When words fail
Sometimes I can’t get warm. I had a head cold that was unwelcomingly making its way to my chest, and the cold rain was helping its slow process. I was feeling run down, but I was stubborn and mad at myself for letting myself get sick. Like everyone else, I hate feeling ill but more so because when I get sick, a strange sense of melancholy always comes over me.
No matter how old you get, you still always want your mother when you’re sick.
Everyone says that. I hear it often.
So I am sick, a bit melancholy, a bit lonely, and I couldn’t get the electric heater to adequately heat the water in the shower in our little Airbnb. I was now effectively feeling colder, sicker, and ready to just go back to bed.
Sometimes I ask quietly for a sign. If I haven’t felt her presence in a while, or if I feel a bit melancholy, or if I am just a sick daughter wanting some familiar childlike comfort from a mother who is long gone.
I gave myself those pep talks we all give ourselves to pull it together, so I pulled on as many sweaters as I brought with me and wrapped up as tightly as I could.
The fresh air lifted my spirits a bit, and I met Barry and our close friends in a perfect and magical coffee shop that had been missed during my previous trips to Galway. I was feeling much better in this bright and cozy shop, having a warm coffee in my hands and being surrounded by good company. My hands were flipping through some artwork and postcards when I heard the first familiar notes ease their way into the air.
It was a slowed down version, but the melody was instantly recognizable. It struck a chord, and my chest tightened a bit and tears started blurring the artwork that I held in my hands.
Playing quietly in the tiny shop, it was one of her favorite songs. One I can still picture her listening to on repeat, singing along in the car. The Winner Takes It All.
We hear music from the moment we are born. We know nothing of the world, but somehow lullabies innately soothe us. But somewhere between then and until recently, I had forgotten how to let music be comforting.
Music is much more than a common pleasure. It has a unique way of silencing out the extra noise in our lives, slowing down what may begin as a seemingly ordinary day, on a ordinary street, in a ordinary coffee shop. Music is there to take us beyond the every day. It gives permission to listen for the quieter voices we may be needing to hear.
If we are open to its influence, music has the ability to break down barriers, pulling like a social glue across languages, distances, and generations. Connecting strangers and communities.
It can calm us when we are anxious and thoughts are swirling within our heads. Inspire creativity when are feeling blocked. And perhaps if we let it, music will soothe us to sleep again.
But for me, the most important aspect of all, is that music transcends time. It gently tugs us back to times long past, carrying among it notes of comfort from the most unexpected of places. As Hans Christian Anderson said, “where words fail, music always speaks”.