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  • Writer's pictureAnna Byrne

Listening for Home

I do not consider myself a particularly musical person. I like to sing but have little aptitude for it. In the car, I usually have CBC playing, if anything. I don’t have subscriptions to Spotify, Bandcamp or Shazam (and needed to look up “music listening apps”). Though I still love a good album and appreciate the people in my life who are musical, I most often choose silence. In fact, I probably enjoy more silence than most adults this side of the monastery.

So I find it interesting that on occasion, a song lodges itself in my mind and simply won’t let go. Let me be clear — when this happens, I am not playing the song in my mind. The song is playing me.

It happened this past Christmas, when I was recovering from pneumonia and my first Master’s course in five years. I was exhausted and missed a week of work and then another when an astute board member of the non-profit I worked for approached the other Directors and advocated for additional time off for me (basically, She looks like hell, people! Have mercy!)

That season, with its family dinners, afternoon naps and movie nights, was threaded with two lines from Sarah McLachlan’s song Good Enough.” Over and over, they played in my mind repetitively and mostly unconsciously.

Finally, one day while at the kitchen counter, I sang them aloud again and suddenly, they acted like the spinning top in Leo’s movie Inception and I woke up. These are the lines:

Hey, your glass is empty

It's a hell of a long way home

Ah. Then I began to pay attention.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize that one of the primary ways that my life calls me home is through my health. The spinning top usually goes like this:

Do/give too much -- Get tired/sick/irritated -- Pull back/rest/recoup --

Feel better! Energized! Want to give! -- Do/give too much


Perhaps you have your own words to substitute into this cycle. Most of us do.

Part of what writing, or any art form, is about is learning to wake up and pay attention. Poems, lyrics, painting, movement -- these all help sort what's important, what rejuvenates us and in what direction we'll find home. So I journaled, walked, journaled some more and figured it out.

It’s eight months later and I’ve just left my much-loved job in order to concentrate on finishing those Master courses. As I entered this phase last week, a new song circled through my head; the only one I’ve noticed playing on repeat since Christmas. This one is a throwback to 1988 Roxette:

Listen to your heart when (it’s) calling for you

Listen to your heart, there's nothing else you can do

I don't know where you're going and I don't know why

But listen to your heart… before (it) tells you goodbye

Maybe music will become my new spinning top. I'd be grateful if it would take the job from illness. You are what you listen to. And I'm listening.

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