My son is going through a great new phase where he raises one hand above his head while he sways his hips, smoothly dipping at the knee, and then points to the record player in order to tell us he wants us to put music on. He knows the difference between a pause between songs and the end of the album, and the moment the needle starts to move back to its cradle, the dance request begins again. "Do all little kids want music on all the time like this?" my husband wondered aloud the other day. I haven't spent enough time at home with other children to answer, but if my son's love of music is stronger than average, I can't pretend to be surprised. My husband is a very technically talented metal guitarist and song writer. He and I met through the local music scene, and our mutual love of complex compositions spanning a wide variety of genres is one of the strongest bonds we share. We were even in the same band, but at different times.
While being in a band right now is not realistic for me schedule-wise, the music I love remains a vital constant. As almost all other aspects of my life have been diminished, forgotten, or transformed radically through the tumultuous decade that was my late teens and twenties, and the very different but equally challenging recent years as wife and mother, the music I love can always throw me a lifeline to myself. It is so easy to lose your former self in motherhood, and I could never fully express my gratitude that all I really need to feel confidently myself again is to put on one of my favorite albums.
The music I love most gets to the inner-most layer of my person, my essential self that has been me since childhood. I have struggled for years with the perception that the music I love is "guy music"- prog rock, metal, jazz fusion- the genres that speak to me most deeply often leave me one of only a handful women at live shows, or the lone female participating in a lively discussion about the prog influences of a recent Opeth album. While this gender disparity used to bother me, there is something about the music I love most being so distinctly not-mom that it increases its reassurance that my deep essential self is still with me, and can be conjured with the opening strains of any of my favorite music.
I make time to go to my husband's shows, which takes some coordinating but is always worthwhile. He is in a Rage Against the Machine tribute project currently and nothing momentarily quells my political angst like a night of thrashing my body around chanting lyrics condemning systemic racism. My husband and I make time to go to see shows together: A few months ago we finagled a last-minute babysitter so we could see one of the final two Dillinger Escape Plan shows in the US, an experience we are still mentioning out of the blue to each other regularly, to remark on how glad we are to have shared it. When I get the chance to clean or work on projects around the house on the weekends, I relish the opportunity to have my husband listen for my son so I can listen to an album my toddler might not quite appreciate yet in the solitary bubble of my headphones. Prioritizing music is my lifeline to the part of myself who knows exactly who she is, at a time of life when I struggle with feeling that not even my body is my own. I relax. I stand taller and easier. I glow and grin.
I love sharing music with my son, and he is starting to respond to some of the jazz I enjoy, which is an incredible treat, but the critical musical experiences in my life right now are critical because they are mine and mine alone. I think every mother needs a lifeline like this. It might be music, visual art, exercise, reading, or maybe dance, but regardless of the medium, whatever speaks to that essential core of your deepest self, prioritize it like food or water. Let it feed you and sustain you through these years of meager solitude, as we raise up tiny humans to have soul-lifelines of their own. Who knows, maybe my son will even come see me in a band some day.
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