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Very few important memories of mine don’t have some kind of musical attachment. My life has a
soundtrack. It is a riot of friends and high times—laughing until we cry. It is also a desperate cry, alone in the dark with one of my babies in my arms—so afraid. It is hopeful and hopeless. But always, there is music.

Music makes me feel.
I have a friend who is an incredible therapist. She’s a magician who helps her clients navigate the human experience. She does it with subtlety and grace—dignity and love. Ask her curious questions about her journey, and she’ll be quick to say, “Ew. Feelings. Gross.” And then we laugh.

The point is that feeling… truly FEELING can be incredibly hard, even for the most experienced
professionals. Painful. Scary. Joyful. Reckless. Exhilarating. Sometimes, the big feelings must be tried on for size a little at a time. When grieving the loss of my mother I had to very, very slowly put my toe in the water of remembering her and accepting that she was no longer with me. Oh, so slowly because it hurt so much. Music helped me do that gently, with her favorite songs or songs that reminded me of happy memories.

There have been other times when I avoided facing my feelings for so long that I needed to coax them to the surface and lean in. Crying can be cleansing, and sometimes, all I need is the right song to sit with, and let the tears rise, and rinse away whatever is weighing me down.

Music helps me understand what I feel.

Life is complex and often confusing. When I tell my therapist friend that I’m angry she asks me what’s under my anger. Anger is rarely a primary emotion (insert eye roll). It’s annoying, but she’s right. My anger is a mask for my fear or sadness or something else. Angry is easier. When I don’t benefit from her wisdom, I listen to music in the dark. Billy Joel, The Highwaymen, Dire Straights, Zach Bryan, Brandi Carlile, Simon and Garfunkel, Kacey Musgraves, Dave Matthews, Earl Thomas Conley, Keith Whitley, Tracy Chapman… And on and on. Eventually, I found the melody and lyrics unwind what I had been dancing around. Where I was previously unmoored, I feel found and breathe more easily.

Understanding what I feel allows me to navigate the path ahead. Music is my map. And I never have to travel alone.

Join Smiles for Jake at the Lakes Jam Music Festival, June 27-29, in Brainerd, MN. Pick up some merch, say “hi,” share a smile and enjoy the music!

Smile On!

Ginny Gardea, Smile Advocate

We are building a Smiles for Jake playlist!

Check out this week’s blog song: Kacey Musgraves, Rainbow