So, for the last about 6ish months I didn’t listen to music.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t encounter elevator music, top 40 blaring from speakers in department stores or the occasional human on the street with a guitar and country music aspirations. No, I did hear music… I just didn’t intentionally seek it out and in fact, I purposefully avoided it.
One of my favorite human moments of connectedness is when you’re in the car with someone and a song comes on and you’re both simultaneously thrown back to a different time in your life. Every point in my life— both pivotal and ordinary— I can associate with a song.
My childhood= cruising around the winding, forest covered back roads of Washington state and humming along to the Smashing Pumpkins and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Going to the Beach= melting into a lawn chair, feet digging into hot sand, lost in thoughts weaving in and out of Radiohead albums
The annual trips to Gatlinburg= glaring lights of tacky tourist traps, hitting put put balls, the smell of the mountain air mixed with fried food, and the Killers blasting from our car stereo— and my Dad singing along, comedically and epically poorly.
He gave me his love for music. Some of my earliest memories include dancing around to the music my parents played in the house. My personal favorite was the “Bee Song” (“No Rain” by Blind Melon). I wanted so badly to have a bumble bee costume just like the little girl in the music video. Every time the song played on the radio my dad would say “Gina, it’s the Bee Song”.
As I got older I developed my own taste in music. I’d sit for hours in front of the computer and “research” different artists then nag my parents to buy me CDs whenever we were inside a Target. My after school routine: I’d run upstairs, pop a CD into my baby blue boom box that I got for my birthday, I’d close my eyes and just listen.
I grew to understand music as a deeply personal experience. It can arouse thoughts and feelings that you wouldn’t otherwise entertain in everyday daydreaming. I also grew to understand that no matter what age you are, what stage in life you’re in, or what you’re going through— if you can’t find the words yourself, a song can find them for you. So, music became one of the primary ways I grew to understand my dad not only as a parent and authority figure that I respect, but as a sensitive, artistic person with hopes and dreams not dissimilar from myself.
When I got older, my dad and I would text each other songs and lyrics. It didn’t matter if we had just seen each other at the dinner table the night before or if I was on an acting contract 16 hours away, but those messages always made the distance shorter. Sometimes there were lengthy conversations to follow, other times it was just enough to know that we were both thinking about each other and that we were somewhere listening to the same song.
When I worked in Lexington, Kentucky for a children’s theatre tour, everyday I would listen to the The Lumineers album, Cleopatra (we were really into it at the time) while I got ready for work and I called my Dad as I walked the short distance from actor housing to the theatre. For this reason, I associate that album with homesickness and talking worries out with him. His favorite song on that album is White Lie. It used to be his alarm on his cell phone. I wonder if it still is.
Anyway, the reason I stopped listening to music is this:
This past December I took an acting contract in Philadelphia and it was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done for many reasons. This post isn’t about those specific reasons, so let’s just leave it at that for now.
I stopped listening to music when I got to Philly because…
1) I was worried about walking around the streets of Philadelphia by myself at night with even a slightest bit of distraction. I had to have iron focus and one hand clutching my pepper spray at all times (I grew up in Brentwood, y’all).
2) The thing about music is that music can stir up emotions and make you feel things… and the thing about anxiety and depression is that you don’t want to feel things.
I used to drown out my racing thoughts with music, but suddenly I wasn’t scared of the silence, but rather scared of what I’d find to fill the silence with. Any song could remind me of my parents, my boyfriend, my childhood, living walking distance from my best friend, my pets, the time before I became disillusioned with my career, having a home—you name it. I would be overcome with crippling sadness and extreme anxiety and I didn’t have time for that, so, I stopped.
I eventually got used to it. I didn’t use music as I ran at the gym, I didn’t use music as I walked down the street, waited in line at auditions, took the train to and from New York and all over Philadelphia. And I didn’t even use music on the plane ride back to Nashville or when I was finally back in my car driving around familiar streets and cursing at familiar traffic.
Then one day something completely randomly beautiful happened. For some unknown reason, my phone glitched out and that Lumineers album started playing. I was home alone and I was cleaning the house to surprise my boyfriend who was away for the weekend. Everything was fine, but when I heard the first few notes of “Sleep on the Floor”, I wept. I sat on the floor and I wept. The lyrics meant so much more to me at that moment than they used to two and a half years ago; things like love, disappointment, taking risks, hope, what it actually feels like to miss someone– really miss them– and I’ll be honest, what it’s like to financially support yourself. I thought back to the person I was when I first heard those words and I almost didn’t recognize myself. From my limited scope, I “know” so much now that I didn’t before. Some of what I know, I wish I didn’t, but i guess there’s always a certain amount of that once you reach a certain point in your life.
I sat on the floor and I listened to that entire album from start to finish. In a day in age where I find myself almost constantly multitasking and fiddling with my phone, it was the first time since I was a child that I actually just sat and listened. Thoughts were bubbling to the surface of my consciousness. About the future, about the past, about my boyfriend, my brother, my friends, my family, my home– wherever that truly was– and all the places I had been and all the people I had become. But the one thought that kept coming up and grew stronger and stronger was:
“I miss my dad.”
I wanted to text my dad. I wanted to call my dad. I wanted to sit on the back porch with him and a glass of red wine and talk about what we were feelling, what we were doing at the time we both first heard this album.
But, like so many children do, I didn’t. I got off the floor. I finished cleaning and got dressed. My boyfriend and I went on a date and I became distracted and then I simply forgot. That’s not an uncommon experience. Many times a week, a day, a moment I think about my parents and I think “I should reach out” and for whatever reason, I just don’t. I forget. And I know that’s normal and I know there are probably people out there in the world do the same when they think about me. But for that commonality in the human condition, I am deeply sorry. I miss my dad and I’m lucky enough that I still have my dad. So I’m going to try as hard as a flawed and busy and anxious and happily messy person can, to reach out more often and say what I feel when I feel it.
I miss you Dad. I love you. Go listen to Cleopatra! Happy Father’s Day.