Thursday, December 29, 2011

Music Therapy

I'm not a huge believer in therapy in the traditional sense of the word.  I've had some pretty useless therapists in my life (which explains why I do not have one now) and they were all extremely expensive and not nearly as effective as 3 minutes of the right words mixed with the right music and sung by the right person can be.  It has always amazed me how lyrics written by a perfect stranger can make us feel so much.  I think it illustrates the connection that we all have to one another.  Kind of lends a little truth to that cheesy saying about how strangers are just friends we haven't met yet. 

While I was writing about Matchbox Twenty's Yourself or Someone Like You I got to thinking about some times in my life that music has helped me through.  There have been times that it has helped me deal with tragedy, times that it has helped me celebrate, and times when it has just been a friend when that's all I needed.   Sometimes it's music I wouldn't expect either.  I never know if the magic tune is going to be one that expresses how I'm feeling right then, or one that is the exact opposite.  But I always know it when I hear it.

When I was studying for and taking the CPA Exam (an 18 month exercise in torture), my stress level got about as high as it's ever been.  I would study until my brain felt like it was going to melt, then I'd listen to some old favorites to decompress.  Anna Nalick's Wreck of the Day was one of my favorite albums to listen to on my way to take exams.  I could focus on the lyrics, sing along with her (I think we make beautiful harmonies), and just clear my mind.  After exams, I was all about rolling down the windows and cranking Godsmack or Disturbed all the way home.  Such an amazing stress release.

Right in the midst of my CPA Exam taking, we found out that my mom was sick and about six months after that I lost my job (well, it's not really lost, I know where it is, it just isn't mine anymore).  Since I'm not much of a drinker and I'm not medicated, I definitely needed something to keep me sane during that year.  Music filled that bill.  Coincidentally, Neon Trees, Travis McCoy and Bruno Mars all released their debut albums during that time.  Oddly enough, they all helped in their own way.  I drove back and forth to my parents' house 2 or 3 times a week for months and absolutely depended on my iPod to keep me company during those drives.  The iPod I had at the time was named Sally (because I name everything) and she always knew exactly what I wanted to listen to. 

Sometimes I would want to sing along to Neon Trees and Travie McCoy and try to pretend that everything was going to be ok.  Other times I would switch to Bruno Mars' "Talking to the Moon" or Neon Trees' "Farther Down" and just cry.  And then there were days when I would listen to something old school, like Pearl Jam or STP or Counting Crows and let my mind go back to a time when things really were ok.  Whatever emotion I needed to work through at a given time could be exercised by the right song.

If there has ever been a time in your life when music made getting through something possible or even just made it a little bit easier, then you know what I mean.  There is no way I could possibly thank all of the artists that have impacted my life over the years (especially without sounding like a complete nut job).  I like to think that they really create for those of us who really appreciate it, so hopefully just loving the music, taking it in and letting it effect me is thanks enough.  Besides, I have to imagine that there is some therapeutic value to the creating of these kinds of songs too, so it's a win-win for all of us.

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