I was feeling good this morning. I started the day off right by taking a brisk walk with my mom. I wanted to keep some of that movement in my head and body so I asked Alexa to play random 90s dance music as I stepped into the shower. I love the joyful surprise of hearing songs I haven’t heard in a while.
After a few notes I recognized the first song as a dance remix of ‘Missing’ by Everything But the Girl. Memories came rushing down on me with the water. Dancing to this song with friends, in dark smoky places. So many nights, so many years ago. So many smiles, so many pounds ago. I laughed a little as I raised my hands up in the air, waving them like I just don’t care. Reaching for the shampoo, swaying to the beat. Imagining us all out on the dance floor. Carefree. Loose. Unabashed.
As Tracey Thorn began singing, so did I. At the top of my lungs. Words I’ve sung so many times before. As I sang, each and every one of those times flashed through my mind. Out on a crowded dance floor. In a fast moving car. At an intimate house party. In my old room. Here, in the shower.
‘I step off the train. I’m walking down your street again.’ Smiling and singing.
‘And past your door’ Belting it out!
‘But you don’t live there any more.’ Louder and louder.
‘It’s years since you’ve been there.’ Bent knees, upturned face.
‘Now you’ve disappeared somewhere.’ Raised fists, over-emoting.
‘Like outer-space, you’ve found some better place.’
And then BAM! A mule kick to the chest, and the wind was knocked right out of me. I couldn’t find the breath to sing. And all at once the water felt oh, so heavy, and I was overwhelmed with the weight of grief. I found myself gasping for air. Heaving. Sobbing. A shower of tears rolled over my entire body.
In one musical phrase I was moved from joyful giddiness to breathstealing sorrow.
Flooded with raw emotion. Re-experiencing all of the loss of the past few months in one moment. The sheer emptiness of it all sucked every bit of air from my lungs. Empty.
The emptiness of it all. It is being felt everywhere this year. The wind is being knocked out of the whole country right now. The immeasurable loss. The countless grieving families. Millions of sorrowful souls. The empty spaces at tables and in hearts. And I felt it all. At once. Deeply.
There is absolutely nothing like the power of music to make me feel it all. At once. So deeply. ‘And I miss you. Like the deserts miss the rain.’
And just when I thought it might be too much to bear, just when I thought I might sit down in the shower, curl myself into a ball and let the sadness of the entire world wash over me, the song ended.
And then I heard Martha Wash summoning me, ‘Everybody Dance Now!’ Her voice snapped me out of it. I was back on a dark smoky dance floor. I was back in my Charger with the windows rolled down. I was back to the joy that an old song can bring. ‘Let the music take control. Let the rhythm move you.’
Listen to Tracey Thorn singing Missing
Listen to Martha Wash singing Gonna Make You Sweat
We get nervous when we hear songs we don’t recognize quickly: is it that we’ve forgotten it? do we need to search inside for someone who knows? Or have we not heard it, in which case we feel left out? Discovery can be an exploration or an isolation. Fear of the latter keeps us insular
Best to pick your own music then and not rely on random playlists. Music can trigger so many things.