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  • Meagan Lenz

MUSIC FOR SELF-CARE

What’s your relationship with music right now? Do you listen to enough of it? Or do you need to have more of it in your life?


Music as healing and inspiration is powerful. Yet it seems that many of us forget to listen to music at some point in our lives. Or it at least changes in some way.


I grew up when the music world had more of physical sense attached to it. You didn’t have a smartphone to almost instantly pull up any song you wanted to listen to. You had to have two objects: the one that carried the music (record, tape, or CD) and the one that released the sound of the music (record, tape, or CD player.) It was a bigger deal back then.


Memories of putting a record on my little tikes brand record player for my sister and I to choreograph a dance to are forever in my mind.


Or what about recording a song from the radio? Sitting right in front of a cassette player, waiting for juuuust the right moment to hit the two buttons simultaneously, inevitably always ending up with an incomplete song plus the intro to a commercial.


Each year on Christmas day my siblings and I would head out to The Warehouse to use our just-received gift certificates to buy something new.


Then there were the treasured gifts of mixed tapes, and eventually CD’s, that were so personal and special to both the creator and receiver.


These were the customs and traditions around music for me. So when how we accessed music changed, it kinda threw me. It may sound silly, especially to those younger than me, but when the physical aspects of listening to music went away I somehow lost touch with it.


I had to re-learn how to have music in my life in what felt like a less tangible and for a little while, less satisfying way. I found myself having to make conscious efforts to get used to the new way we access and listen to music.


There is an idea out there that we stop learning about new music around the age of 30. I can see some truth in this. I mean, in general as we age we stop doing some things for whatever reason and find that we have to make conscious efforts to continue doing those things.


Today, this is the time of life when “real” adulthood starts settling in: we become more fully mature and start to look for more stability. For that stability, we’ll do things like:


Seriously think about what we want our future to look like:

- Get married or divorced

- Start a family & become parents

- Increase our self-identity & become more self-aware

- Establish geographically where we want to build a life, and maybe buy a home

- Focus on earning enough income to financially support our future


We find ourselves handling a whole new set of responsibilities which ends up taking a lot of our time while some of that easy-going, lightheartedness of youth starts to fade. So finding and listening to new music kind of becomes a forgotten pastime. And maybe since we’ve heard the music of our past for so long, it’s easy to have less of it?


Of course, there’s always exceptions. I’ve noticed that I tend to find people in my life, like friends and boyfriends, whose lives revolve more around music than my own does. I’ve often wondered if it’s my subconscious self seeking out those people.


By way of having them in my life I have more music in my life and am introduced to musical experiences I wouldn’t have necessarily found otherwise, like discovering The Hieroglyphics Crew and LCD Soundsystem, hanging out with band members of The English Beat, or feeling the magic of venues like the Fox Theatre in Oakland or The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.


On the flip side, there are people who claim to simply not like music. There aren’t many and I can’t personally relate, though I do appreciate silence at the right times.


During the past year of this pandemic that has kept me home almost all of the time, I felt sort of pushed me to become reacquainted with the piano. I took lessons for a short time as a kid but chose to stop taking them around the age of 11. But I can still read the music and remember the keys. I’ve found that I can sit on the bench, playing the keyboard thinking an hour has passed only to find it’s been over two. Pretty neat gift from this messy period.


Music is also healing. It’s pretty cool and isn’t coincidental that the Greek god Apollo is the giver of both music and medicine. As humans, we are innately rhythmic. Think about our beating hearts, our breathing, and our brain waves. We can easily distinguish music and have a totally different reaction than we do to other sounds.


Boosting memory and mood is some more of what music can do for us. I highly recommend checking out the beautiful documentary Alive Inside. The filmmaker, Dan Cohen, visits some elderly with dementia living in nursing homes and exhibits how these people get renewed life and bring up happy memories associated with hearing particularly meaningful music. (Seriously, watch it and have some tissue handy. So good. So emotional.)


What about music and movement? I LOVE a good dance party, whether it’s solo or with friends. It feels so good to move my body, shift around or release energy. I don’t think about anything else but hearing the music and moving to it, getting connected to that inner rhythm. Feeling sore muscles in the morning because I danced the night before feels both satisfying and joyful. It’s definitely a somatic/spiritual/meditative thing for me.


These thoughts on music all came about for me last week when one of my clients let me know she missed having music in her life. We didn’t talk about why she didn’t listen to it now as much as she used to, just that she really missed it.


She decided that a great first step in building the foundation of her self-care routine would be to integrate more music into her life. So she’s creating some new playlists to listen to. She broke down how she is going to do it and reached out to her musical friends for help. Not only is she getting music back in her life but she’s inviting more connections with friends.


As we move into building and implementing new self-care routines in other areas of her life, she’ll now have inspirational soundtracks to put on and support her throughout the process.


Music can make you laugh or cry, get you excited or make you feel calm. There’s rainy day music, road trip music, preparing dinner music, workout music, sexy-time music…so many playlists that we use to create our individual life soundtracks.


These past couple of weeks, I’ve been into listening to Arabic-inspired music. I feel like I’m getting in touch with my Middle Eastern roots, sometimes putting on kohl-style eyeliner and big gold earrings, unable to help myself from dancing to the beats.


How might you use music as part of your self-care? What kind of music would it be? What’s a happy memory you have that is strongly associated with a certain song? Where in your life can music be added for enrichment?


I’d love to know! It’s great to hear and learn from others and their experiences, so feel free to share those with me!


And remember: have some fun and shake that booty sometimes. I know you want to.


Love and Health,

Meagan


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