way to write and she hadn’t ever seen a book set up like that. For me, it just came very naturally.
Since being diagnosed again, the top three songs that mean the most to me right now are “Walk” by the Foo Fighters, because here I am starting over and learning to walk again. “All These Things That I Have Done” by The Killers, which reminds me that I’ve come so far, and I’ve done so much, and I’m not done yet. And The Beatles, “Let It Be” because, I sometimes have to just let it be; I can’t keep asking questions for which there are no answers.
And just like everyone else, I’ve created multiple playlists on my iPod and iPhone, but some of mine might be classified a little stranger. Sure I have the typical lists labeled for road trips, parties, the gym, and the office. But I also have ones labeled for chemo, hospital tests, and surgery prep. This is how I cope - and why, as you may have noticed each blog begins with a song. They are my lifeline, my theme music, my score.
Life is hard and life is beautiful. There have been times when life gets too hard and all I want to do is curl up in a dark hole and shut out the world…but I don’t. Instead, I’ve stitched together a quilt of my favorite songs, and it is with those that I wrap myself up gently. And when life is beautiful, I let loose the stitches, crank the volume up to 11 and I rock out.