Music is the Shorthand of Emotions

posted in: Wholehearted Living | 0

Leo Tolstoi penned this: “music is the shorthand of emotions.” In my life, I have found this quote to be entirely accurate.

To this day, I can hear songs which meant something to me over three decades ago and be immediately transported back to another time.

Music is a time machine of sorts—I think.

Memories and Music

I have particular songs for just about any time and any event in my life, joyous or not.

It is as if my life is a movie and there is an accompanying score. I would venture to say this is the case for a lot of people—if not all of us. I don’t believe loving music is unique to me.

Various pieces of music stir up different emotions within me.

Memory Lane

I can recall the very first cassette tape I received at Christmas; it was a Christopher Cross album gifted by my brother.

My parents often listened to a vinyl record of Neil Diamond “The Seagull” on Sundays or some French singer like Serge Reggiani. My mother also loved classical music and Gregorian chants, both of which she played with gusto whenever she had the opportunity. And, while these may not be my favored genres of music, I appreciate the memories they bring up.

In my teens, my friends and I would belt the words to some of Michel Sardou’s songs before breaking into a heap in a fit of giggles. And no, there was nothing funny about the songs. It was life and friendship which made us laugh. Good times.

Likewise, I remember the songs which underscored my romance with my then boyfriend, and then the first song for our wedding. I even have some songs my husband loves on my iPod because they make me smile when I think of hubs enjoying them. Silly maybe, although I prefer to say “endearing.”

More Music

On my iPod, you will also find favorite movie songs, 60s songs, 70s songs, classical music, and some instrumental pieces. Yes, I could go on—but, mercifully, will not.

I enjoy a broad range of music. The only genres which do not resonate with me are heavy metal (yuck) and most (if not all) Rap.

Music is the Shorthand of Emotions

My Sad Songs

Music is not all joyous.

There are songs which highlight the dark days of my life as well.  One such song, I only heard for a very short period of time.

Almost eighteen years ago, my husband and I traveled daily back and forth between home—and our small four children—and the NICU. There was a particular song which I had never heard before which played every single time we turned on the radio.

This song stirred my grieving heart like no other.

Our baby girl spent two weeks in the NICU and two weeks at home before passing away in my arms.

After her passing, I only heard that song once more. I neither knew its name nor the artist. I just knew this: it was a duet, and I was familiar with some of the lyrics.

Sherlock Holmes

For almost two decades, on various occasions, I tried hunting this song down—to no avail. Most of the time Google would produce an extensive list of results, none of them the answer to my query.  This particular song eluded me.

The radio no longer played it, those I mentioned it too had never heard of it. It was my mystery song, highlighting a very dark and lonely time.

There is another such song which I hear on occasion. One which was not well known before my daughter’s passing but which became a most beloved song shortly afterward.

Why do such things occur?

Maybe there is no rhyme nor reason for the way these events unfold. As for me, I prefer to believe there is an Orchestra Leader who knows how to masterfully use music as a focal point in my life story.

Music is the Shorthand of Emotions

Last week, after everyone had retired to bed for the night, I was downloading some new songs to distribute between my various playlists. It was mostly a collection of old songs which I was thrilled to have rediscovered. I was having a great time being nostalgic. Some songs were fast-paced and made my heart smile, some were mushy and romantic, and they too made my heart smile.

Out of the blue, I thought about THE song which had eluded me for almost eighteen years. I went to Google, typed the lyrics I had previously searched—without success—and hit enter.

Only two results showed up on an otherwise blank screen, a rare occurrence for Google which is usually quite verbose with its answers.

Listed as the first entry was MY song!

No kidding.


YouTube indeed confirmed my lengthy search was finally over and yes, the memories came flooding back.

In hindsight, maybe my previous fruitless searches were merciful. Perchance, it was Grace which stopped me from finding a song which was not as obscure as I thought. Perhaps, the Orchestra Leader knew my brooding mind didn’t need the reminder of a somber period, or that, likewise, my heart did not need an emotional marker of a time when it lay in pieces.

My heart has mended, my mind no longer broods as it once did. Healing, forgiveness, mercy and grace, and yes, time did their healing work.

The Art of Forgiveness

Although the memories are still fresh, they have lost their sharpness; the emotions are neither as raw nor as intense. I am gentler on myself.

I also have extended forgiveness to those who made a heartwrenching event more unbearable by their callousness and judgments.

I can’t say I never taste bitterness over their behaviors, their deeds, and their words. The difference is that I now see that bitterness will never change anything. These individuals may never apologize nor ask for forgiveness. Nor will my anger change the events which transpired.

Instead, when hostility rises in me for these individuals, I remember they didn’t understand then, and they still do not understand today. Understanding would require making amends, and no one has darkened my doorsteps yet.

It is cluelessness which rendered them so mean. Their words and deeds are not a condemnation of me; instead, they are a reflection of themselves.

In the moment I can remember these facts, I can let go because I desire to live free, happy and unfettered to dark emotions. For these reasons, bitterness hardly ever reaches my shores any longer. In its place, there is peace and forgiveness and an expanse in my heart which is large and calm.

Peace at last.


The Japanese people have a tradition which describes perfectly what I previously tried to explain. It is called kintsugi or “golden joinery.”

When a beloved object breaks, it is mended with precious metal, most often gold. The Japanese people still see beauty in such objects.

Maybe my finding this song means I think I have been “kintsugized”—I am quite confident this is not a word, although it should be.


To come back to my song, while it brought back some memories and emotions, it did not cause me pain. I was not left emotionally crippled upon hearing it. Actually, I experienced joy and excitement at finding it.

Maybe this was a cosmic message of sorts. A sign I am finally put back together…better than I was before.

I like thinking this is the case.

Do you have songs which are meaningful to you?

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