This time of year is hard for me. I’m reaping the bulk of summer efforts. I’m holding feverishly tight to a season I know will change. I’m resuming schedules that require more discipline and putting my nose to that damned old grind stone. Separating the wheat from the chaff. All this, plus significant personal developments in the crumbling pillars of the Cathedral of Life’s Challenges (with a vast Karmic basement), is making me feel Crabby. I’m emotional. I’m dragging my feet in the work I’m committed to. I’m lost in confusing day-dreams and occasionally unraveled by painful memories.
I’m getting better at dealing with The Feels. It’s been a long and challenging road here, but I have tools in my coping tool-box that are clean and ready when broken feelings spring out of my otherwise logical brain. One of my most trusted tools to getting back on the good foot is singing. I’ve always been partial to loud, belting choral or gospel arrangements with special soft spots for soul and blues. The history of blues and all its children particularly sings to me. On the drive into work this morning The Alabama Shakes soothed me, and later, when I was walking the halls, trying to quell another surge of the feels, an unlikely late-comer popped into my head.
I never listened to Frank Sinatra growing up. It wasn’t until Finding Nemo gave me “Beyond the Sea” that I paid him any mind at all. Though I like music of that era and style, I never dug for it the way I have dug for Nina Simone or The Kinks. However not long after giving birth to Mme. Lu, when “just keep swimming” was about the only thing I could muster from day to day, a mix CD by my uncle literally fell into my lap from the CD visor of my parents’ minivan. On that CD was Frank Sinatra singing “That’s Life.” I listened to that song on repeat for thirty minute drives. I sang it day in and day out while struggling to dig out from the depths of the worst feelings of my life. It became a mantra. If one of my kids was having a rough time, I’d begin singing it as a means to prop us both up.
The CD proved to be an impermanent messenger of grace and just as it had fallen into my lap one horrible day out of many, it was lost to who-knows-where when I’d caught my breath just a little. My legs were less shakey. My will and direction and self-support systems were stronger. I guess I hadn’t listened to it for a few weeks so whichever little pixie dropped it off saw to it that I moved on and took it away again. Or so I like to imagine. It didn’t go before I’d memorized the song though. I still pull it out of my tool box when I need a bit of humor or light-hearted strength. “Don’t Wanna Fight” is the wrench, whereas “That’s Life” is more like a screw driver, or in my family, a red clown-nose.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race