Music

Music – The great escape

Music can change the world because it can change people. ~ Bono

Do you ever feel like sometimes you just want a little, tiny, minuscule vacation? Like the old bubble bath commercial catchphrase, Calgon, take me away.

Music does that for me.

And sometimes, one song can change everything and speak to me in a way that touches my soul. 

What gives a song that power?

Sometimes it’s a memory of the song or some nostalgia built around it, like Aretha Franklin’s “Think.” First of all, Aretha, Queen of Soul, that big, soulful voice. But when I hear that keyboard intro to “Think” my mind immediately shifts to Aretha’s killer scene in a neighborhood diner in “The Blues Brothers” as she sang in a pink waitress outfit and house shoes, made all the more memorable by the girls who jumped off their dining stools to sing back up.

As the song continues and she sings, “Freedom!” I’m dancing. I managed to channel my best Aretha singing “Think” at Karaoke last year. I butchered the song, but did my best Aretha pantomime. So fun.  

Deep thoughts put to music

Sometimes it’s the heart of a song that speaks to my heart, like “Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls. It’s a catchy tune with great vocals and acoustic guitar, but for me, the song is about our search for truth and clarity and for some assurance that we’re on the right track in life, but there’s not one “right” answer.

It’s in the journey that we discover our truth for ourselves.  “The less I seek my source for some divinity, the closer I am to fine.” 

Timely reminder

One of my very favorite songs of all time is “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, first released in 1979.

I know. It’s an old song, but it’s amazing and also, as I was reminded the other day, completely relatable.

I was cooking dinner, listening to music, when the familiar baseline came on: 

Doon, doon, doon, d’duhdoondoon.

Clap. Snap. 

Doon, doon, doon, d’duhdoondoon. 

Pressure. 

There’s a lot going on in the song, music swells, random lyrics:

Umboon, bah, bah, beh

People on streets. 

That’s okay.

And always goes back to the bass line: Doon, doon, doon, d’duhdoondoon.

Then around the middle of the song there’s a swell and overlapping of lines and sounds. 

And then goes to snapping fingers to the beat. Snap, snap, snap. 

Then the lyrics, “Turned away from it all like a blind man. Sat on a fence but it don’t work. Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn.”

Then another swelling of sound, drums, Freddy Mercury’s falsetto, guitars. 

And then one word rises from the chaos,

Love, love, love, love, love,

repeated in a rush, as if in a flash of revelation, like, Yes! That’s it! 

And then the lyrics that always gets me:

Insanity laughs and the pressure we’re breaking. 

Why can’t we give ourselves one more chance? Why can’t we give love one more chance?  Why can’t we give love, give love, give love?

It’s like a great release and simple answer to life’s pressure and the feeling that the world is closing in on us and there’s chaos and wondering how we can protect ourselves and our family and still be okay. 

And David Bowie sings in the rush of words

‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night and love dares you to change our way of (join voices and crescendo) caring about ourselves this is our last dance this is our last dance. (Slowly and more quietly) This is ourselves ….under pressure. 

Baseline. Snapping fingers. 

I think I love this song more every time I hear it.

When the music wells to the big ending it’s as if all the scattered thoughts and concerns — people in streets and good friends screaming let me out—and you feel the desperation and searching. All that stuff pushes down on you until the rush and realization: 

Love, love, love, love, love. 

This is our last chance, this is ourselves …under pressure. 

Whoa! Yes! This!

Mindshift through music

“Under Pressure” is pretty much the perfect song right now, a great reminder of our connectedness and the call for getting back to the basics of love, for each other, for ourselves.

Or maybe it was the perfect song for me to hear at that moment when I wanted to shift my mind from negativity and bad news.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or discouraged or have just had enough of all the “latest news,” put on some music to transport your mindset to a lighter level.

It might provide the perfect short but great escape and may even have a ripple effect of goodness you’re need right now.

For more ideas about how to lift your mood, read Tips to Shake Off the Blues here on the blog.

goals

What you can do now to help you reach your goals

You know things don’t happen by themselves, that your plans, dreams, aspirations, bucket list items, things you’ve always wanted to do…don’t just happen by themselves. 

Action is required. Your action. 

At times of uncertainty, goals may be the furthest thing from your mind.

Like now, when the world seems at a standstill and COVID-19 is affecting communities, families, and individuals directly, it’s easy to think, what I want is not important right now. 

Maybe your dreams and aspirations aren’t a matter of life and death, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. 

And if you take action now, you’ll be in a better position to reach your goals when the Coronavirus crisis is history.

Here are some things you can do now:

Set your goals. 

Time goes and goes. Days turn to weeks and weeks to months and months to years…you get the idea.

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but have never developed a plan for how to accomplish it, there’s a good chance it’s a wish and not a goal.

What makes it a goal?

  • First, believe you can do it, even if it seems like it could never happen.
  • Then accept the vulnerability that comes with that big goal.
  • Next, and possibly most important, you must devise a plan to make it happen. 

If you take those first steps toward your goals, you’re on your way. If not, it may be just a wish.

Goal or Wish?

I’ll give you an example of something I used to want to do, but only ever wished it, like a dream, and never made it a goal. 

I used to, in a Walter Mitty kind of way, want to be a backup singer. I dreamed of doing the moves old school, like the Pips did for Gladys Knight. 

Never did it. Probably never will, but OMG that would have been amazing.

Either because I didn’t think I could, didn’t know how I would, or just didn’t have the courage to make it real, without a plan to make it happen, being a backup singer stayed a wish for me, not a goal. 

Now, the only backup singing gigs I have are in my mind as I dance and sing in my living room or on the occasional Karaoke night : ) 

Don’t let this be you!

Set your goals. It’s okay if they seem slightly out of reach, maybe even crazy and unattainable.

Then come up with a plan to make them happen.

If you’re not sure exactly what goals you want to set for yourself, you’re first step may be to dig deep and explore some ideas about what you’d like to do.

And try not to look at it as a test. There are no right or wrong answers and it’s okay if you start something and then find it’s not what you thought it would be. You’ve learned something in the process.

Have a plan to work toward your goals. 

Don’t keep them all in your head. Write them down, post them someplace, come up with a plan to meet them, jot down incremental goals in your calendar.

Find whatever works to help you keep them at the forefront of your mind. Break the steps into small, attainable goals to keep you from being overwhelmed and giving up before you start. 

Do what you can. 

These days of social distancing and sheltering in place are not normal. You may not be able to do everything you normally would, but you can still do a lot.

Reach out to people who you trust and who may be able to help or advise you about how to move forward. You may find there’s a lot that’s out of your control, but even if you can’t do everything you’re used to doing, there’s still a lot you can do. 

Approach with enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” 

Think about it. Why would you want to work toward something you’re not excited about? When I was working on my first book, I had days when I felt not even an ounce of enthusiasm about what I was doing. Those were long and dark days, perfect for giving up. 

What a different experience to approach with enthusiasm. I felt a greater sense of accomplishment when I met my daily goals, felt greater compassion toward myself and my work, knew I was in it for the long haul, and felt more determined to finish. 

Doing these things:

  • Setting goals
  • Developing a plan
  • Doing what you can
  • Approaching with enthusiasm

are simple first steps you can take now to help you build momentum toward reaching your goals.

I don’t believe it’s End of Days. We’ll get through this uncertain time, but it’s a good reminder that none of us has forever to do what we always thought we would do.

Action is required. Do what you can now to move you closer to your goals.

Need some inspiration to get started on setting your goals? Check out If not now, when? on the blog.

Listen more, get more

What can you gain when you listen better?

As someone a long time ago once said, We have 2 ears and 1 mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. (According to Goodreads.com, Greek philosopher Epictetus said it about two-thousand years ago.)

2 ears, 1 mouth. Listen better. Sure. Sounds good.

Makes sense, even, but I’m afraid it’s not working out that way. Not for me, anyway.

I used to think I was a pretty good listener and included listening as one of my strenghts. I’m not sure what happened to my listening skills. 

I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

This is an actual conversation I’ve had with my husband:

Me: How was your day?

Mark: It was good. Busy, but good. 

5 minutes later

Me: How was your day?

Mark: You just asked me that.

Me: (deer in headlights look) I did?

Mark: Yes

Me: Really?

Mark: Yes

Me: What did you say?

Mark: (Long pause) It was fine.

Whoa. That’s pretty crappy. The problem was not that I forgot what he’d said.

No, the problem was I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t fully present even as I stood right there with him?

Why not? Was I asking a question because I felt the need to speak, to fill the silent space? I don’t know. 

But I know I can do better. I want to do better. 

The thing is I believe listening is one of the most fundatmental ways of showing love. It’s pretty basic really.

When we truly listen to another person, we’re fully present, body and mind, engaged in what that person is saying.

But why is it so hard to do sometimes?

There are many possible reasons.

Maybe we’re

  • thinking about something that happened earlier
  • formulating a response to what is being said
  • wondering when this person will stop talking
  • dying to check our weather app
  • itching to check new posts on Instagram (or Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

When petty stuff distracts me so much that I can’t listen well to someone I love, that’s a problem.

And it’s not just hearing their words that’s important. It’s giving them my full attention. Listening, yes, but also seeing, feeling, and being completely present in the moments that make up my life.

I realize, for example, how quick I am to pull out my phone or think about pulling it out for no good reason. Major distraction.

Shifting focus

The other day, I held my 2-month old granddaughter in my arms while she slept. It was just us and the house was quiet, except for the faint squeak of the rocking chair I sat in.

I thought, Hey, there are tons of movies I’ve been wanting to watch. Maybe I can watch a movie. Or maybe I can listen to an audiobook.

But because I’ve been thinking about this whole idea of “listening” and what it means to listen and be fully present, I stopped myself, didn’t pick up my phone or turn on the TV.

It was so quiet. 

I just sat there and listened. To the quiet, to her breath, to her sigh. And the listening caused me to feel her more, her presence, the weight of her in my arms.

In that moment, I found myself overcome with immense gratitude for the amazing miracle I held in my arms. I prayed for angels to watch over her and for her protection, now and always. 

No movie or book could ever compare to the magnitude of that moment for me. I’ll always remember it as a gift, made possible by the power of listening. 

I know this to be true. And you know what? As wonderful and awesome as it was, I still struggle. It’s still hard for me to listen. 

This is something I have to practice every day, for myself as much as for anyone else.

Listening is an act of love. It connects us to the world, life, people, our surroundings. The Universe has something to say and if we don’t listen we could miss it forever.

Do you struggle to listen? What keeps you from being a better listener? I’d love to hear from you in the comments : ) 

Read more about listening (to yourself) on this post: Discover the value of your intuition

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on rubymontalvo.com

Start strong, finish stronger

I’ve often thought about the idea of “starting” and whether it’s easier to start or finish. (I think I must’ve been a deep thinking philosopher in another life.)

It’s a little like the chicken and egg question and doesn’t seem answer-able because you can’t finish if you don’t start, but that doesn’t make it any easier to start.

And for the sake of discussion here, I’m talking about starting and finishing things you want to do for your own personal fulfillment.

Possibly to improve your life, possibly just for the joy of doing it, possibly for the satisfaction of checking off your bucket list, anything that requires you to get out of your regular routine, kind of get away from “Auto-Pilot” mode to disrupt your regular routine.

You’ll have to commit time, energy, and maybe even money.

The challenge of starting

For the purpose of simplifying the discussion, let’s pick a project. Let’s say we want to run a marathon.

A marathon is 26.2 miles. Let’s say the furthest you’ve ever run in your life is a 5k, 3.1 miles.

Here are some things people might say when you tell them you’re thinking about running a marathon:

Why would you want to do that?

Do you know anything about it?

You’re crazy.

Why the hell would you do that?

You’re not a runner.

That’ll be cool. You can cross the finish line like “Rocky”!

That’s awesome!

The only good reason to run is if something’s chasing you.

Why?

You start to doubt whether you can really do it. You consider the investment of time and money and think, “Why do I want to do this?”

You list your reasons to go ahead with it:

for the physical challenge

I’ve always wanted to

for the satisfaction of starting and finishing.

Then you think,“Wow, all this figuring and mental ping-pong is exhausting!” And you haven’t even done anything yet! But, in a way, you have.

When you undertake a marathon-like project you have to know that there’ll be obstacles. And you’re sure to encounter some you hadn’t considered.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on rubymontalvo.com

It won’t be easy. The road will be long. Some people will doubt you can do it.

If you’ve considered all those things and gone back and forth about whether you should or not before commiting 100% and you want to do it anyway, and you decide you’re going to do it, that’s what will get you to the start. And you can’t get to the finish unless you get to the start.

It’s impossible to finish unless you start.

In our scenario, our enthusiastic but inexperienced runner goes out on her first training run and struggles to do 3 miles. In her mind she thinks, “How in the world am I going to run 26 when I feel like I’m dying after 3?”

Doubt creeps in, but she’s ready for it. She shakes it off and tells herself, “It’s okay. At least I got out there and did it. I have to start somewhere so I might as well start at the beginning.” (For more on this, see Believe in yourself when doubt creeps in)

That’s the spirit!

You have to start somewhere. Don’t shut yourself down before you’ve even started.

You have to trust the process (See Be patient and trust the process) and believe you can do it.

It’s okay if it’s a rough start. You knew there’d be obstacles.

Have a beginner’s mindset and be open to learning all you can. You may be surprised to learn of ways to make the experience more pleasant and maybe even fun. (See Embrace the Beginner’s Mindset)

Keep moving in the direction of your goal and you’ll gain momentum toward it.

Remember why you started. You may have had more reasons not to do it than to do it, but none of that matters because you’re committed. You knew it wouldn’t be easy going in.

I don’t know if it’s harder to start or finish. But logic tells us it’s impossible to finish what you never start.

When you start, knowing there’ll be challenges ahead and that it won’t be easy, but you’re ready to do it anyway, you’re more likely to finish what you’ve started. 

So how about you?

What marathon-like goal do you have? How close are you to starting?

When you’re ready to commit, remember, you have to start somewhere. Forget about wanting to be perfect and always keep in mind why you started. That’s your why and your why will move you forward when you feel you can’t go another step.