Music is the Best Way to Hear Emotions

   Everyone has a different connection to music. Some, like my grandmother, are indifferent–she knows it exists, but it’s just not for her. And then there’s me; music has always played some part in my life. Starting when I was little, my dad would put on one of his many classical CDs, and then he’d have me imagine the story the song was telling. Was it about a princess escaping the grasps of an evil dragon? Or an epic sea battle between two crews of enemy pirates?

    As I grew, music meant various things to me,  but it never lost that touch of magic that made it so easy to let my mind wander. Music became an especially important part of my life during a time when I was depressed, socially anxious, and generally feeling lost in my own little bubble of the world. One night a few years ago around 8 pm, I was trapped in my room in the middle of a particularly bad anxiety attack, (although I was pretty used to them, this one was the worst). My lungs felt covered in Saran Wrap, and my mind buzzed with the same anxious thoughts over and over. Then before I knew it, I was in my mom’s arms. She asked if I wanted to go for a drive. She took me, still shaking and a bit disoriented, downstairs to the car, and we left the house with no destination in mind.

As we pulled out of the driveway, my mom asked if I wanted to put some music on while we drove. We made our way across the rolling hills cloaked by the starry sky, and as we drifted past the grassy fields, “Try Everything” by Shakira came on. With the windows open, the crisp breeze brushed the tears off my face, and the growing beat of the song encouraged me not to be afraid of failure or to doubt myself. As the lyric “Look how far you’ve come, you filled your heart with love, baby you’ve done enough take a deep breath,” combined with the cool breeze rushing through the windows, I felt free. Not everything was miraculously all better, but in that moment, I knew that it could be if I fought for it.

    Music has a way of feeding directly into human emotions. Most people can recall a song that immediately causes them to relax a little more with the easygoing ukulele, maybe to tense up at a heart-wrenching ballad, or to start dancing and smiling to a catchy electronic beat. The song “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles is almost universally recognized as a happy, upbeat song. But if you were to remove the lyrics, it would still sound cheerful. That’s because the emotions of a song are rooted in far more than just the lyrics. The beat and vibrations of a song have the power to impact the neurochemical mechanism that manages, “mood, stress, immunity, and as an aid to social bonding,” according to a 2013 McGill University study. So listening to a song like “Here Comes the Sun” can actually alter your mood and make you a bit more cheerful.

This direct connection between music and mood is one of the reasons playlists, or in the past,  mix tapes, are so popular. A playlist created to help yourself through a breakup might be full of Adele and Air Supply. Or another to hype yourself up for a big speech might include songs by Beyoncé and Pat Benatar on repeat. This is because these songs or artists have a specific style that plugs directly into the mechanisms controlling our emotions, the ones that decide whether we feel a bit more confident, or down, or any other emotion.

    In this way, music can console or bolster confidence far more effectively than language alone ever can. In the past, I’ve found certain songs that communicated what I was feeling and helped me understand my emotions in a therapeutic way. If used in a healing way, music not only lets you communicate your emotions effectively to others but also spurs you to explore and better understand them yourself.  

    The majority of songs I used to listen to were melancholy, and at times I found they re-enforced my insecurities. Eventually I found music that I could connect with in a way that helped me cope rather than give in. Since then, and in the past two years, I’ve made an effort to listen to music that supports me. Yes, sometimes that means listening to cheesy music like “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson or “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. But it also means allowing myself to take comfort in music that validates my emotions without leading me too deeply into a negative mindset.

Music is one of the most genuine ways to connect ourselves to what’s tangible and authentic. One song has the power to connect with and pull together diverse communities of people from across the globe, while another can make us leap from our seats in the middle of horror movie scene. There’s something about listening to music that takes us away to those mystical lands where we can simply be raw, brutally honest, and most of all, ourselves.

 Click here to listen to all of the songs mentioned in the article plus a few that simply fit with them.

 

Kaleidoscope by Firdaws Hakizimana

I hear laughter, shrieks of delight as someone splashes another with water,

thumps as feet hit the floor with speed,

different languages spoken sometimes at the same moment making a twisted form of harmony.’

 

I watched as pearl white freckles erupted one day on one of my brothers cheeks,

like stars in the night sky,

much to all of my family’s confusion.

I looked on in delight as my baby brother got his first two teeth,

stared at test results in surprise.

 

I’m molded by my experiences; different to many, but normal to others.

 

I am surrounded by bright colors,

neon pink and teal chiffon scarves wrapped on heads covering jet black and hazel hairs,

lime green cooking utensils,

deep red cups filled with brown, green, white and clear liquids,

Grey, shiny skyscrapers twinkling as it catches the daylight,

purple colored walls of my room,

paintings, perfectly polished hang from tacks embedded in cream paneles,

shades of brown on most bodies.

 

I catch the fragrance of almonds as my mom opens a bottle of castile soap,

or the aroma of meat boiling in spices soon to be fried.

The smell of peanut butter, however light is at the time is always in the kitchen,

unless it is overpowered by lemongrass, lavender, or eucalyptus from the essential oils we use in the air humidifier.

 

I am helped by guiding hands, my family and the internet.

Opinions of others are often countered by dedicated research.

Secret smiles are shared as inside jokes are spoken.

 

I live among colors,

many shades and different pallets,

from ivory to ebony with gentle greys in between,

and they have shaped with me to be who I am.

 

Blue Eyes by Grace Brenner

You are always there to envelop me in a strong hug

You know how to cool me down

Your strength gives me power to continue my day

You support me when I can’t even stand

You let me float into you, going deeper and deeper

You rock me back and forth in your arms until I feel strong enough to continue

Your deep blue eyes give me so much hope

Your fresh smell of salt draws me in

You control the whole world yet still make me feel important

You pull me back in when I’m not ready to go alone

You are the ocean I was raised by

“The Motor of Life” by Kemoy Blair

You pick a car with fancy gear,

No wear or tear,

No one’s ever been in there,

 

You’re automatic drive

Less conscious, less handle,

Less aware of your surroundings,

So you pass on the mantle,

That’s why you hate the old cars,

Stick shift, less grip,

Worn out because of what you did to it,

 

In rough terrain,

Winter and rain

For your gain,

It managed to stay sane,

But when you found better you let go,

It died in the snow,

 

Inside was still warm though,

Despite all the frost,

Guess that’s what you get when you fuel your engine with a big heart,

But forget your struggle,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The master is just thinking smart,

Using you for his personal gain,

Forget your pain,

You can easily be replaced with a plane

 

Waves

Mental illnesses are waves

Some big, some small  

They show warning signs

They hit  

One after the other  

And then another

Knocking you off your feet

Dragging you out to sea

You’ll swim towards shore

You come so close  

Just to be pulled back  

Sometimes farther than before

The pushing and pulling

Disorienting you

To where it’s all too much

The stinging strong smell of the salt overtaking the air

Infiltrating your lungs making it hard to breathe

The slimy water clinging to your skin

Like seaweed trapping you  

The crashing and thrashing of the waves

Breaking against your skin

The bitterness overtaking your tongue

As you gag unable to catch your breath

The water weighing you down

Bringing you to the bottom

 

You feel like you’re drowning  

being overtaken by it all

With no one to save you

No matter how loud you scream

Unable to swim  

Sinking until you can’t breathe  

Watching the waves crash down on you

Fighting to live

You push yourself from the sand

All the way to the breaking waves

Seeing the sun rise on the horizon

Beginning a new day

You may never make it all the way

But enough to survive  

People may never see

How far or how hard you swam

They may never understand

How it felt to drown

And to keep swimming after

Through the true deep and dark sea

 

Now I look back

With my friends and they

See how hard I swam

How much I struggled

And they support me even when its hard

 

I know I can breathe

Even when I smell the salty sea

Even with the slimy feeling

That never seems to leave

Even when I feel the waves strike my skin

Even with the overpowering taste

Always on the back of my tongue

I know I can live

 

 

On Missing Poptarts

Poptarts have actually always been my favorite food. When I was a little girl I would beg for poptarts, but then get so hyper from the sugar that I was running around the house and bouncing off of walls. So my mother stopped buying them, saving the pastry for special occasions.
As I got older, my love of Poptarts remained, but my relationship with food changed. At 13 years old, my eating disorder began creeping into my life. I had been repulsed by my body for as long as I could remember, and didn’t have the healthiest habits. I connected the dots, and my chronic-perfectionist brain decided to ‘fix’ the problem.
What began as just ridding my diet of overly sugary or fatty items and replacing them with whole foods, quickly turned into obsessively tracking every calorie and body-checking at every chance. The first time I scanned a poptart nutrition label after changing my lifestyle, i cried. I just… couldn’t. One pastry is usually 200 calories, and loaded with sugar. To put that in perspective: for almost a year of my life I only allowed myself 600 calories (often less) in a day.
A treat that I once adored as a carefree child, was villianized by my new warped mindset of the world. I wouldn’t ‘allow’ myself any food of that nature. The only time I dared eat one was with a friend at a competition in 9th grade. Later that night, my throat tightened at the memory, tears from my consuming guilt breaking free.
I’m in recovery now, desperately trying to undo the damage I inflicted on my body. But the fear won’t go away. I still can’t bring myself to eat a Poptart.

*Pfft What’s A Title?*

How dare you shout from the rooftops about the country you “support”

When following its values is something you ignore?

 

What are you proud of, exactly?

The parents that contemplate divorce because they don’t make enough money to pay their daughter’s medical bills but too much to qualify for help with their combined incomes?

Or is that just a fake news story to you?

 

Are you proud of all the students that infect everyone at school because they won’t risk paying 300 dollars just to have a doctor tell them “Wait it out, stay hydrated, and get a good night’s sleep?”

 

Are you proud of GoFundMe Accounts titled “Ten Years Old W/ Leukemia, Please Help?”

 

No. No, you aren’t proud of any of these things. You regularly shame them for asking for help rather than working all 168 hours in the week to afford the shattered system you refuse to fix.

Still alive and well

People try to say that homophobia is dead, that people who aren’t straight have nothing to worry about. Teens who have been kicked out of  their homes because they weren’t straight would beg to differ. The people who are being beaten for it would beg to differ. Gabriel Fernandez an eight year old who was tortured and murdered because his mother’s boyfriend thought he was gay would beg to differ. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how you were raised we are all human beings who deserve respect. You don’t get to decide if you are straight. You don’t get to decide if you are cis. What you do get to choose is what you do and what you think of others. We all have the right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness and your views will not change that. Religion and government are separate no matter how much you want them to go together. People who are not straight exist and aren’t going away. People who aren’t cis exist and aren’t leaving. We exist and you aren’t getting rid of us.

pretty hurts

pretty hurts.
it’s an old saying,
and
as a little girl,
i just thought it meant
uncomfortable heels,
blisters from flats,
tight dresses,
or pierced ears

but

it’s funny how much truth
a silly old phrase can hold.

pretty hurts
this is drilled into our brains
the belief
beauty comes at a cost,
a parasite
that roots itself
subconsciously,
festering,
little by little,
as little girls grow.

pretty hurts
like
the pangs of hunger
you willfully ignore,
because pretty girls
skip lunch.

pretty hurts
like
when you pinch
at the fat
on your waist
your legs
your wrist even,
until skin breaks.

pretty hurts
like
a pounding headache
you get
trying to study
but you can’t focus
because your stomach can’t comprehend why it’s so empty.

pretty hurts
like
shivering so hard your ribs ache,
always so cold
freezing to the bone
because seeing your bones
is all you care about anymore.

because pretty hurts,
right?
being pretty
being skinny
being fragile
being sick,
it’s worth it.

and wanting to be pretty
transforms itself,
into insatiable perfectionism.
never thin enough.
never light enough.
you know you’re dying
but you can’t stop,
pretty is supposed to hurt,
right?

pretty hurts
like
your purple fingernails,
like
hair falling out in clumps.

pretty hurts
like
staring at size 0 models,
hours on end,
ashamed you don’t look like a goddamn stick.
page after glossy page
of
people praising
celebrities for slimming down,
and throwing up.

is this what we are teaching?
teaching little girls
that thinner = better.
lighter = prettier.
society
a lesson
in every way you can hate yourself.
and little girls
are avid students.
studying every flaw reflected in the mirror,
learning to read nutrition labels,
memorizing menus,
practicing lies,
learning.
learning everything diet culture has to teach,
until they’re 68 pounds in a hospital bed.

a little more
hurt
and you’ll be perfect,
a little more
pain
and you’ll be worth it.

pretty hurts
like panicking every time you look in the mirror.

pretty hurts
like
broken friendships
like
worried mothers

and sometimes the hurt
is just too much
and you wonder,
was it really worth
the pain?

pretty hurts
pretty aches
pretty burns
pretty
pretty
pretty
kills.

Welcome?

 

A little girl wakes up in a part of the world god can’t see

She’s hungry and hopeless.

She walks with her mom down a mud road loitered with pebbles and glass.

Home is where the heart his but her home breaks her heart.

It’s her and her mother in a self sought refuge.

They’re escaping a country where the government’s eyes are only on its money and its people are left there to rot.

There’s a train that’ll train you to stay in your place

A coyote that’ll jump at the chance to growl, howl, and bite

The little girl begs for a drink in a desert deserted where the american dreams of the non americans flourish.

All she can drink has dried up, but she has to go on

All she can feel is the sun

All she can see is the future

.

The land of the free charges a toll to go in

It’s a place filled with hope and riddled with sin.  

Welcome to me, him, you and us but all us are other than

A place where the man in charge doesn’t want you here and doesn’t want to hear what you’ve done for here or what you’re doing here.

A place where everyone’s all over the place

A place plagued with negativity for years and years,

This place will chew you up and kick you out once it gets all it can receive.

A place where you get portrayed as a murderer a rapist and a thief.  

Are you sure you want to come in?

Welcome little girl, you didn’t say thank you but you know what you’re welcome little girl.

We are the land of free but your time here is going to cost you.

How’d you get here anyways?

Did you jump the wall? Should we make it taller?

Are you sad now? Do you miss your mother?

Turn around, go back if you don’t like it here.

Go back to the poverty and the corruption and all your fears.

Home is where the heart is, but your heart can’t take anymore

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