Music is a huge part of my life. Always has been. At almost 64 years of age, I find music is the frame upon which I hang the events of my life. I might not remember that the event happened in 1989, but I remember with startling clarity hearing Rick James’ “Superfreak” in my ears, sitting on the ski lift next to Harold Hampton as we laughed about a sign encouraging people to attend a “Diamond Cutter” workshop that afternoon. That was back in the days when I could’ve hosted a diamond cutter workshop several times a day. (Women friends, ask your husband why this is something to celebrate.)
Through the highs and lows of my life, music was there for solace or a lyrical high five. I spend a lot of time in the car by myself, as Jill and I take separate cars to work every day. I’m in the driver’s seat with my thoughts and my music — LOUD — sometime with gooseflesh on my arms, and sometime with tears dropping off my chin onto my shirt. The result is that the music firmly grounds me onto that place in my memory when that song was playing and something significant was going on. The slice of time is front and center and whatever emotion was present then is present here again at 70 miles-per-hour and it is a remarkable treasure, there in that fleeting moment and then gone, until I play that song again.
In this Christmas season, now my third one on truly gifted time — time that medical statisticians said I wouldn’t get — I’m awash in gratefulness, and trying desperately not to give in to the fear that still haunts me every day. Will it come back? Will it come for me again? How can I ever go back again to that pain, to that place where everything tastes like aluminum foil, where sleep comes in fits and starts and fear is overwhelming?
I have attempted to try to write what this feels like: Me getting my life back while so many others are still in their dark place, having to undergo so many procedures, scans, needle sticks, tests and not being sure of their next day. Yes, I still have my share of all those awful things, but mine are sauced with a healthy helping of real hope. I think this is survivor guilt, just like a soldier feels when he comes home from war while others died on the field of battle. Part of me wants to celebrate, part of me wants to sit quietly in shame as my brothers and sisters continue to wither from their marching disease processes.
Despite my lingering PTSD, and the apparently permanent fear and loathing I have had tattooed onto my brain, I am so sincerely thankful for all that I have, mostly for my family and friends and for my cancer relationships. I walk through each day with the eyes of a child, soaking in beauty and goodness in large measure. My heart sings with gratitude, led by the songs on my radio. So, listen to my songs of 2016 in this Spotify playlist, and think of every person you know who needs to be encouraged, to feel love, to find warmth, to be hugged, to be fed.
Hear my gratitude for so many who have encouraged me, loved me, hugged me and fed me. Merry Christmas.