Songs in the Key of…Something

She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie

Sara Bareilles, “She Used to Be Mine”

I’ve mentioned before how music has re-emerged in my life to be something so important to me. I have hundreds of songs favorited and saved. I’ve gone through three sets of Air Pods. I listen constantly – even when I’m in the shower (no, my phone is not in the shower). And it’s interesting how songs take on different meanings depending on where you are in your life. And this is no ground that hasn’t been explored before, but I’m indulging my navel gazing.

I can be a bit pithy when I create and name playlists. I have one named “Ire and Rage.” It’s full of songs that make feel better when I’m angry. I guess a sort of reverse therapy?

I’m a grunge girl and no apologies for that. Hard not to be one considering when I grew up. But I like many different eras and genres of songs. My father loved music, and I credit him with why I love 60s music and just enjoy music in general. I love it all, and I’ll listen to it all. OK. Confession: I’m not a huge country fan, but I do like some songs, and I also enjoy quite a few hip hop songs.

I’ve been told in the past that my tastes are pedestrian. Well, isn’t music meant to be enjoyed? Maybe I’m not rocking out to some obscure song that 5 people know, but I like what I like. Isn’t that the point? I never suggested I was “cool”, whatever that means.

What I love about music is that you can always find something to fit your mood, your situation, your stage of life. That moment when you completely identify with what is being expressed as if they had been in your head…

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words

Roberta Flack, “Killing Me Softly”

It’s that moment when you realize you aren’t alone. Someone else has felt the same way you have and they have expressed your feeling, whether it be love or happiness or hope or sadness or despair or anger, so perfectly that you feel seen. You are validated. You aren’t ridiculous.

So, yes, as I cycle through various moods and seasons of life, I turn to music. I admit to being slightly embarrassed when Spotify revealed my most-played song in 2022 had been “Malibu” by Hole. I was never a big Hole fan as a teenager (we’ll talk about the fact that I have a “doll part” from a Hole concert senior year another time). There is a rage to both “Malibu” and “Violet” that speaks to me. Because I have a lot of rage about a lot of things. And it’s cathartic. Sometimes I do feel like some are trying to take everything (metaphorically). I have previously mentioned that I also suffer from anxiety, and it turns out anger helps me drown it out, so listening to angry songs helps me to focus and keep the anxiety at bay. It’s been funny watching Daniel start to sing along to some of these songs. And, truly, my playlists are eclectic. I have enjoyed being exposed to different music by many friends, and I can always find something to fit a particular mood.

A year or so ago, a new friend commented that they didn’t think a song had been written yet that described me. For some reason, that popped up in my head today. Probably because in my slightly anxious brain, I was trying to keep it all together and listen to songs as I drove into work today.

I know that statement was meant (I think) to be a compliment on my uniqueness. It was meant to be flattering. But. Today when it popped into my head, it struck me differently. Who among us does not want to feel…seen? Reflected? Included. Maybe that’s what it is. Included.

The thing is that I spent – well, still spend – so much of my life being told how different I am. And I’m not saying that to compliment myself. Sometimes…you want to fit in. Who doesn’t want to know a love song makes someone think of you? Or that rage-y anthem makes someone say, “this makes me think of you because you take no shit!” Or, as embarrassing as it might be, “this song makes me think of that day you cried in theater class because that guy broke up with you and we all kind of stared.”

I guess what I’m getting at is that there would be a sense of being recognized. You belong. You feel the same things we do. Or, maybe, someone else recognizes that you feel the same things regular humans feel. What’s wrong with me that out of thousands of years of music, there isn’t ONE song that could I could be seen in? I have become Other.

And I know that’s maudlin and likely overthinking (something I am also guilty of). But as I’ve said before, I make no apologies for how feelings hit me.

I’m not sure if any readers have noticed, but I’ve tried to append a few lyrics of a song that reflects my mood to my posts. Maybe I really am stunted emotionally at age 15, but they all reflect where I am at a particular time. And I admit that I tend to the darker stuff and wallow in my feelings and internalize and should probably use commas correctly for items in a series.

But that’s where I am. That’s who I am. And no worries…next song may very well be Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.” I love that song. Makes me dance around my kitchen.

A few weeks ago, I went to a local music show with a friend and the music was great – very eclectic – all over the place. What I loved almost as much as the band was the “youngsters” dancing at the front to the music: headbanging AND moshing. I had the biggest smile on my face.

The kids are alright.

And so am I.


J and I have been paying some long overdue attention to our house.  We’ve been cleaning and de-cluttering and throwing away stuff we’ve accumulated that isn’t us or no longer (if ever) necessary.  First, we tackled the bonus room and other rooms.  Next, we emptied the guest room.

Our newly-empty guest room

Our focus this week has been the garage, and I’ve learned a few things:

  • It’s incredibly embarrassing that we’ve accumulated enough new crap to fill a dumpster only 2 years after the last dumpster rental
  • I’ve become ruthless when it comes to junk: throw it out!  We obviously haven’t needed it or missed it.
  • J is a paperwork hoarder – it is astonishing the number of boxes containing old paperwork we have schlepped from residence to residence.
  • What were we thinking putting a box of empty gift boxes from Christmases gone by in the loft instead of the trash?
  • If anyone needs furniture/moving blankets, we’ve got you covered

A couple of the boxes were items from high school and college that I have saved.  A few playbills from plays I was in.  A few papers I was especially proud of.  A folder containing lesson plans from the unit on existentialism for the 10th graders I student taught.  And notebooks containing my writing and thoughts.  J kept remarking that I had a weird expression on my face as I went through those boxes, and he was right.  It felt weird.  I didn’t remember some of the events I’d written about – fairly trivial in retrospect but misery for the 17- and 18-year old me.  I wasn’t very happy in high school, and my freshman year of college was one of adjustment.  Not academically but socially.  I’ve always struggled to find the place where I fit in, and those years were not my best.  The words, the poems…it took me back.  I’m sure that a lot of what I felt was typical teenager angst, but the misery leapt off the pages (Amber, if you are reading this, I bet you understand).

I finally told J that I wasn’t ready to throw away the stuff, but I’d be happy if we could shove the boxes into a corner somewhere and I could try to forget they existed.

I don’t know why I’m hanging on to what I chose to keep.  Do I want Daniel to find my old notebooks and read them?  My essays and stories?  Sure!  Indulge in the brilliance that was my college years (ha!). My notebooks/diaries? Not really.   Those notebooks were used sporadically, so the context is missing.  But I can’t help but feel like they are a tiny bit precious.  They contain a little bit of the teenage me.  Maybe they are my horcrux(es?).

So those items escaped the Great Purge of 2011.  We’ve made progress in our de-cluttering, cleaning and sprucing up.

So have I.

How do you feel when you come across items from your adolescence or past?

We rearranged our hutch to contain the items we liked