January 9, 2019
I recall watching an ABC news special, a few years ago, about the amazing medical recovery of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As you may recall, Representative Giffords was attacked in January of 2011 when a man opened fire at a mall where she held a “Congress on Your Corner” event, meeting and greeting her constituents. Eighteen people in all were shot, and six people—one of whom was a nine-year-old girl—died.
After having taken a bullet to the brain, initially it was believed that if Miss Giffords did survive, she would spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state.
Of course, now we see how well recovered she is, and while she’s not back to where she was before the attack, she walks and talks and understands her world, and now, her new role in making it a better world than it had been. She didn’t let this attack send her into hiding but used her experiences to help her chart a new path.
Two of the major factors cited by many in her recovery are pure force of will—and the use of music therapy.
I have heard it said that music is a universal language, and I believe that’s true. I also believe that music accomplishes more to the benefit of our bodies, our minds and our spirits than we truly know right now. The science isn’t there yet, but I believe that music is as fundamentally necessary to a healthy and happy existence as is food, air, water, and shelter.
I’m at that point in my life when sometimes, words escape me. I have to really think to remember things that a few years ago, I had no problem recalling. Our brains do change as we age, and that is something I’ve long known. The fact that I’m pushing 65, and that I do have several health issues means I’m not surprised to have a few lapses here and there. It doesn’t really bother me, at least not overly much.
A couple of weeks ago, I was going through my iTunes library. I wanted to make a Christmas play list on my PC. As I looked down the list of songs that I had purchased over the last several years, I saw that I had music I’d forgotten that I had (my library consists of more than 800 songs, a realization that left me a little slack-jawed).
There was a girl-group that was quite popular in 1990, when they came out with their debut album. They were active for a few years, and then fell off the radar, returned in 2004, and then made a comeback again in 2010 and are, according to what I can tell, still performing on stage.
The group’s name is Wilson Phillips, and their first big hit, Hold On, hit so many non-musical chords for me, that it quickly became my favorite song of all time. Well, until it was superseded by the next one.
That’s my usual relationship with music. I love so much of it and times change, and my favorite song, if I have one, depends on the moment I’m in. Right now, I have two: This Is Me, from the Greatest Showman, and Baba Yetu (The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili), by Christopher Tin.
So, there I was, in the last two weeks of 2018, doing a mental fist-pump because I had discovered that I have two Wilson-Phillips songs in my iTunes library: Hold On, and Release Me.
Task at hand completely forgotten (and that does happen fairly often), I put on the headphones, turned up the volume, and listened to the opening chords of that first hit. And then…I began to sing when the group did. To my astonishment, I remembered ever word, every pause, every extra little “uh-huh” along the way.
It was the most wonderful moment for me, because it was a moment when I realized that, as much as I focus on moving, and playing a couple of strategy games each day to keep my body and mind active, I realized there was one more thing I should be doing at least once a week, too. Something that really lifted me up and made me feel younger.
I need to do this more often—put on those headphones and reconnect with songs I have loved in the past…and maybe, who knows, it might prove to be the tonic I need, if not physiologically, then at least emotionally.
If you have access to music and a few minutes to yourself every day, I recommend that you do the same. Music not only soothes the savage beast; it can give us respite, and calm our busy, modern-day souls.
Music lifts us up and leaves us better than it found us—and that’s a wondrous thing.