So we’re driving along, on our way to run some critical errand. It’s the usual setup. I’m in the front seat, thinking about a thousand different things while driving: what should I fix for dinner? Where did I put that bill? Do I still have stamps? What time does the dance store close? What exactly does occult involve? And secret societies, what exactly do they involve? Should there be something wrong with my new YA character? Does she have a sister? Is her sister dead? Oh, crap, when is that school project due?
Yeah. That’s y mind. It’s not always a pretty place.
Anyway. We’re driving along. I’m in front. The kids are in the back. My third grade daughter, a speed talker with a newly installed orthodontic device, is going on about something. But I can’t hear her over her brother, and even if I could, I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. Said brother, my four year old, is ranting about a vampire that attacked his zombie brother before Darth Vadar and his storm troopers could get there and scare them away. Yeah. His imagination is nuts (occupational hazard). I may well be raising the next Stephen King.
And then it happens. A song comes on the radio. It’s soft at first. I barely hear over the daily chaos. But then a note registers, and some place inside me tunes in, and without even thinking I’m reaching for the stereo and turning up the volume—turning it way up. Cranking it. And the music starts blasting, right over the kids. And suddenly my scowl or frown or whatever that stressed out mom look is melts away, replaced by a smile. Not just a mouth smile, either. But the kind that sweeps through your entire body, that brightens your eyes and lightens your heart. And I start singing—loudly.
I was born to run,
I was born to dream,
The craziest boy you ever seen,
I gotta do it my way,
Or no way at all….
Loverboy. “Turn Me Loose.” And with the remembered lyrics, for that moment, I’m not a mom anymore. I’m not worried about deadlines or meals or groceries. I’m not worried about refereeing a fight or not losing my temper. I’m sixteen. I’m carefree. And I’m so, so happy.
The scientists can spout off all sorts of scientific reasons why this happens, why it’s a well-documented phenomenon, but I’m not really interested in the reasons. I just know it’s real, and it’s awesome. It’s also powerful. With nothing more than a song, I can take a quick, mini vacation from the present day to another point in my life:
- “Good Morning Starshine” by Andy Williams (with the Osmond Brothers) and I’m back in the backseat of my parents car, wedged between my brother and sister on a family vacation.
- “Open Arms” by Journey and I’m getting my first kiss.
- “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler and I’m totally sixteen again, falling in love for the first time.
- “Faithfully” by Journey, and we’re on the verge of breaking up.
- “1999” by Prince and I’m in the gym at my high school, watching the varsity basketball team take the court.
- “And We Danced” by The Hooters and I’m back in college, at LSU, living on my own for the first time.
- Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and I’m dancing with my husband for the first time after saying “I do.”
- Bagpipes wailing “Amazing Grace” and I’m standing in a sheep pasture at the base of a grassy green hill in Scotland, at sunset, holding my husband’s hand while some unknown, unseen, musician plays.
- “Take Me Home Country Roads”, as sung by Iz, and we’re in a helicopter on Christmas Eve flying low over a Hawaiian volcano.
- “Silent Night” and I’m in church on Christmas Eve the following year, standing next to my weeping mother after her own mother passed just a few hours before.
- “Lullaby and Goodnight” and I’m in the rocking chair of the dimly lit nursery in the middle night, gazing into my newborn daughter’s sweet eyes.
- “Thula Mtwana,” an African lullaby, and I’m back in the NICU, sitting next to my son’s isolette…
When I do author interviews, I’m frequently asked about playlists. What’s on the playlist for my current release? What’s on the playlist for each character? And then one day the thought hit me: what about me? What’s the playlist for my life? Somehow I’d never consciously thought about it like that. Once I started, however, I ended up having so much fun, I created more playlists, playlists for me, my life. I created a Childhood playlist and a High School playlist, a collection of songs, many of which have long faded into obscurity, which take me back to cruising with my girlfriends along the boulevard, dancing all smashed together in the hot, sweaty gym, making-out, broken hearts, spring break, you name it. But I didn’t stop there. I created a Feel Good playlist. And a Mellow playlist. I created a Running playlist, songs that somehow have the power to make me forget about pounding the pavement. And all I have to do when I need a brief time-out, when I need to step away from the craziness of the moment, is pull up one of these playlists, and for that brief sliver in time, I’m somewhere else. Sometime else. Someone else. It doesn’t matter if my kids look at me like I’m crazy. Sometimes you have to go back to who you were, to remember who you are.
What about you? What’s the playlist of your life? Don’t have one? Go ahead and give it a try. Jot down songs that have touched you, moved you. Songs that make you laugh, maybe because they’re so silly (Convoy, anyone? The Streak?) or maybe because they take you back to something utterly ridiculous. Think about the songs that lighten your heart, and fill your heart. The songs that remind you of love and happiness and hope. Of good times. Of the girl (or guy!) you used to be. Of special times, special memories. It’s one of the nicest things you can do for yourself—and the cheapest vacations you can take J