Last Thursday at 6:25 p.m., I sat in front of my computer and opened Facebook. I scrolled by the now-normal variety of frantically upbeat and frantically panicked posts, the dos and don’ts, the barrage of articles from any number of sources providing myriad ways to cope. It fed my coronavirus obsession as much as my coronavirus fatigue. Perhaps you know of what I speak.
But I was there for a different reason; I was there for an Indigo Girls live Facebook concert. Indigo Girls are a band tied to so many parts of my past; music of nostalgia connected to field hockey away-game bus rides, camp sing-a-longs and teenage heartbreak. To be honest, I don’t know their newer albums, even though I can still sing every word and know every harmony of their older ones. But last week, in the midst of this unprecedented, world-turned-upside-down pandemic, I craved some nostalgia.
So, I got on my computer and waited for Amy and Emily—and something magical happened. The familiar guitar chords, their familiar voices, the memories of moments past transformed a miserable, uncertain week. I was smiling—big—and laughing and singing songs at the top of my lungs while my dog looked at me, confused. This wasn’t simply a nostalgic journey or a fun distraction, it truly was a spiritual moment. And it wasn’t over yet.
As I let the soothing melodies work their magic on my heart and soul, I started noticing people I knew in the chat bar. The conversation was moving so quickly, I couldn’t keep up, but as the view count increased, I saw more and more people, from every moment of my life; people I grew up with, went to college with, went to rabbinical school with, colleagues, friends, people I hadn’t been in touch with in 20 years, perhaps some of you, chatting in gratitude, in delight, sharing their own nostalgic memories and hope for the future. As the view count neared 60,000, I was convinced that everyone I knew was watching this living-room concert along with me, and I breathed deep, satisfying breaths that had eluded me much of last week.
That peace, that calm, that hope that despite all my best efforts I had struggled to find washed over me and I felt connected, not just to the other 59,999 people watching Indigo Girls, but to something bigger than myself, something bigger than this difficult moment in time. And wow, did I need that!
Since last Thursday, I’ve been listening more. Listening to my favorite music, catching other online concerts and, this past Shabbat, virtually shul-hopping, taking in the beautiful variety of prayer and music from our own Boston community and beyond. There is peace in listening, and it is certainly a skill we could all build in new and different ways as we navigate each day. As we all know from various moments in our own life, music has the power to transform, heal, uplift and connect in so many ways. And thanks to the many music streaming apps, we have unprecedented access to any and all of it.
So, listen. Become reacquainted with that song you need to hear when you are angry (mine is “Carnival” by Our Lady Peace), or the song that makes you smile (“Zak and Sara” by Ben Folds Five) or what soothes you (“Sim Shalom” by Julie Silver). Have a quarantine dance party and listen on your own, or perhaps with your partner or spouse and/or your children. Let the familiar music create that moment of nostalgia and remind you of who you were and are, and let it be that spiritual balm that allows you to feel connected rather than isolated.
Sometimes we don’t have the words to express how we are feeling. Sometimes we don’t know what will help. Sometimes the noise in our heads is overwhelming, and sometimes that perfect chord or lyric makes us feel heard, less alone and part of something bigger than what’s in front of us and dims the din of uncertainty.
As I left my house to walk my dog this morning, I grabbed my headphones and pressed “shuffle.” The song “Don’t Carry It All” by The Decemberists began, a song I know well and have listened to a million times but hadn’t really heard in a while. Turns out, it was just what I needed:
And nobody, nobody knows
Let the yoke fall from our shoulders
Don’t carry it all, don’t carry it all
We are all our hands in holders
But meet this bold and brilliant sun
But this I swear to all
So, what are you listening to?
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