Ever have one of those months when life is just one swift kick in the seat of your pants after another?
I have to admit that right now, life is pretty good. For me. Except for one thing. I’ve been saddened lately by the overwhelming number of my friends that are experiencing problems. Huge problems. Medical. Heartbreak. Custody issues. Job loss. Disappointment. Grief. Financial setbacks. Bad juju is buzzing around like a mosquito hunting for a warm body right now, and I wish I could swat it into oblivion. Of course I can’t.
I can only be there, for my friends, with a sympathetic (sometimes more empathetic) ear. I can listen, I can bitch, I can suggest potential solutions, but there’s really nothing I can do to ease the worries and frustrations for any of my friends. I can’t make their troubles go away. And for many of them, what’s done is already done. The thing that rocked their world has already happened, and now all that’s left is the emotional pain. Finding a way to make that emotional pain and suffering go away and move forward is all they can do. And that can be a mighty difficult thing to accomplish.
It reminds me of a time back in the late ’80’s when I was going through a rough patch. I had just broken up with my college boyfriend of several years after realizing that all the love in the world I had to offer wasn’t as strong as the lure of something else that had come between us – drug addiction. And as long as I stayed with him, I was enabling him to continue, at my own emotional expense. So I finally walked out the door – on Christmas, no less – and he continued along his downward spiral. Now he’s a substance abuse counselor.
I was pretty depressed for a while after that, because I hate giving up on love. It seemed like not only had I lost this relationship, but other bad things were lining up to take a shot at me. Parking tickets. Car breaking down. Money problems. School problems. Roommate problems. I related to a co-worker that I felt like PigPen, with this big dark cloud following me around, raining crap on everything I touched. It seemed like every conversation I had, every situation I found myself in, was tinged with negativity. At some point I realized that other people were simply reacting to the permanent scowl I had on my face, but didn’t know how to turn things around. I felt like giving up.
Then one evening, music changed my entire attitude. I was hosting the late night jazz show at JPR at the time, and I came across this song that said everything I needed to hear. When I heard it, I realized that I did need to give up. I needed to give up the worries, the attitude, the fear and the negative thoughts that had been clouding my head. I needed to box up those worries and ship ’em off somewhere else. I played the song on the radio, and smiled for the first time in months. Had my first belly laugh since December. When that song was over, I was ready to move on. And I give all the credit to Mose Allison.
Years later, I found my job on the chopping block when Newt Gingrich launched a successful effort to snatch most of the federal funding away from public broadcasting. The staffing for the station I was at – the only source of daily local or regional news in the pre-internet era – was going to be cut from 13 to 3. Things got ugly as my co-workers began jockeying for the few jobs that would be left at the end of the month.
One day as I was going through the new releases I found a song that helped me realize I had the power within me to live through it – to hang tough – and find another career. I started the day feeling overwhelmed and crushed in spirit, and after playing that song I felt lifted and ready to hang tough. I asked to be pink slipped that very day, telling my boss that while radio was my passion, I was going to move on, start my own coffee house and have a baby. And that’s just what I did. (In fact, I gave birth to that amazing baby 14 years ago today. Happy birthday to the most amazing human being I have ever met and had the pleasure of knowing. I’m honored to be your mother, and to share in the credit of your development.)
To sum up: Music has a way of speaking directly to us from time to time. Forgive me as I unabashedly quote from almost every song on today’s playlist as I speak directly to you.
Friends, when life is getting you down, don’t worry about a thing because sometimes you can’t control your life (no matter how hard you try), and sometimes things just don’t turn out alright. Whattaya gonna do about it? You’re gonna suck it up. You’re gonna hang on. You’re gonna stand up. You’re not gonna back down. You’re gonna look on the bright side and you’re not gonna give up. You’re gonna survive, and you’re gonna hang tough. You’re gonna be OK. You’re gonna put on a happy face, dust yourself off, keep your head up, walk on the sunny side of the street, get back in the saddle & cowboy up.
I know you can do it. I have faith in you.
Stream the playlist on Grooveshark
- Mose Allison– I Don’t Worry About A Thing
- Crescent City Gold – Hang Tough This is the musical Dream Team of New Orleans. Dr. John, Allan Toussaint, all the great musicians together, hanging tough.
- Lenny Kravitz – Stand Unfortunately, Grooveshark doesn’t carry this tune. Bummer. Fortunately, YouTube does! Please enjoy this song by watching the video. It’s one of the most meaningful of the bunch.
- Destiny’s Child– Survivor
- Morcheeba– Good Girl Down
- Randy Newman– Can’t Keep A Good Man Down
- Andy Grammer– Keep Your Head Up
- Stevie Wonder– Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing
- Monty Python– Always Look On The Bright Side
- Frank Sinatra– On The Sunny Side Of The Street
- Ingrid Michaelson– Be OK
- Pink Martini – Hang On Little Tomato That little tomato is you!
- Ben Folds – Golden Slumbers Maybe what you really need is a nap.
- Coldplay– Everything’s Not Lost
- Michael Franti & Spearhead– Hey World (Don’t Give Up)
- Kate Bush– Don’t Give Up
- Tom Petty– I Won’t Back Down
- Shakira– Waka Waka
- Chris LeDoux– Cowboy Up
- Gene Autry– Back In The Saddle Again
- Andrews Sisters & Bing Crosby– Ac-cen-tu-ate The Positive
- Anita O’Day– Pick Yourself Up
- Stevie Wonder– Put On A Happy Face
- Michael Franti & Spearhead – Have A Little Faith
Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.