Music is a huge part of my life. I can track the passing years according to my favourite songs, and each decade is marked by the songs I listened to over and over. High school? All the iconic eighties hits, but especially Abba (I know, I know….but I can’t help loving them), Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams. As soon as I hear the opening bars of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ I am instantly transported to high school. Leg warmers, big hair and acid wash jeans.
Then there are the nineties, in which I spent the majority of my time either pregnant, nursing, or going to church. Therefore, the music that I listened to consisted of churchy type ‘help me Jesus’ songs. Not necessarily catchy tunes, but definitely in the category of a new mom drowning in diapers and cracked nipples and needing some sort of hope that there was more to life than that.
Then came the angry years. Alanis Morrisette. Enough said.
More recently, I find certain songs strike a chord deep inside me, whether it’s the rhythm, the lyrics, or both. It’s a song that seems made just for me, at that exact moment in my life, and evokes emotions that are right where I’m living.
Kelly Clarkson’s song ‘Stronger’ had a huge impact on me when I was going through my divorce a few years back. I was angry, broken, and hurt, and couldn’t see my way past it. I would get on my treadmill and run and run and play this song over and over. It was my anthem of hope; a belief that I would survive this, even if I had no idea how that could happen. And guess what? I did. Thanks, Kelly.
One of the songs I am in love with right now is One Republics ‘Counting Stars.’ It’s super catchy, and every time I hear it I just have to get up and dance. I try not to do that when my kids are around, because they end up falling on the floor laughing and it interrupts my groove.
I also love it because of the lyrics, but there’s one line that always gets me.
“Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.”
I mean, really. What?
I had to think about that for a while. Everything that kills me. Like, pain, and suffering? Heartache and loss? Grief and despair? Seeing one of my kids in deep pain and not able to fix it? Watching the devastating conditions of this planet, and how it seems insurmountable? The atrocities that human beings can inflict on each other?
Those kinds of things are supposed to make me feel alive?
It took me a while to sort this out. I can understand the whole, ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’ idea. It sucks right now, and I’m barely breathing I’m in so much pain, but I can tell myself that one day I will look back on this and be thankful, because I grew into a better version of myself. That, I get.
But this whole concept of finding life in the deepest, darkest parts of myself and others? Not so easy.
I don’t know what One Republic meant when they wrote this song. Perhaps they were talking about addicts, who love the very thing that is killing them. No clue. All I know is what this means for me, and I knew there had to be something in there, because everytime I heard that line in the song, it gave me chills.
What does it mean to ‘feel alive?’
For me, it means I am aware that I exist on this planet. I am present in every moment, and fully conscious of the reality that life is short and this might be my last day on the earth. I am tuned in to my body, my spirit, and the Universe. I am savouring every drop of goodness and beauty that surrounds me, falling more in love with the people in my life and more in love with myself. I feel everything there is to feel. Joy, pain, fear, sadness, ecstasy. It’s all there in the mix. I’m not giving in to hopelessness or despair, but holding on to hope and faith.
So how do I reconcile that aliveness with all the things that kill me?
I think it comes down to acceptance. Can I accept that life brings beauty and ugliness at the same moment? Can I accept that when I am faced with my deepest fears, I am also faced with my deepest dreams? That in the midst of horror and terror, there also lives dignity and love?
I struggled for a really long time with this. I only wanted to feel the good stuff, and so I ignored the bad stuff. Shoved it way down inside and turned out the light. It worked, for a while. I was kind of happy, and functioned fairly well. Eventually, though, I knew that it wasn’t really living. I was alive, but not fully. It was half of the human experience, and without the dark side, I was only half alive. And I wanted it all. I wanted the full experience of life. So I started turning on the lights and looking at the dark. My darkness. The things about me that were ugly, and nasty, and scared the hell out of me. I began to accept that those things existed, and brought them out to have a look.
It was scary at first, to accept the dark. But the more I did, I began to realize something amazing. Feeling the dark, accepting the pain, embracing it, even, was allowing me to feel the good to a greater extent. It was like my capacity to hold both increased. As I let myself be wrecked by the darkness, in myself and others, I also experienced intense happiness and joy like I’d never known. Euphoric, crazy, kooky, insanely giddy joy, that filled me up till I thought I would burst.
So now I know why this song gets me like it does. If I’m willing to allow the things that kill me, that wreck me, to exist, and if I’m brave enough to invite them inside, and accept that they exist, then they have a gift for me. They let me feel the beautiful things, the glorious things about me, and those around me, and this planet we live on, to a far greater extent than I ever thought possible. I’m able to feel fully alive. Not just kind of. Fully. Full. The entire human existence.
What kills you? What are you pushing down into the darkness, and avoiding looking at because it’s just too painful? We all have stuff that we don’t want to face, because it really feels like it will kill us to acknowledge it. But the truth is, if we take a deep breath, muster up all our courage, grab a flashlight and take a look, the opposite is true. It doesn’t kill us. It makes us stronger, and it makes us feel alive.
Isn’t that a song worth singing?