I can’t write about politics today. I know for whom I am going to vote, and many, many others are writing far better than I could about the dangers of electing a narcissistic, xenophobic, ignorant bully to the most powerful position in the world.
I can’t write about Black Lives Matter. It’s not my story to tell; it is my role to listen, and support people and communities of color, and grieve those killed senselessly by law enforcement.
I can’t even write about the weather today: every day hotter than normal makes me think of climate change and what is going to happen if Donald Trump gets elected. I will probably not live to see the worst effects of global warming, but my children and grandchildren will, and I worry about them.
So, instead, I am writing about something slight and unimportant — the music that shapes and defines who I am. My process for selecting songs was more or less random: I went through my iTunes library and went “Oh, yes, that one, definitely.” I managed to whittle the list down to sixteen, and that was tricky, believe me. So here goes:
“Travelin’ Thru,” Dolly Parton
“My Church,” Maren Morris
“Brain Damage/Eclipse,” Pink Floyd
“Kyrie,” Mister Mr.
“Corner of the Sky,” from Pippin
“Life Support,” from Rent
“Man of La Mancha,” from Man of La Mancha
“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” Jimmy Buffet (also, “Boat Drinks.”)
“I Am What I Am,” from La Cage Aux Folles
“I Miss the Mountains,” from Next to Normal
“The Moon and St. Christopher,” Mary Chapin Carpenter.
“Hotel California,” The Eagles
“Light One Candle,” Peter, Paul, and Mary
“Let It Go,” pick an artist — my favorite version is by Pentatonix
“Brave,” Sara Bareilles
“Do It Anyway,” Ben Folds Five
The songs fall into several categories: life history (“Changes in Latitudes,” “The Moon and St. Christopher,” “Hotel California”), and difficulties I have had to overcome (“Brain Damage,” “I Miss the Mountains”).
The biggest category is aspirational: what I want (“My Church,” “Kyrie,” “Corner of the Sky”), who I want to be, (“Brave,” “Let It Go,” “I Am What I Am”), and what matters to me (“Light One Candle”).
And then there is “Travelin’ Thru.” If I were to identify one anthem for both who I am and who I want to be, as well as what I value most, both in myself and in others, it would be this beautiful ode to acceptance both of yourself and other people.
Who I am:
God made me for a reason and nothing is in vain
Redemption comes in many shapes with many kinds of pain
Who I want to be:
Questions I have many, answers but a few
But we’re here to learn, the spirit burns, to know the greater truth
We’ve all been crucified and they nailed Jesus to the tree
And when I’m born again, you’re gonna see a change in me
And most importantly, what I want for all of us:
Oh sometimes the road is rugged, and it’s hard to travel on
But holdin’ to each other, we don’t have to walk alone
When everything is broken, we can mend it if we try
We can make a world of difference, if we want to we can fly
When I make a playlist to get me through difficult times, I always add this song. When I look at the world, and I see darkness all around me, I listen to this song. I have been known to sit with this song in my car repeating over and over when life seems overwhelming.
“Travelin’ Thru” brings me hope that we can all get through it, whatever “it” is, if we just find each other and work together. I know that right now that seems impossible, but I have to hope we can get through this.
My music gives me that hope.