I am forty-two years old, and as I sit here at the computer thinking back on music, the past unravels behind me like a wild tangle of string lost down the mountain of my life, whirling and bouncing and racing out of sight so fast my eyes can’t follow where it goes.
I tried to catch it but it got away.
And now I can’t remember exactly what happened to me.
When did I lose my passion for music? When did I stop being able to feel it touch me? To wrap around me and in me and through me and lift me up where nothing could hurt me?
Long ago, music keep me alive. I remember pressing the cold metal of my first cassette player against my hot, tear-stained cheeks; I remember closing my eyes and listening to the bass, the vocals, the soaring lyrics and I knew, I just knew, that song was my own heartbeat and I could survive as long as it kept playing.
Music understood me. It carried me when I couldn’t walk. Music held my hand when I had no friends, it listened to my confessions and forgave me, it dared to dream my forbidden dreams and begged me to stand when I fell to my knees. Music protected me. Kept me safe in its arms.
That was long ago.
And now as I type this at the computer I remember the day I got rid of all my music.
Yes, all of it.
And it made no sense but I did it. I didn’t know why, but music had become an empty promise. All those shiny CD’s in their cases had bled out their magic.
They were hollow. They went void.
Where music used to fill me and lift me, now it beat against me and made me cower. Where music used to have wisdom, now it assaulted me in a language I could no longer understand. Where music had once been my soul friend, now it raised a fist and struck me in the face.
As I type these words, tears are welling in my eyes.
And it’s so good to cry, so good to let it go. Because I know it wasn’t the music that bled out, it was me.
Long ago some mysterious force severed my relationship to sound and back then I had no defense. I couldn’t even identify the enemy within. Only now do I understand the dreadful thing that was happening to me.
It was raging, undiagnosed lyme disease. Infections chewing through the circuits in my brain, destroying my nervous system from the inside out, transforming sound and touch and light and the whole sensory world into painful neurological overload.
Data that can not be processed. Connections that no longer connect.
It was a terrible, terrible transition and I will not call it a loss. I have not lost my love of music. I still listen to it and I know deep inside me the neural connections are still there, still alive. Still real. I still dance. I still hear new songs I like.
It’s just not the same. Because nothing is the same with lyme.
(There’s this thing they call hyperacusis, or sound sensitivity. And lyme tinnitus. I just can’t put to words the torture these symptoms cause).
And that wild string of my own history lost down the mountain? I’m still holding the end pinched between my fingers. Caught it just in time. I’m reeling my memories back in so I can heal that terrified young woman I used to be—that young woman dying of infections whom no doctor would help. Because I am the future she was waiting for, I have the answers she needed. I am my own doctor now.
Dear Music, My Soul Friend—you kept me alive long ago and I promise, oh I promise, I will find you again. You’re up ahead on this journey, the mountain I climb, waiting silently for me. Because you always know what I need.
Dear Music © Valerie Brook 2016 / Photo by Valerie Brook