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How To Go Out At The Top While Growing A Pair …

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HAPPY SAD

I’m struggling to write this blog post this week.

Happy Sad Knees

 

You know that game we play with infants? Yeah, the one where we pull an open hand across our face – we start with a big smile and then … as our hand slowly passes over our face the smile turns magically into a sad sad frown.

That is the week that was.

Normally each week, I unearth a blog topic that intrigues me and the words begin flowing slowly and then the current of the river picks up in pace and rhythm. The muse kicks in and it just happens.

For me, this is a jumbled week of emotions, both positive and negative. It’s all about departures.

There are doors and windows flinging open and slamming shut for me in the windy maelstrom that is life.

As I write, someone close to me is edging silently, unstoppingly, towards the exit door of life. Cancer is having its way and it’s not pretty.

Do you have one of those people in your life that you can’t believe will ever die?

They’ve always seemed invincible, and like a 250 year-old majestic cedar in the rainforest, there is no wind or lightning storm that can cause them to topple.

Until they do, suddenly, tragically, mysteriously.

All that’s left after the fall is an ugly hole and a ragged scar in the earth until the ache slowly subsides and healing begins to take hold – eventually all returns to a new normal, a normal that never quite feels like the old normal.

Cut Cedar Stump

In the same week as this happens, my long – yes, 25 crazy years long – “planned retirement” has taken place. My co-workers happily razz me as I’ve threatened to retire since I was 30 years old.

Anyway, after 37 years as a medical lab technologist, I’ve chosen to push the employment door open and leap into the thin air … thin because there’s no longer a bi-weekly parachuting paycheque providing a security cloud to reassuredly float upon. Thin too, because it’s a major upheaval to the world I’ve always known.

I said in an earlier post that the only thing we have to do is die.

All we have to do is … die.

Everything else is optional, a choice, a decision that makes us think about where we want to be and where we want to go.

It sounds simple on the surface and utterly rational, but making choices is really one of life’s more difficult assignments.

I don’t want to expire in my office chair … either literally or figuratively. I’m not the drag-him-out-by-his-boots kind of guy.

Workwise, I’ve been expiring little-by-little as the IT role I fill loses the challenges it once held. A few years ago I woke up each morning with enthusiastic thoughts about the problems I would conquer and the great feelings associated with overcoming the blockages.

But the demanding obstructions grew fewer as I began to master the part (I guess I was approaching 10,000 hours of practice!). I slowly began to give off those fouls smells of stagnation – I still enjoyed going to the office, but now mainly for the social outlet of the wonderful people I worked with.

You and I have been conditioned from our earliest infant breaths to go to elementary school, high school, college/university, get a job, marry and settle down, have kids, grandkids, then … lie down on the sofa watching the 10 o’clock news and sucking in our last inhalation … The Story of A Life.

But it’s just one story and just one path.

Make it your story and not the one handed to you like it was the only card in the deck. I’m pulling another card from the deck. You’ll be hearing more about this in my blog posts as I stumble along.

YellowBrickRoadFork

There are forks in the road, and the right decision is taking the fork that you want and not the want being pressed on you by those around you. This is harder than it looks and it’s subtle.

What does your heart say?

What does your stomach tell you?

If you wake up and don’t remember the last time you felt like skipping to work on Monday morning, then listen very carefully because the signs are whispering in your ear.

Sure, the fear is there too. But inside of your fear is a message. It’s a cry for change.

Hear the cry. Feel the tears.

Find a creative way to take a step beyond –  where you reach forward, as if stretching precariously out over the Grand Canyon and suck in the rarified air that so few have sampled.

If and when you accept the fear and move forward anyway despite the risks, you have the best junkie high ever.

skydiving

I’m starting my new life this coming week as I absorb the painful passing of someone I love.

The only thing I have to do is die.

And when the day comes that I’m lying in my deathbed, I want to know that I loved and feared and lived.

The emotions – the good, the bad, and the ugly – have all been accepted and embraced. I’m growing a pair.

For better. For worse…

… ’til death I depart.

 

 

The Saddest Cries of Music … My 10 Top Tear-Inducing Songs

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I don’t cry very often…

boy crying

Of course as a kid I cried all the time, how else would I get my Mom’s attention when my brother Gord was pounding on me. I learned at a tender age that childhood is all about manipulating the parents … sorry Gord.

But maybe half a dozen times in my adult life, have I felt the warm tingle of salty trickles on my cheeks. Strangely I don’t seem to have the gene that turns on the waterworks over life’s saddest moments: the death of a relative, the loss of a pet, a lover’s rejection. I feel the loss and the pain inside, but the sensation of welling tears just doesn’t happen. People probably think I’m weird … and probably, I agree.

It’s not because I’m some strong, hulking man of a man that thinks it’s sissy-like to cry. I hold no anti-tear grudges. And I’ve told you before that I prefer Chick Flicks over Action-Adventure movies. Tell me that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are putting out another movie, and I’ll be there in a flash.

meg_ryan_tom_hanks

The occasions when I do feel the greatest swelling of emotion with a rising tide of tears come from the warmth and tenderness of music. A few minor notes on the piano, and the O-ring seals on my lacrimal glands begin to malfunction.

Genre? Doesn’t matter. Classical, Pop, Country. They all contain the seeds of sadness and desire and loss that pierce deeply.

Now that I’m trying to net a few drops from the same ocean of emotional depth in writing music of my own, I realize how difficult it is to capture and draw the pathos from the depths and bring the sadness to the surface of our souls.

There’s a mixture of items that contribute to the sadness we experience in listening to music — the music alone can do it; at times, the sorrow within the lyrics is the key; for the greatest wallop, a melancholy mixture of music and lyrics combined knocks it out of the teary-eyed ballpark.

The circumstances of our lives at the time that we listen to a song have a major impact too. The poetry of loss…

I’ve never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind a cloud
To hide it’s face and cry

… at the same moment we experience separation or divorce will drive the point home at double-strength.

The death of a parent or child coinciding with a song of grief…

Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please
Beyond the door there’s peace I’m sure
And I know there’ll be no more tears in heaven

…makes a huge impact.

I hear the swell of the violins in Theme from Anne of Green Gables, the halting notes on the piano from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, the swelling of Josh Groban’s voice in You Raise Me Up, and I feel the tightening in my throat and the moisture developing in my eyes.

melancholy-tracks

We all have our touchstones, the musical themes or cues that strike most deeply into our core. Songs that scratch the sadness itch –  no matter how painful – bring the comfort of knowing that someone else out there is experiencing the same pain that we feel in our heart. It’s paradoxical that a salve of musical sadness can be healing.

My 10 most tear-jerking, heart-tugging musical picks:

  1. Oh Daddy — Shari Ulrich
  2. You Raise Me Up — Josh Groban
  3. Theme from Anne of Green Gables — Hagood Hardy
  4. Theme from Summer of ’42  — Michel Legrand
  5. Fire and Rain — James Taylor
  6. At Seventeen — Janis Ian
  7. Rainy Day and Mondays — Carpenters
  8. Theme from Midnight Cowboy — Harry Nilsson
  9. Moonlight Sonata — Ludwig von Beethoven
  10. Hello It’s Me — Todd Rundgren
  11. Tears in Heaven — Eric Clapton
  12. Someone Like You — Adele
  13. Diary — Bread
  14. Canon in D Major — Johann Pachelbel

Tomorrow marks Remembrance Day in Canada. There are few human activities that bring sadness to so many as war. Let me add these few sorrowful tributes:

 

I guess sad songs are just like salt-crispy potato chips, it’s hard to stop at just a few. I couldn’t bring myself to a halt at just 10. I realize I could keep adding more and more but I’ll leave a bit of vacant space in your mind to add your own heartbreakers.

Care to share a few of those musical notes that plunge to the deepest part of your soul?

happiness-is-a-sad-song