Those who know my work from Getting Past Your Breakup know that I encourage a full repetoire of different techniques for healing and working through grief. I have employed all of the ones I talk about in GPYB including unplugging and ignoring the phone, computer and all of that.

I find that the digital age makes some things better and definitely ruins other things. For me, one of the things it ruined was hours sitting on the floor with CDs or albums and just listening to an entire album.

I was a pretty melancholy teenager (who wasn’t?) who mooned around her room and played music endlessly. I would, as the case was with most girls in the 70s, lay on my single bed with my phonograph next to me, and a cache of albums strewn about the room. I would often play the same side of an album or a song over and over again.

However, the hours spent like this had a very healing component. I worked out a lot of stuff through music. Sometimes I would put on sad songs and cry and other times I would put on pop tunes and indulge myself in some pretty uncool music.

I was always one of those girls who impressed boys with my musical knowledge and tastes. I was the Steven Hyde of my group. Too cool for many things and with a definite edge due to abandonment and other crap. I had the tinted aviator glasses and the Frye boots and a lot of stoner friends.

But secretly I listened to a lot of stuff that boys would definitely cringe at and no one would think cool. Even as a teenager I would break out my childhood Monkee records and my Broadway soundtracks. I would listen to the Partridge Family and Osmond Brothers (listening to the Jacksons was cool, but Osmonds were definitely not). Then I would hide them under my bed and only have the cool stuff (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, etc) in plain view for when my friends came over.

I learned then that music had the power to change your mood. And when I was too dark and depressed or way too into heavy metal, I would spend a couple of hours listening to Mary Martin singing “I’m in Love With A Wonderful Guy.” or Julie Andrews singing “How Are Things In Glocca Mora?” or Vikki Carr singing “Surrey With The Fringe on Top.” Lots of Broadway stuff that a 14 year old girl who was the “cool chick” where music was concerned didn’t listen to. I didn’t do a lot of the hairbrush microphone bits but I would dance around a bit and imagine myself on the Broadway stage.

The other thing I did on a daily basis was get lost in books. I read just about anything I could get my hands on and re-read my favorite books all the time. My adoptive mother described me as having my nose in a book all the time (something she didn’t really approve of and I learned later it was because my biological mother read constantly though I don’t know how my adoptive mother knew that unless someone told her). She did a lot to discourage my reading including the nightly confiscation of the flashlight I was sure to have under the covers.

I worked in the computer industry since 1986 and worked for companies that had intranets and the internet and email long before anyone else even knew what it was. I remember trying to explain to my friends how we emailed each other at work and they couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea.

Even though I was in technical support and communicated via email with all my work friends, I still had a lot of time to read books. And I did.

Since I fell down the stairs and fractured my back in September, I’ve struggled with being home and injured. I’ve had to work hard to ward off depression, sadness and a sense of not having any direction at all. As I’ve worked hard to not get lost in depression coupled with the fact that this is the year Michael and I were supposed to be off on a cross country trip on our Harleys, I’ve accidentally stumbled back to my roots and find it having a very therapeutic effect.

When the insurance company (for disability) said I was well enough to work, I wanted to shout at them, “Do you think I want to sit around all damn day staring at the walls and thinking about the life I SHOULD be having? Do you think it’s easy for me to preach ‘get active!’ to my GPYB readers and I have trouble going to and from the store? DO YOU THINK I WANT TO BE DOING THIS?” But they’re an insurance company. My mental health is apparently none of their business and they don’t factor it in when I say I want to be working and would be working if I could.

I preach “unpluggedness” to my readers all the time. And I try to practice what I preach but it’s hard when you have a blog that you have to monitor. But lately I’ve made much more of an effort to just unplug everything a couple of hours a day. I try to turn the computer off by 9 pm every night which is very new and different for me.

I was watching television a lot and that was definitely not doing the trick. There was something “off” about it and I was growing increasingly restless and depressed.

Then a couple of serendipidous things happened.

I discovered a local radio station that is probably the greatest station I have ever listened to (107.1 The Peak), and at the same time I found my good headphones (BOSE Quiet Comfort) in a box and started to create playlists on my iPod that mimicked a lot of how I used to listen to music. Definitely some cool stuff and some pop stuff and Broadway stuff but mostly just really good music. Nothing hokey or stupid. Lots of live Springsteen which brings back the many concerts I attended in the 70s when no one knew who he was (I’ve been ending every playlist session with “Paradise by the ‘C'” and it stays in my head and makes me happy), lots of blues, some childhood stuff and 90s alternative as well as some recent stuff that’s pretty great (Amos Lee…Windows Are Rolled Down). My anthems, my ballads and a few things that make me cry.

In the afternoon I have a lot of back pain and I have been putting on a heating pad and putting on my headphones and listening to my playlists. It’s a lot like it used to be and I find it healing. I remember one day thinking that the light was streaming in almost exactly the same way it did in the late afternoon when I would lay on my bed in the Bronx.

Another thing that happened was I was putting books in the shelf and one fell out. The title is The Ditto List by Stephen Greenleaf.

I remember that when I first read this book I was on a midnight train to Georgia (I really was) and had a roomette and stayed up all night reading it. Back then I could polish off a paperback in a night and start on a new one the next day. Reading was my life. By the time I got to Atlanta, I had finished the book and was onto the next one.

So I took the Ditto List to my room and started to read it. I set the clock for an hour to read that long without interruption. Back in the day I would look up and several hours would have easily gone by and I would think, “Oh crap!” because I was inevitably late for something. My “nose in a book” constantly made me late or absent a lot.

I’m actually re-learning the art of getting lost in a book. In the digital age, attention spans are at risk and to be a reader, to have a love affair with books, is a rare and wonderful thing.

I’ve got a stack of books I’ve bought and never read and a stack of books I want to reread.

Right now I’m up to 2 hours and 15 minutes which is still a pretty dim score on the attention span scale. But I am slowly working my way back to polishing off a book in a day. Even when I go back to work. Lots of reading time on the train.

The great thing is that I’m discovering, well RE-discovering the healing power of music and books. I find that I’m honestly feeling better on the days I spend time listening to music with nothing else going on and the days I spend reading books without checking email or answering the phone or switching on the TV.

I think these pasttimes are slowly fading into the sunset and attention spans will continue to deteriorate even among readers and people who like to spend some time without distraction. We’re all developing ADD by the minute.

But I have to tell you that if you ever spent time doing this and have stopped, going back to it is really an incredible experience. I’m so glad that I put music and books back into my life…every day without interruption. I’m slowly moving away from the long-held habit of multi-tasking and starting to pay attention to things I love. Music and books.

And it’s paying off.

Wishing you peaceful, uninterrupted time.

And healing.

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