Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Soundtrack Of My Life (Or The Music That Gets Me Through Illness)

For the next edition of Patients For A Moment, Phylor asks us to offer up the songs that help us make it through.  I was totally up for accepting this challenge because it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

Coming up with the soundtrack of my life is one of the things on my bucket list.  That might sound lame, but…

So, here goes.  In some ways, you can see that this list sort of works chronologically.  For the most part, these are all songs that I really came into contact with after I got sick.

“The Story” (Brandi Carlile) – “All of these lines across my face/ Tell you the story of who I am/ So many stories of where I’ve been/ And how I got to where I am/ But these stories don’t mean anything/ When you’ve got no one to tell them to […] You see the smile that’s on my mouth/ It’s hiding the words that don’t come out/ And all of my friends who think that I’m blessed/ They don't know my head is a mess […]”

I think this song is so true.  If there’s one thing that illness has taught me, it’s that I have a story to tell, a story that is unique and important, and that is what I have tried to share with my readers over the last few years.  The thing that I think a lot of people in life don’t realize is that we all have pasts.  Some people can conceal their pasts, and others of us wear them right out in how we look or the way we act.  We all have something.  And just one of the many things that are a part of me is chronic illness.   

“Closer To Myself” (Kendall Payne) – “Digging deep, I feel my conscience burn/ I need to know who and what I am/ This hunger jolts me from complacency/ Rocks me, makes me meet myself […] I've been everybody else now I want to be/ Something closer to myself […]”

This song is so important to me because it’s where the title of my blog came from.  And I think in many ways, it’s one of my life’s projects.  I’m trying to evolve and become the best person I can be.  

“Butterfly Girl” (Jalene Johnson) – “Do you only remember the way you used to be/ Full of fear and doubt and insecurity/ Taking things that people said to build a web around you/ Thinking you’d be safe in that place/ I know your frightened and your wings are frail/ But summer’s here and you’ve outgrown your silky veil/ The walls of your cocoon have left no room for breathing/ So break free…break free/ Butterfly girl/ Don’t you know your beautiful by now/ Too long in hiding/ Free to shine girl/ Time to spread your wings/ And show your colors to the world/ Butterfly girl/ Don’t you know that you’re a precious miracle/ Suffering transformed to something wonderful/ All the things that had you bound have only made you stronger/ So trust me and fly/ Trust me and fly”

This song really speaks to me.  Obviously the butterfly being the symbol for lupus.  I just think that this song encapsulates a lot of the thoughts and feelings I have about my life. 

“Everybody Hurts” (R.E.M.) – When the day is long and the night/ The night is yours alone/ When you’re sure you’ve had enough Of this life […] Don’t let yourself go, ’cause everybody cries/ And everybody hurts sometimes […]”

When I’ve been at my most down and out moments, I have listened to this song on repeat over and over again.  It makes me feel less alone, even when I’m by myself and in pain. 

“Bravedancing” (Rachael Sage) – “You came to me like / Lightning upon a picket fence/ Shattering my illusion/ With shockingly bad sense/ And I may never feel the same/ But I won’t always feel this pain […] So let faith fall on me now/ I’m gonna be my own best friend/ And if you do not see me bend/ Then you will know I have been/ If you do not see me bend/ Then you will know / Where I have been/ Bravedancing”

I listened to this song a lot when I first got sick.  A friend left Rachael Sage’s CD in my mailbox, and this song really spoke to me about my experience with illness.  First shock, then anger, and eventually, acceptance…

F**kin’ Perfect” (Pink) – Made a wrong turn, once or twice/ Dug my way out, blood and fire/ Bad decisions, that’s alright/ Welcome to my silly life/ Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood/ Miss, no way it’s all good, it didn’t slow me down/ Mistaken, always second guessing/ Underestimated, look, I’m still around” 

This song is both for me, and for all the haters out there, who have doubted me, especially after I got sick.  I’m still here.  Despite them, despite me, despite everything.  

“Live Like You Were dyin’” (Tim McGraw) – “[…] I went sky divin’/ I went Rocky Mountain climbin’/ I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu/ And I loved deeper/  And I spoke sweeter/ And I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying/ And he said someday I hope you get the chance/ To live like you were dyin’ [...]”

Being diagnosed with a serious and chronic illness is life-changing.  And while I may not have done a tone of seemingly crazy things (yet), I have learned to live my life differently, to not hold back, to put everything out there, and to live fully and out loud.

“Brave” (Idina Menzel) – “[…] And I might still cry/ And I might still bleed/ These thorns in my side/ This heart on my sleeve/ And lightening may strike / This ground at my feet/ And I might still crash/ But I still believe/ This is the moment I stand here all alone/ With everything I have inside, everything I own/ I might be afraid/ But it's my turn to be brave […]

I’ve always considered myself a mature person, but illness made me grow up in an instant.  It forced me to take command of my life in ways that I never had before, and didn’t expect to have to.  Being strong and brave doesn’t mean being perfect, and it certainly doesn’t mean coming in nice, tidy package.  Life is messy and difficult, but being brave means being able to handle things first on your own, and then slowly, letting others in.

“One More Day” (Sinead O’Connor) – “[…] An angel weeps, I hear him cry/ A lonely prayer a voice on high/ Dry all your tears, come what may/ And in the end the sun will rise on one more day […]

Usually, if we’re lucky, no matter how bad things get, we will get another day…

“Be OK” (Ingrid Michaelson) – I just want to be ok, be ok, be ok/ I just want to be ok today/ I just want to be ok, be ok, be ok/ I just want to be ok today […] Open me up and you will see/ I’m a gallery of broken hearts/ I’m beyond repair, let me be/ And give me back my broken parts

I think the lyrics of this song pretty much sum it up.  No matter what, I’m going to be “Be OK”. 

“Weight of the World” (Chantal Kreviazuk) – “I used to carry the weight of the world/ And now all I wanna do is spread my wings and fly/ I don’t know why I was so afraid...all the time/ Memories seemed to bother me…my whole life/ I used to carry the weight of the world/ And now all I wanna do is spread my wings and fly”

Illness makes you take fewer things for granted.  It makes you get rid of all the stupid, little shit you were holding onto.  It makes you let go of the things that really don’t matter and hold dear to all the things that do.   

“Temporary Home” (Carrie Underwood) – ‘[…] This is my temporary home / It’s not where I belong/ Windows and rooms that I’m passin’ through/ This is just a stop, on the way to where I’m going/ I’m not afraid because I know this is my/ Temporary Home […]’

Whether you read this song in terms of something existing beyond physical life, or as all aspects of life being transitory (as I do), this song speaks to me as being hopeful.  Being sick is just one part of who I am.  And how sick or well I am varies based on many factors in my life.

“Unwritten” (Natasha Bedingfield) – “I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined/ I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned/ Staring at the blank page before you/ Open up the dirty window/ Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find/ Reaching for something in the distance/ So close you can almost taste it/ Release your inhibitions/ Feel the rain on your skin/ No one else can feel it for you/ Only you can let it in/ No one else, no one else/ Can speak the words on your lips/ Drench yourself in words unspoken/ Live your life with arms wide open/ Today is where your book begins/ The rest is still unwritten […] I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines/ We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way […]”

I love this song!  It is the most upbeat song of the bunch.  And it gives me hope.  I think it’s fitting to end where we started, with a story.  My journey is just beginning.  My story is unfinished.  

Some of these songs are rather obscure, so you may not have heard of them before.  That’s kind of what I like about some of them.  They feel uniquely me.  And I hope that these songs inspire you or bring you comfort in difficult times.  I have often cried while listening to many of these songs, but overall, I think most of these songs are rather hopeful.  

Illness has made me very introspective.  Of course there is a different cadre of songs that helped me get through breakups and other things that have happened along the way, as well.  But these are really the songs that I think of when I think of trying to cope with illness, being in pain, and feeling alone.

Now the music I listen to when I’m kickboxing and what I like to rock out to – and is now part of a playlist entitled “Jamz” (you know, ‘cause I’m so “gangsta”) – is decidedly more upbeat.  I am happy to share that if you’re interested.

So what are the songs that inspire you?


  1. Thanks for sharing these songs. Blessings.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this! I want to explore so many of these selections; artists or songs I'm not familiar with, but sound like they would resonate with me.

  3. Dear Leslie, thanks for your great blog. Your latest post is very poignant to me, as my ability to listen to music has been severly effected by lupus. Pre-lupus I lived to dance at the weekends, & music was a huge part of my life. But I became very sensitive to noise when I became ill, as well as too weak to stand up for long let alone dance. Now the right meds seems to be settling things down & I can rediscover all my favourite music, & lots of great new stuff. The song that is sticking in my head at the moment is U2's 'somedays are better than others.' The lyrics had a whole different meaning when I was well, it was more about bad days at work & relationship problems. Now it totally sums up life with lupus, while at the same time reminding me that life wasn't always a bed of roses pre-illness, as I am sometimes tempted to think it was! Take a listen & I hope you can see what I mean. X

  4. Leslie, Thanks for such a great blog. I love music and can't imagine a world without it. When I am down, I crank the music in my convertible and drive on the highway. Nothing changes my attitude like the wind in my hair and good music on the stereo. Melissa Etheridge's "Message to Myself" has lyrics that speak to me.
    "I'm sending out a message to myself. So that when I hear it on the radio I will know that I am fine, I will know that I am loved." This always makes me smile. I know that I will be fine, one way or another!

    you be well,
    adrienne @

  5. Great playlist! Love every single one of these songs!