When I started graduate school at UT Dallas five years ago, the very first class I took was called something like “Music and its Effect on the Brain.” It was team taught: one professor was a Harvard trained Memory and Cognition psychologist, the other was the Chair of the Department of Art and Aesthetic Studies, and his expertise was in Musical Composition and Conducting. Unbeknownst to me, this was a doctoral level class. Good God, it was difficult and complex. Read: I was in way over my head. But, as they say, ignorance is bliss. It was my first class. I plunged in with gusto and brio.
Each week our assignment was to locate a piece of music that exemplified that week’s topic, analyze the score (not the lyric), and present to the class. To illustrate my point, here is an example: “Musical Representations of Sexual Experience.” My (pop-culture, limited-capacity) brain went to any Barry White song (swoon!), or the classic Marvin Gaye “Sexual Healing.” But, as is turns out, that is not what the profs were looking for. I had to find a classical music score that represented the sexual experience. Ravel’s “Bolero?”
I had NO IDEA what I was doing, but thanks to my dear friend Dr. Deborah Perkins (music pedagogue extraordinaire) I was able to muddle through. But, I spent the entire semester with my stomach in a twist anyway.
Here is a picture of one of my professors.
Yeah, this was serious business.
Now, had the assignment been to locate a set of lyrics that was an example of the topic, I would have aced that class. When I listen to music I tend to hear the lyric first, then the musical score. This is apparent if you have read any of my blogs.
This song has been speaking to me lately. It was written and recorded by Kacey Musgraves. She is so talented and w-a-a-y cute, to boot.
Here are the words that I like so much:
If you’re ever gonna find a silver lining
It’s gotta be a cloudy day,
It’s gotta be a cloudy day
If you wanna fill your bottle up with lightning,
You’re gonna have to stand in the rain,
Gonna have to stand in the rain
Lemonade keeps turning into lemons and
You wear your heart on a ripped unraveled sleeve
Been rung through the ringer and pushed up to your limit
You say you’re just unlucky, but luck ain’t what you need
Cause if you’re ever gonna find a four leaf clover
You gotta get a little dirt on your hands
Gotta get a little dirt on your hands
If you wanna find a head to fit your shoulder
You’re gonna have to go to the dance
Gonna have to go to the dance
If you wanna find the honey,
You can’t be scared of the bees
And if you wanna see the forest,
You’re gonna have to look past the trees, baby
Her point is that in order to get to the best bits out of life, you have to be willing to jump in and risk getting hurt, risk failure. Your hands will get dirty, you probably will get stung by some bees, and may come dangerously close to some lightening. There is just no other way around it, damn it.
But, you just might find a head to fit your shoulder, too. Not bad, I say.
She makes it seem so easy and maybe a little fun. What does she know? She’s young, she’s got it all in front of her. She has no idea of the hurt and pain of what is ahead. How do I know this? I don’t. I project. Sigh–it’s one of my flaws.
Recently I went skydiving with my youngest child. All of my life I have been terrified of heights. I do not like the feeling of free-fall. Just the thought of standing at the end of a high-diving board takes my breath away. So, needless to say, I agreed to skydive with more than a little bit of trepidation (a huge understatement). I confess, I wanted Nancy-Jane to be proud of me.
It turned out to be one of the most freeing experiences I have ever had. Rather than free-falling, you let go and the wind catches you. YOU FLY. I felt like Super Girl or Sister Bertrille (look that one up, kids). I cannot wait to do it again, and this time I will jump out of an airplane. The real thing.
All of this is about being open with vulnerability. The person who writes about this best is Brené Brown:
I wish that I could say something original about this topic, but I am at a loss. So my story is more a testimonial to the effect of living this way of life. I now understand better what this means: “I was lost but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.” There I go with that lyric thing I have going.
I suppose that living my life as a story that needed to crafted and controlled served me well, until it just didn’t anymore. My life cracked wide open and seemed to fall apart. With a little distance between that time and now I can see that where those cracks happened something akin to lava flowed into those spaces. The feeling is warm, it is alive. It is the feeling of a sense of wonder and love that I feel for my life, the people in it, and a curiosity about amazing things I still have before me.
But in order to experience this I had to be willing to let go and jump, much like the skydiving experience. Much to my surprise (in both cases) I didn’t experience free-falling, but a force greater than mine that picked me up and allowed me to SOAR.
As I write this today I am filled with emotion and a sense of fullness that spills over into a few tears. How does a change so great happen?
I was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind but now I see.
I am standing out in the rain, filling my bottle up with lightening.
I am not going to analyze the lyrics, much less the feeling. All I can say is that is a beautiful place to be.