Tag Archives: Song lyrics

On Music

Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands
-“Sir Duke”, Stevie Wonder

Listening
Though my auditions for my high school’s jazz choir were never successful, I did learn and grow to love “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder, the choir’s closing number at every concert. My favorite part was a section in the middle of the song where the vocalists would imitate the instruments of the band. Their rendition of that song comes back to me surprisingly often.

Regretfully, I’m not really a music person. Instead, I am fascinated with musical people, the ones who inhale music the way I do books. Music occupies such a prominent role in their lives and they know so much that I don’t, which is always interesting to me. My favorite way to learn about people is to investigate what they love and why.

In the Jane Austen novels I read when I was younger, people used to quote poetry and verse. Those were universals, areas where everyone was able to participate. Our modern universal is music in all of its varieties. Regardless of its form, there are elements of music that stand out to that, that we can all relate to. I’ve written before that there’s often a song playing in my head and I know I’m not the only one.

Knowing Me
There are songs I listen to in the dark, loudly, face down, huddled under the blankets for protection.

There are songs I hear when I’m running particular paths with screaming lungs.

There are songs I seek out when I’m feeling empty, groundless, numb, swirling in a void heading nowhere.

There are songs I turn to in moments of unbridled joy, passion, excitement.

There are songs I listen to out of anger, knowing that I’m fighting to reclaim them, to make them mean something other than what they’ve come to mean.

There are songs I don’t listen to anymore, songs I’ve grown out of or away from.

There are songs that make me laugh, songs that make me cry. Songs that push me harder and songs that remind me to slow down.

There are songs that hold me together when nothing else does and songs that tear me apart. Songs that make me realize what I’ve forgotten and remind me where I am.

There are songs I’ve listened to on repeat for days, unwilling to let go of the safety they provide. There are songs I’ve avoided for months at a time, unwilling to engage with the emotions they provoke.

Toward the end high school and continuing into college, a friend and I sent song lyrics back and forth, writing found poetry that reflected what was on our minds. I still have those many pages of lyrics saved as a Word document.

Discovering You
And then there are the songs that people have shared with me. The mixes my music-breathing friends made for birthdays, summer parties, or just because. I’ve listened to some of those mixes so many times that I will forever associate certain songs with “So-and-so’s Summer Mix” or “So-and-so’s 21st Birthday Mix”. One of my favorite songs came from a breakup mix (“So-and-so’s Second Summer Mix 2”).

Just as sharing books is a form of intimacy, I see sharing music as much the same. When you send me a song, you’re giving me a part of you that I might not otherwise be able to see. You’re asking me to accept something that matters to you with an open-mind, knowing that my own preferences might differ, but wanting me to understand what makes you tick.

And I will listen. I will always listen. And then ask why you like it, why you shared it, what stands out to you, how you found it. I want to know why this resonates because I want to engage with you, learn more about you. I want to be part of your life and I want you to know that I’m curious about who and what you are. So I listen, I ask, and I listen again. If your music has lyrics, I often read them. What’s in there for you?

We share with people we care about, people who we hope also care about us. We invite them into our lives and hope they’ll accept. We show them pieces of ourselves and gauge their reactions before stripping ourselves bare, exposing one thing at a time.

And when we find something that connects us, we are overjoyed. We are ecstatic that someone has welcomed that piece of us, that someone is invested in us and our well-being. We call these people our friends, our lovers, our family. We feel at once affirmed, validated, secure in who we are.

We know, in that moment, that we are doing okay. We know that we are okay.

You’ve got the music in you
Don’t let go
You’ve got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don’t give up
You’ve got a reason to live
Can’t forget
We only get what we give
-“You Get What You Give” – New Radicals

On Living

Yesterday I thought I saw a former student walking towards me on 14th Street. I felt a grin spread across my face and nearly called out to say hello. And then I remembered.

That student passed away earlier this year. She was shot.

The stranger came closer and I realized they hardly resembled each other. I turned my head away. No one looks too long in New York.


Early last week my mum called to tell me that a dear friend of my sister’s had died. Drug overdose.

I was on the train home when she called and I had nothing to say. After staring out the window in silence for a few stops without seeing any of the stations, I called a friend and asked for help. He told me, There’s nothing to say.


On Friday, I had a conversation with a student, a rabbi’s son, about what happens when God isn’t there or isn’t listening. This child is suffering and doesn’t know why God can’t hear him. He suggested that maybe God has grown too old, too frail, and is now incapable of doing all that God used to do to intervene in the lives of everyday people and propel the world towards a higher plan. My student mentioned that he thought people who believe in God are less likely to commit suicide than people who don’t. Why? I asked. Because even if you can’t live for yourself, you can live for God, he explained. Statistically, I think he’s right, but I said a few words about mental health and the importance of medication for fixing a sick brain, just like medication fixes a sick body. You mean depression? he asked. I nodded. Yeah, he said, I know about that.

My student asked what I thought about a God who doesn’t listen, and I told him I no longer believe in anything I can’t prove. What about air? he asked. You can’t prove that you breathe air. I cupped my hand in front of my mouth, took an audible breath, and blew into it. Yes, I said, I can.

I asked my student how it felt to think that God really isn’t listening, really isn’t anywhere, and really can’t do anything at all. He wasn’t ready to go there. That’s okay. In times of suffering, it’s helpful to think that someone or something is watching and cares.

This I know because I’ve been there.


What makes you good at what you do? my therapist asked once.

I don’t like the self-promotion part of having a career.

I think that kids just want to be treated like people. I think a lot of adults lose sight of that and I try really hard not to.


Last summer, I read an article on one of my favorite blogs about The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. Shortly thereafter, I read the novel and recommended it to everyone who asked for a good book. I’ve yet to see a more moving portrayal about what it means to live and to love.

The article contains a quote that has been saved on my GoogleKeep ever since. de Botton says,

My view of human nature is that all of us are just holding it together in various ways – and that’s okay, and we just need to go easy with one another, knowing that we’re all these incredibly fragile beings.

That’s what I’ve been reminded of this week. That we’re all fragile, that life is fragile. That we’re all holding ourselves together to get from one day to the next and that allowing others to simply be, to breathe freely and deeply, is perhaps the greatest act of compassion we can perform for one another. An act in which we merely stand by the sides of those we love, holding their hands when they need it and letting them go when they don’t.

We are all these incredibly fragile beings. This acknowledgment should give us permission to err, to be forgiven, and to grow, both together and apart, as friends, partners, lovers, and just as people.

We are all doing the best that we can. Knowing this means going easy with one another, as de Botton suggests. Understanding and accepting others for who and what they are then comes from a place of genuine care and concern for well-being. It means meeting individuals where they are, not where we think they should be.


You act like there’s no one left
Alive in the whole city
Well maybe the end is upon you
And what then?
Here, repeat after me
It goes, I won’t stop loving
I won’t stop loving
You don’t have to be perfect
You don’t have to play well
You don’t have to fix everything
All by yourself
Now don’t laugh ’cause I just might be
The soft curve in your hardline

-“Hardliners,” Holcombe Waller

Whoever you are, whatever you need, I will go easy on you. You’re safe here.

Just a Note

I went to college in Syracuse, NY and I’m back now for my roommate’s wedding. I couldn’t be happier to be here or to celebrate such a genuinely kind person and her equally kind tomorrow-to-be husband. In revisiting some old haunts, I headed to Strong Hearts Café, which I was delighted to see had not changed a bit in five year. It’s vegan, provides free coffee refills, and has a list of milkshakes named after radical, influential, and often forgotten people (my personal favorite names include Tiananmen Square Guy, The Haudenosaunee, The White Rose, Sacco & Vanzetti, Howard Zinn, and Paul Rusesabagina). What’s not to love? Actually I can answer that: the lack of cheese.

A girl in her late teens or early twenties came in with a woman I assume was her mother and sat at the table next to me. The girl remained at their table while the mother went to the counter to order. Alone, the girl started to cry. She regained composure and then broke into new tears several times while they waited for a strawberry waffle.

My heart went out to her while I sat at my table and tried to concentrate on my book. I wanted to reach over and tell her that it would all be okay. I wanted to ask if she needed a hug. I wanted to help her stop hurting.

So I wrote her a note on a napkin.

The girl and her mother asked for a takeaway box and left while I was writing, so I never dropped it on their table. Maybe had I started writing earlier, instead of waiting to see if the waffle would help her feel better, I could have been of comfort in some way. Instead, I’ll leave the note here in case she reads this blog. Stranger things have happened, right?

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I know life can sometimes be very hard. I’m sorry for whatever you’re going through. I’m sorry you’re hurting.

But I also know that this, too, shall pass. Every day will be easier than the last.

You are not alone. The people in your life are here for you. Everyone hurts sometimes – we are all here for you.

Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

You can do it.

As I’ve been typing this, Jakob Dylan’s “Everybody’s Hurting” is playing in my head. (Let the record show that there are often songs playing in my head.) It’s a little church-y but I really love this line: My sweetheart we’ve got to learn to live with these ghosts/They can’t leave and we can’t go.

This is the message I want to send to everyone who is hurting, for whatever reason. This is for anyone who needs a friendly face or a shoulder to cry on. I am here for you. If we have yet to meet or if I’ve known you for a long time, I am here for you. Whatever your ghosts, I am here for you. We are all humans, and therefore I am here for you. No questions asked.