Music has literally saved me, countless times. I’ll probably write a post dedicated to that subject in the near future.
For now, let’s just say that music has augmented my life, providing a backdrop in which I can communicate/share feelings, thoughts, and ideas more effectively.
Music has also served as a form of therapy.
In two previous posts (Post #1 and Post #2), I’ve listed and discussed songs that helped me identify and sort out my thoughts and feelings as I waded through the beautiful and sometimes-turbulent waters of discovering I “have” Asperger’s. The first of those posts listed them, with links to YouTube videos, while the second post described what they meant to me as seen through an Asperger’s lens/filter.
Since writing that first post back in May, additional songs have come to me. It’s a solid list for me, and very healing. I share them here, in case they help anyone else, in a similar (or different) way…
(Note: all links point to videos, usually to YouTube. All videos play well; to my knowledge, they’re all complete and studio (i.e. non-live) versions of the song.)
“Imperfectly Beautiful” by Stacey Rutledge and Louise Bernadette Dowd – This is a beautiful song that is simultaneously wistful and powerful. I almost feel like the lyrics are speaking directly to me (and others in my situation), “all your quirks / and all your faults / make you beautiful / imperfectly beautiful”. All my life–and especially in recent years–I had come to identify “my quirks” and curse them, wishing I were someone else, wishing I could erase them somehow.
Since my Asperger’s discovery, I’ve come to appreciate them, even though they still do present a certain amount of difficulty. “Sad, how some can be so cruel / nothing better to do / no it’s not about you / don’t be fooled” and “Lost / you never felt so alone / every stick / every stone / they don’t hurt / on their own / there’s hope in hell” cut right through, grasp the deep childhood wounds tenderly, and begin to heal them. It’s an incredible song, to the point where it has come to serve as sort of an “Asperger’s anthem” for me.
“Wrong Child” by REM was a song I came across when I was in junior high, and although I was 20 years away from my Asperger’s realization, I knew that I identified with that song on a certain level; I knew that somehow, in some way, it applied to me. “I’ve watched the children come and go”, “I’m not supposed to be like this”, and “Hey those kids are looking at me / they’re laughing and they’re running over here / what do I do? / What can I do? / What should I do? / What should I say? / What can I say?” describes how painfully shy and socially awkward I’ve always felt, and the alienation that burned into me as a result.
“Diminished“, also by REM, is a melancholy tribute to the self-doubt and inadequacy I have often felt, despite trying to be good. The lyrics “I will do my best today / I will give myself away / I have never hurt anything / Is the justice wavering?” resemble the turmoil I felt as a young child, when faced with the cognitive dissonance between My Being Nice and the bullying I endured from other kids, coupled with the lack of support from teachers and other faculty. I was always shocked when I found myself to be the one blamed and in trouble. I was only doing my best. As time went on, I had grown cold for a while, wishing violence and harm on anyone who crossed me, reflected in passages such as “I watched you fall / I think I pushed”.
“It’s a Sin” by the Pet Shop Boys is a New Wave classic, and it certainly speaks to me. Essentially, I interpret the song to be about someone who, no matter what they do or say, it’s always wrong, as evidenced by phrases like “when I look back upon my life / it’s always with a sense of shame / I’ve always been the one to blame”, and “everything I’ve ever done / everything I ever do / … it’s a sin”. Although not a 100%-accurate match, it does mirror some of my sentiment.
Also in junior high, I had discovered Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” which really resonated with my observation of the conventional school system to be little more than a Play-Doh(R) Fun Factory(TM) for the manipulation of children’s minds for the sakes of mediocrity and uniformity. True to my Aspie nature, I recoiled against this notion, preferring to learn and think independently and sensibly, and to draw my own conclusions. I railed against the ideas that we all had to do the same things at the same times.
For example, I rebelled against having to trace circles along dotted-lined guides in kindergarten. I resisted having to play baseball in gym class, when I knew it was a waste of my time, since I wasn’t learning anything and heaven knows I couldn’t catch a ball or throw properly.
Toward the end of junior high, although still nowhere near solving the mystery that was undiagnosed Asperger’s, I found solace in Queensryche’s “Anybody Listening?” anthem. Tacked onto the tail end of their breakthrough 1990 album Empire, I shared in their frustration with the general apathy witnessed in the world (“Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what’s going on?”) and reveled in their encouragement to break through (“Read between the lines / criticize the words they’re selling / think for yourself and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet”). I cheered inside upon hearing that, realizing that somewhere, somehow, someone else out there Gets It.
“Subdivisions” by Rush, the Canadian-US-crossover classic/prog rock band with superb talent, also came to my attention sometime between junior high and high school. It’s a commentary on the peer pressure and the message sent to all youth that “thou shall conform”, lest we find ourselves outcasts on the sidelines, which in adolescence, is a fate figuratively worse than death. Although all adolescents are faced with this pressure, it may be experienced in an unusual way by people on the spectrum. I’ve seen it go one of two extremes: either we don’t care about peer pressure at all, or we care too much, and as a result, turn to self-harm, eating disorders, or other issues. I wish I didn’t care what people think, and I’d like to tell myself that I don’t, but if I’m honest with myself, I know that I still do.
I grew to appreciate “Face Up“, another song by Rush, in my early college/university years. An energetic and intense song about nearing a loss of control, it partially explains what I feel when dangerously close to a meltdown, especially passages such as “Running on empty”, “Don’t complain / don’t explain / I don’t think my resolve / could stand the strain”, “I get so angry but I keep my mouth shut” are imperfect-but-decent examples. Meltdown recovery, the way I sometimes experience it, is also touched upon (“And when you get out on your own / you get all smoothed-out inside / and it’s good to be alone”).
College/university years brought about more eclectic music exposure. One of my favorite bands during this time was Throwing Muses (headed up by ’90s alternative band Belly’s singer Tanya Donnelly’s stepsister, Kristin Hersh, a bipolar genius who served as one of my role models during these years). Although several of their songs “made it” to the college radio genre playlist, and indeed some of the “mainstream alternative” (if there is indeed such a thing) radio stations, one of their overlooked and underrated songs, “Serene” is a beautiful, low-key tune featuring a rich cello, and almost-perfectly describing how I’ve felt since realizing my spot on the autism spectrum. This song snuggled its way into my head while I was reading the amazing and incredible blogs of other Aspie/autistic females, learning from them, and allowing their writings to comfort me like a warm security blanket.
“Coming Up Roses” by Curve speaks to some pretty specific Asperger’s characteristics, as touched on by passages such as “no one can touch me / as I wave goodbye” (which might describe the detachment that some of us are capable of), “I’ve learned my lesson / in self-composure” (which could be interpreted to refer to the “acting” that many of us speak of having to learn to do, just to function and be accepted in “the rest of the world”), “…the things I own / and have collected” (referring to the common spectrum trait of accumulating specific collections), and, potentially, “a mile is long when home is far away” (which certainly speaks to my intuitive sensation that I’ve always been homesick for a place I’ve never been, never feeling like I’ve ever really belonged wherever I’ve been, no matter where that might be).
“Sounds of Silence“, originally by Simon & Garfunkel but recently remade by Disturbed, is an amazingly powerful song that symbolizes a lot of what I feel. So much so, in fact, that (as some of you may remember), I wrote my own “lyrics” to it, capturing my thoughts and emotions as I navigated the sometimes-violent emotional currents of Asperger’s discovery as I experienced it at nearly 40 years old.
K’s Choice’s song “Quiet Little Place” symbolizes, for me, my pleasant refuges from the rest of the world, whether it’s our neurologically-friendly apartment, or my custom of leaving my desk (at work) or the couch (at home) every few hours and going outside, off by myself, to walk among nature, surrounded by the outdoor earthly elements, and taking it all in.
Ever since junior high and high school, I would walk to school voluntarily, despite the bus being available to me as a mode of transportation. I loved to walk the almost-mile to school because it was My Time, time for me to let my mind wander and dance, without pressure, interruption, expectations, judgment, questioning, or any other outside interference. The morning was mine, the space was mine, my thoughts were mine. Even today, I love to go outside just before the sun comes up; it’s like I have the world to myself. No one else is up yet. No one invades my space, saps my energy, or breaks my thought-flow. No one intrudes. And at times like that, this song creeps into my mind…in a not-so-creepy way. 🙂
(Image Credit: Yuumei)