Our favourite songs recall the stories of our life – as they lift and heal our spirit!

My most effective way of getting myself back on track (well, my own personal version of being on track) is to become absorbed – consumed, even – by my favourite songs; today I had a glorious sounds fest, which began with me adding some beloved but forgotten old tracks to my phone music, blasting them through my headphones as I walked with the dog around the woods and along the beach… and I just couldn’t resist singing along, (I did at least attempt to keep it more to a whisper than a shriek). This afternoon I really needed to do a food shop, as we were down to a few fish fingers and half a pack of bacon… so I plugged my headphones in, selected ‘faves’, turned up the volume, and grabbed a trolley. I was aware of other people bustling around, whilst at the same time feeling as if I was in a delicious musical cocoon… there in body, but not in spirit. I admit to ‘shuffling’ a little, in time with the various beats, and even nodding along… but you see, it is now perfectly okay for me to be a bit of a crazy old bat in other people’s eyes… and to be honest, I don’t really care anyway! The drive home was blissful, as I vocally murdered one gorgeous song after another, at the top of my voice – happily completely alone. Because you can only do this stuff when you are on your own, which is maybe at least a part of the attraction: no-one asking you to turn it down, or complaining about your choice of song, or getting in a huff because you aren’t talking to them. I don’t get to indulge in this every day, but when I do, I overdose, leading me to feel gloriously high. I suppose it is pure escapism…

For some reason, I have very recently revisited a love of ELO, and their tracks have rather nicely been scratching a few little itches. I am sharing, at the bottom of this blog, a link to a video of Jeff Lynne performing Evil Woman, live at Wembley… and I absolutely defy you not to feel great, as you expose yourself to the amazing energy of the music, and and to the joy of the mostly middle-aged audience, as they enthusiastically dance and sing along, smiling from ear to ear! You cannot possibly beat it, this amazing relationship that we human beings have with music… it is positively life affirming and healing.

Music is rather like a photo album of our life, bringing back memories, and book-marking certain times and events from our personal history. I listened to ‘Can You Feel The Force’ (the Real Thing), and ‘Play That Funky Music’ (Wild Cherry), and was immediately transported back to dancing until the early hours, in a 1970’s Manchester night club; I played the Jackson’s ‘The Love You Save’, and ‘Blame It On The Boogie’, and experienced a wave of sadness at the way in which Michael’s life ended… but decided instead to joyfully celebrate the beauty and creative energy of his existence, smiling at the  memory of the enthusiastic video for Blame It On The Boogie. No medicine could be better. I floated through ‘Holding Back The Years’ (Simply Red), and the atmosphere of the 1980’s, a decade I loved, flooded my senses… where the hell has time gone?

I remember driving home late one evening, and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ came on the radio… and I was suddenly at a motorbike rally, with the stars shining down over a field full of mostly middle-aged party animals, drinking and laughing until the sun comes up, to a soundtrack of rock music and generators, accompanied by the smell of oil, leather and hot metal… ah, nectar of the gods!

And of course, music shares the most important moments of our lives; we walk down the aisle to a song that is personally meaningful to us, and our coffin is often accompanied by a musical statement piece! I remember being very much in labour with my son, my first child, and the hospital radio was playing Burning Beds (very apt, as I was lying in a tangled mess of sheets, on a very hot ward!). I could go on and on, as I am sure you could too, if you set about the task of listing every piece of music that has been a meaningful part of your personal history. My children have developed eclectic musical tastes, I am so happy to say, and my daughters look fondly upon the Eagles, understanding that they helped me through some very tough times in my life; and of course, they have their own go-to artists/tracks, for times of tears and of comfort.

Like every generation, mine tends to believe that our music was better… but you know, it bloody well was! There was a rawness, an imperfection – an un-tweaked, honest sound. The skinny, long haired, uneven-toothed Paul Rodgers was a delicious sight to behold, and even more satisfying to listen to; nowadays, he continues to be an amazing artist, but he is more physically polished, having developed quite a few muscles! I still love to see those old videos, though, with Mr Snakehips doing his stuff (sigh).

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Too many people are too caught up in everyday life, in the pursuit of security, to remember to seriously revisit their favourite tunes every now and then. It is even deemed to be immature to do so, something that is okay for the young, but not for grown ups who have more important things to attend to. Well, I am sorry, but if I ever become too old to lose myself in the colour and energy and emotion of the vibration that is music, dig a hole and push me into it. If I ever reach a point at which I no longer feel compelled to jiggle joyfully around the room, no matter how slowly I have to do it, I will have already died inside. Music has a life force all of its own, which drawers us in and heals us, tenderly reminding us that the life we have lived has been real and true… and kept alive by songs that will never be forgotten.

Anyway, I promised to share the Jeff Lynne/ELO – Evil Woman link, but I am also going to give you another treat! When I first heard Paul Carrack and Eric Clapton performing ‘How Long’, I fell in immediate love, especially with Eric’s second guitar solo… and the only way I can describe it is akin to having warm honey poured all over me! And even if they absolutely aren’t your thing (as much as I say I love music, I was never too keen on extreme punk, and I don’t enjoy screamo, so not every style is for us), they might remind you of some long forgotten tune you used to love, and would get a buzz from revisiting. Don’t allow ‘real’ life to keep you away from the magical, childlike world of your musical imagination, too often!

 

You have the power to start feeling better NOW – that HAS to be worth smiling about!

I was looking at some pictures of myself and my partner, taken around 5 years ago, and I was disappointed to see how much my face had aged. I gazed at my straight-faced reflection in the mirror, and it suddenly struck me… what was missing was my smile! I grinned warmly into my own eyes, and then glanced back at the pictures… and was heartened to see that, actually, there wasn’t a huge amount of difference between the younger me, and the current, older me. Some ageing, yes; a plumper face, agreed – but the smile somehow negated enough of that to be reassuring!

Now, I understand, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a smiling face looks more alive and vibrant than one adorned with a serious or vacant expression: however, I suddenly became acutely aware of how my face felt, when I wasn’t smiling… and the word that immediately came to mind was droopy… and who the hell wants to feel droopy? It is hardly high energy!

So, I decided to check up on myself, every now and then, and ask, “what is my resting face saying about me right now?”. I already suspected that smiling wasn’t just about appearance – and my little experiment proved me right. When I recognised that I was sporting a switched-off or frowning expression, and swapped it for a comfortable smile that also reached my eyes (yes, you can feel your eyes smiling!), I actually felt more cheerful. And not only that, my head and shoulders automatically lifted a little – an instant boost that cost nothing more than a bit of self-awareness!

Okay, it is true that there are certain circumstances under which a smile is completely inappropriate (not too many, but some); and there are certain circumstances under which even the most upbeat individual would struggle to muster even the slightest twitch of the lips; I am not talking about those times – I am talking about general, every day life. And I acknowledge that a consistent, manic grin would be more likely to cause ourselves to feel a bit crazy and uncomfortable, and other people to avoid us like the plague. But, a small, relaxed smile, hovering at the corners of our mouth, just waiting to blossom into something wider and warmer, can genuinely do wonders for our state of mind! And when we feel that a smile is maybe not entirely appropriate at a given moment in time, we can still be consciously aware of how our face is sitting, and what message it is imparting. We can appear attentive, or curious, or interested, or fascinated, dependent upon the circumstances; all of these, and more, will actually help us to feel what we are expressing, whilst allowing our face to appear animated and lively. I am not a scientist, but online research appears to confirm that there is a growing belief in the theory that our facial expression and body language are recognised by our brain, which then responds accordingly, communicating that information back to the body.

Which brings me to the subject of how we consistently hold our body… and this cute cartoon that really makes me laugh, every time I see it!

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Posture, like facial expression, speaks volumes to our brain, as does our consistent inner and outer dialogue. I have come across people who habitually slouch, and consistently communicate in a dismissive or cynical way… and none of them have been even remotely happy or satisfied. Circumstance is often blamed, and yes, it is true that it definitely does affect how we feel and behave; however, we have all witnessed individuals who have faced the most dreadful adversity, yet who hold their heads high, whilst approaching the world with dignity and warmth (we are so fortunate, to have amongst us those souls who are living proof of just what we human beings are capable of aspiring to!).

Where my own body is concerned, over a period of two years I put on around 28 lb in weight, most of which settled on my stomach and hips (one of the side effects of reaching a ‘certain age’!). I became discouraged, and for the first time really struggled to motivate myself to do anything about it. That wobble drove me mad, and I began to avoid any mirror that reflected anything below my chest… I felt fat. I managed to lose 7 lbs, but still, not enough to reduce the dreaded spare tyre. As it happens, my eldest daughter is a fitness and kick boxing instructor, who runs her own school; my youngest daughter also trains there, and teaches some of the classes. Several times a week I would drop her off and collect her, calling in to help put the equipment away after the sessions… but I always resisted taking part, because I was ‘too fat’ (yes, really!), which both of my daughters thought was ridiculous!

One evening, I stayed to watch the kick boxing gradings, from the toddlers all the way up to the adults, and I was blown away. The atmosphere was amazing, and I was totally impressed to see how much progress the students had made… and I suddenly really wanted to be a part of it! That evening, I committed to training, and there I was, at the very next session. At first, I felt like a galumphing (I think I just made that word up) elephant, and the idea of roundhouse kicks terrified me. I had a stiff, incredibly painful shoulder, and a dodgy knee, and I feared that they would hold me back… but the physiotherapist told me that actually, I was doing the very best thing for myself – and he was right! Almost three belts on, my shoulder is 90% better, and my knee just aches sometimes, and my roundhouse kick is coming along nicely! I even attend some of the circuit training classes now, in addition (last night I did three 30 minute sessions, one after the other!). I am still ‘fat’, but the weight is coming off, bit by bit. And I am not saying that it is easy, because it isn’t, and I am not saying that things don’t hurt after training, because they do. However, my body feels so much stronger, and I cannot emphasise enough how empowering that is! It has improved the way I hold myself, and more importantly, it has transformed the way I feel about myself… and that makes me smile!

So, if you recognise any of this within yourself, make an immediate commitment to yourself, to lift your spirits, your shoulders, your chin, and the corners of your mouth… until it becomes as natural as breathing!