Once upon a time I was just a small town girl “livin’ in a lonely world”. I worked hard to follow the band, Journey’s sage advice found within the title of their song, “Don’t Stop Believin’”. I remember hearing this tune for the first time. I was driving home from work. Alone in the dark with rarely a car in sight and the clarifying scent of the mountain air rushing past me. All four of my windows were rolled down and the volume of my radio cranked up. Breathing in that night air was like no other. Nothing compares even today. No place I’ve lived nor traveled. I felt freedom and ease. I often conjure up that night air during these pandemic times to refresh my point of view. It’s an elixir for my spirit.
Even back then I was more of a U2 fan, yet the lyrics of this particular Journey song woke me up.
It was not the first time a song had this kind of impact. Although the song may be considered a love story, its simple message served to buoy me up during many phases and cycles of my life. For example, just a few years after hearing this song for the first time, I found myself spontaneously singing its refrain to help me remain upright. It served to help me set boundaries within my mind as I journeyed into “what if” stories and the worst possible consequences while my mom went through her first cancer surgery. It rang true during the long winter months of her first radiation treatments and other life-saving Mayo Clinic miracles.
During those darker days I also sang David Bowie’s song, “Heroes” to myself. I sang it as I watched mom commit herself to life. She remained a constant force to be reckoned with, remaining engaged and fiercely focused in the battle for her life. Later finding out this would not be her first fight with cancer. I realized being with her was a gift, a painful one albeit. Watching how she wrestled with the fear, the ups and downs of her news, which often echoed her emotions, let alone her journey with pain. All of it became her endowment, especially for today. She continues to give in what she showed me and how she met her challenges. Her creative clarity and courage during those times was the stuff of super heroes. She would not tolerate a lack of faith nor would it be acceptable to ever stop believing.
“We can be heroes, just for one day”.
Within Journey’s song a refrain shows up twice. It says, “livin’ just to find emotion, hidin’ somewhere in the night”. These words also rang true. Mom struggled with anxiety yet as I watched her fight cancer on multiple occasions she would drop into the deep emotion of believing. When she went there she was freer than I had ever experienced her. Speaking truthfully her words were softer, kinder, more gracious and often laced with a ribbon of hilarity. You would feel the zing of her anger. Yet it rarely hurt because she touched the heart of the matter, like a poem pointing out the irony within her story.
Many are wrestling or have been wrestling with what it means when we say, “Don’t stop believing” during these challenging times. This may be especially difficult if part of our belief system includes a deep and loyal connection to fairness and justice. During my experiences walking beside my mom and her multiple cancers, she would often say, “When has life ever been fair or just? That’s not how it works.” This would shock my younger self. It was a difficult belief system to digest for my empathetic personality as well as my own unique brand of idealism. Yet she followed it with her example. Living with values and working hard to remember that life is about how we show-up. For years after mom’s cancer battles she would express her appreciation for being with her and being courageous to go the distance with her. “We aren’t all wired to do this”, she would say. We all have differing gifts, talents and strengths. This is part of the miracle of being here. It’s also a part of the creative challenge we are given.
We may have a long way to go in order to experience authentic justice and equal rights for all people. Yet we cannot stop believing it can be possible. “We can be heroes, just for one day”. During this month of March, we celebrate international women and honor women’s history month. Please consider how you can reach out and lift up another person this month. There are many who need to know someone cares and is invested. Don’t wait. Reach out today. Let them know they matter. Maybe you will be inspired to share a favorite song, one that reminds you of this person or the themes within your relationship. Let’s bring our sweeter emotions into the light. And yes, I realize I just referenced an Aerosmith song too. Seems music lyrics are dancing in my head like old friends at a reunion. I’m grateful as they are boosting my resilience into renewed freedom with an ever timeless and paradoxical humor.