Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Songs of the Self

Every year, I have my students do a project called Song of the Self.  It's part of our poetry unit and it is supposed to partly teach poetry through music but also it allows the students to express personal parts of their lives in class.  Something they are not offered the opportunity to do much in school.  They have to find a song that has profoundly affected their life.  It can't be a song they just like, it has to be a song that means something to them.  It takes thought and they have to accompany the song with a one page written essay about why they picked the song.  If they pick a song they liked and can't say anything about it, they do not get the points.

Each year I tell them that almost everyone who presents cries and every year, they doubt me.  But, when the time comes to present their song, they are too overcome to go on and I usually have to read their presentations for them.  Then, we follow along with the lyrics while listening to their song.  It really makes us a family in my classroom and everyone is so much more respectful of everyone else after wards.  It's that compassion I was talking about.  (Maybe this is also why I've never had a fight in my room, for the past 11 years that I've been teaching.)

Now, I am not a musician.  And, if you ask me what I like better, music or movies, I would say movies or TV.  I don't sit around listening to music, other than in the car or a few rare times at home, and I'd rather watch TV to relax and shut my mind off.  I've always been this way.  But, it's not to say that there are song that deeply affect me sometimes, every single time I hear them.  

When I was graduating with my Bachelor's Degree from ASU, and my dad was having a bit of a mid-life crisis, we went out to Los Angeles to get an aptitude test.  This wasn't some "stare at ink blots and tell me what they mean" one day test, this was a three day, for hours and hours test.  At the end of it you were supposed to get a print out of what your career should be based on what your aptitude was for certain things.  We looked at pictures, played with blocks, did vocab. tests, listened to tones - all while a guy with giant eyebrows recorded everything.  My dad was hoping that at the end of it, he would get a printout of one thing, or a couple things that he was supposed to be doing in life.  I hoped, after 5 years of school, that my aptitude was for teaching because all of my money went to ASU for it.  So, at the end I got a printout that said, teacher or writer.  But, my dad got a long list including lawyer, his job at the time, writer, publisher, etc.  He was mad but I was happy, what I loved to do was also what I was good at doing.  Score.  

But, there was part of the test I did poorly at - and that was tone.  We had to listen to two tones, a high and low, and then say which was higher or lower.  My dad was amazing at it, he plays the guitar and LOVES music, but I sucked.  They all sounded the same to me and I knew what I always knew, I was tone deaf (Christine knows it too when I sing in the car!).  I am one of those people that sings along with the music and thinks I sound JUST like they do, it is a condition, I really do hear that I match.  But, if I were on American Idol, I would get laughed out because apparently what I"m hearing is wrong.

Even though I don't hear music correctly, or sit back and listen to it to relax, I do love music.  I love it because it says things you can't say, it speaks for your heart.  It expresses all of your emotions even when you can't.  It moves you.

When my step-mother was dying in the hospital, I drove home listening to Samson by Regina Spektor.  When I wanted to reminisce about being young I listened to Night Swimming by REM.  When I wanted to be happy it was Boys Don't Cry by The Cure.  When I'd think of my dad, it was always Slip Slidin' Away by Paul Simon (also the father/daughter dance at our wedding).  There are so many more, these are just a few that I've chosen to represent my life over the years (or should I say, they chose me).  To this day, these songs, and many others, come on my iPod and I think of a time, a person or an event that happened to me.  It is amazing what music can do.

I have posted a song on here before, but here are some others that speak my heart lately.    (And, it's strange becaue I'm sure these songs are written about love between significant others, but to me they are about love between me and my baby I never met.)  Feel free to share some of yours in the comment section below.  These really are Songs of the Self for all of us. 

"The Calculation" by Regina Spektor

You went into the kitchen cupboard
Got yourself another hour
And you gave
Half of it to me
We sat there looking at the faces
Of these strangers in the pages
'Til we knew 'em mathematically

They were in our minds
Until forever
But we didn't mind
We didn't know better

So we made our own computer out of macaroni pieces
And it did our thinking while we lived our lives
It counted up our feelings
And divided them up even
And it called that calculation perfect love

Didn't even know that love was bigger
Didn't even know
That love was so, so
Hey Hey Hey

Hey this fire it's burnin'
Burnin' us up

So we made the hard decision
And we each made an incision
Past our muscles and our bones
Saw our hearts were little stones

Pulled 'em out they weren't beating
And we weren't even bleeding
As we lay 'em on the granite counter top

We beat 'em up
Against each other

We beat 'em up
Against each other

We struck 'em hard
Against each other

We struck 'em so hard
So hard until they sparked

Hey this fire it's burnin'
Burnin' us up

"Like a Song" by Lenka

I can't forget you when you're gone
You're like a song that goes around in my head
And how I regret, it's been so long
Oh, what went wrong? Could it be something I said?

Time, make it go faster or just rewind
To back when I'm wrapped in your arms

All afternoon long it's with me the same song
You left a light on inside me, my love
I can remember the way that it felt to be
Holding on to you

I can't forget you when you're gone
You're like a song that goes around in my head
And how I regret, it's been so long
Oh what went wrong? Could it be something I said?

Time, make it go faster or just decide
To come back to my happy heart


  1. Allison~

    I FINALLY hopped on over to your blog as I was going back through old posts of my own, and saw your sweet comment from back in January. I wanted to come and read about your journey and now I'm crying at the computer because of this horrible twist of fate for you guy. I seriously cannot begin to imagine the range of emotions you have felt in the past 6 weeks. My heart goes out to you and I applaud you for handling this with grace, maturity, and a positive outlook that is astounding.

    I could list a bunch of stories about my friends who miscarried their first pregnancy and went on to have multiple, healthy children but it sounds like you are getting a lot of those real-life stories handed to you. Instead I will just say that I'll be praying for you and hoping you continue to find happiness and a sense of peace. Someday you will be blogging about pregnancy again and I look forward to reading!

    Hang in there!

  2. Julia!

    So great to hear from you, wasn't sure if you got my comment (it was my first and I know I probably posted it 5 times because I thought it didn't go through!). Your blog is amazing, I read all of the pregnancy posts while I was pregnant, it helped so much and felt as though I wasn't alone. I just wanted to make sure you knew that people were still reading and living your experiences right along with you, even though it was in the past for you. And, I actually saved the parts after Truman was born to read later, hoping that I could live my first mom experiences right along with you as you wrote about yours, feeling again like I wasn't alone.

    But, life just didn't work out that way for us this time so I will just have to save them for the future. Hopefully we will get another shot at this, I wish it with all of my being.

    Thank you for your kind words, it means so much. I know that many have had experiences like ours, you just never think it will happen to you, no one really tells you how common it is. The stories I've heard and the pain we've been through - makes it just seem like a miracle that we all made it through. I just hope I get to experience it all myself one day and get to hold our baby in the end. Here's dreaming for the best!

    Thanks for writing, and stay tuned, we try again next month! Lots of love to you and your family - keep writing and we will keep reading! :)