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The Midlife Sage Says: Make Your Own Music In 2013

The songs of the holidays.

I grew up listening to The Captain and Tennille singing about “Muskrat Love” and The Carpenters warbling “Sing of good things, not bad. Sing of happy, not sad.”

I believe those two songs were solely responsible for the rise of heavy metal bands and for Black Sabbath’s song “Electric Funeral” about nuclear annihilation. It’s all about balance.

To survive in the new year, make music an important part of your life. At the stroke of midnight on December 31, you’ll take a cup of kindness yet and sing “Auld Lang Syne” with the eager passion of a professional soloist despite knowing that when the sun rises you won’t be able to carry a tune in a punch bowl. But for a brief moment, when the year is new and full of untainted potential, you’ll become a soulful crooner for all the ages, sharing your song with the universe.

Your challenge in 2013 is to keep the music playing.

Keep the music playing long after the confetti is thrown into the garbage, the bills are past-due, and prosperity is still elusive. The late comedian George Carlin said, “It’s called The American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” His acerbic humor nailed it. How can you sing a joyful song when life keeps dumping junk on your head? Maybe you’re unemployed or in a lousy job, or you haven’t had any loving since 2008, or your dog ran away. Look on the bright side – you could write Country Western songs!

Music and mood are closely interrelated — listening to a sad or happy song alters your moods and has the ability to change your perception of the world around you. For example, gothic metal music makes me want to damage something with a chain saw, while a classical aria causes me to (almost) levitate with elation. In a stressful situation, a little dose of “Walking on Sunshine” could be all it takes to relieve the tension.

Here are some exercises to prove that music alters your mood.

Imagine seeing and hearing the following scenarios:

You’re struggling in the steaming jungles of Vietnam as you hear the foreboding song “The End” by The Doors as played in the movie Apocalypse Now. Then you’re drinking alone in a dark bar as a Billie Holiday impersonator croons “Gloomy Sunday.” You claw out of a deep depression only to hear Kansas singing “Dust in the Wind.” By now you should be wallowing on the floor, sobbing in anguish about the wretched world.

Now, pretend you’re twirling on a panoramic Austrian mountain meadow singing “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews. You’re even wearing a summer dress with a festive apron. Then transport yourself to a sunny beach listening to the jaunty tune of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Finally, turn up the volume on “Chariots of Fire” or “Rocky.” Yo, Adrian! Are you smiling yet?

No matter what festivity or calamity the next year brings, you should have a song or two ready to suit the occasion.

If you can’t find the perfect tune, create your own. Add it to your bucket list for 2013 to make your own music by the end of the year.  Don’t worry if you’re unsure about writing a song. Remember the immortal lyrics of that famous song that rose to #4 on the Billboard Charts – “Now he’s tickling her fancy, rubbing her toes. Muzzle to muzzle, now, anything goes as they wriggle, Sue starts to giggle.” That song includes synthesized sound effects simulating muskrat copulation. Yes, you can do better!

Elaine Ambrose is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.

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