The holiday season has awakened my inner child, who must have been restless for a while because she already made me get a bright yellow parka in the fall. The jacket was a visual celebration of sorts, a wearable reminder sunniness was back despite depression. Prior to this, I only wore black with an occasional hint of white or gray for, well, color.
The kid within has been coming back to life alongside my outer adult over the last year, one song at a time. If recovering my writing voice was the first sign my mental health was improving, music was the second one.
The giggly toddler who used to wriggle in her cot to the radio is now an adult who is incapable of standing still while listening to anything. The digital music service I subscribe to is as essential to me as Wi-Fi; it enables me to conjure up razor-sharp focus anywhere and get through anything.
What I considered a luxury expense for years and never dreamed I could ever afford has become an intrinsic part of how I manage my mental health. Music energizes me, soothes me, relaxes me; there is nothing it cannot help me weather, especially when I combine it with Portuguese.
During the five years I lost to major depressive disorder, music was torture, so unbearable I lived in near-complete silence. Even muzak in grocery stores could catapult me into a deeper funk, especially if a song reminded me of happier times. Now music is a pleasure again and I can never get enough of it, disappearing into my work for hours on end if the soundtrack is good.
And it always is.
Because I have curious ears and listen to seemingly unrelated genres and artists, my app-generated playlists are always a little disjointed. Perhaps humor is built into the algorithm; all I know is that the sudden onslaught of a Maria Leal or Quim Barreiros song is always a surprise of sorts. Pimba is a very Portuguese art form, so memorable that my inner child blushes and giggles when it randomly happens while my outer adult scrambles for the pause button.
I’ve learned that my brain fixates on silliness as much as it does on sadness so I try and be mindful of what musical diet I feed it so I don’t spend a day distracted by an ode to Portuguese cod.
Before we grow up and life spirits it away, fun is innate; this alone is reason enough to give our inner child more freedom to make decisions, isn’t it?
So why don’t we?
For example, humor is something my parents are very good at and use to deal with adversity; as befits life with Stage IV cancer, they’re fluent in death jokes.
Why do we often squander life being miserable about how unpredictable and short it is? The last year has taught my family and I to honor and make the most of every moment.
And whenever the going gets extra tough, I keep going with music, even if that means listening to one single track on a loop for a whole day. And crying my eyes out until I’m so numb all that is left is mental and physical exhaustion.
That I am once again a dancing flower in human format is a source of much joy on a daily basis. Fun is contagious and if my love of music is visible to others and makes them smile then I’m thrilled.
My outer adult is relearning how to be fully present in the moment rather than the prisoner of a past that hangs heavy or fearful of a future that isn’t guaranteed for any of us.
What is joy but a celebration of life so how do we overwhelmed adults infuse our reality with more of it until it becomes reflexive?
Ask your inner child, they know, but you might have to wake them up and make it worth their while before they drop some precious wisdom. Why not try a happy song and see what happens?
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.