My soul speaks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I was overwhelmed. With anxiety about the future and some decisions my husband and I will face in the coming months. With sadness for the tragedy in Connecticut. With a grief I couldn’t put a finger on. Sometimes, life just feels heavy.

So I did something I don’t do often enough. I dusted off my guitar — an acoustic that’s older than I am; I “inherited” it from an uncle I never met — and thumbed through my song books and strummed and sang until my fingertips, throat and shoulder hurt.

I’m no musician. I can’t read music. I’m not sure what notes are supposed to sound like. With the help of a friend, I learned how to play some basic chords, and I’ve added a few since then. All I know is: sometimes I don’t have any words to soothe the ache and I just have to sing. To make music. To communicate in a language I don’t really understand. And even that doesn’t fully describe what happens to me with music.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, here are some others’ words about music:

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  –Berthold Auerbach

I love this. Music is cleansing and soul-lifting. Along those same thoughts:

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons.  You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.  –Oliver Wendell Holmes

I used to sing to my kids when they were babies. I’d sing my way through the day with them: while changing diapers and getting them dressed and changing more diapers and cooking and rocking them to sleep and bathing them and getting them ready for bed. I don’t know when I stopped doing that, but I know that hard things are sometimes easier when I’m singing my way through them.

He who sings scares away his woes.  –Cervantes

And this:

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done

I need to rediscover poets. Poetry, like music, is a soul-language.

Music is an outburst of the soul.  –Frederick Delius

I think that’s why I’m drawn to the Psalms. Poetry, music, sorrow, joy. We lose something in the expression of the words because we so rarely sing the Psalms. And yet they touch on deep emotions and the heights of elation. When I read the Psalms, I feel like someone understands. I read these words this weekend, from Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.

This particular verse always speaks to me when life is troubling. When I don’t feel like blessing or praising or singing. I think the psalmist David understood that we won’t always feel like honoring God or praising Him, but that sometimes we would need to pep-talk our souls until the feelings caught up the words. Sometimes when I’m singing, I don’t feel the words, but I sing them anyway. Sometimes I can’t sing and have to just let the music and the words and the sound of others singing wash over me.

Maybe music and singing and psalms don’t affect you in the same way. What soothes your soul when your world, the world at large, is troubled? How do you express what you feel when you don’t have the words?

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