Soundtracks: Finding Our Voice, Telling Our Story

Before I list the songs that comprise my current top five (for my top 40s), may I share with you some of the ‘dare to dream' lessons learned from this six-part series ‘Tell Your Soundtrack Story'?

1)  Re-listening to beloved childhood music helps us become the hero of our story

As I re-listened to music I loved as a girl, I remembered (I really had forgotten) that I once LOVED making music, playing the piano in particular.  Which is why my recently volunteering/being asked to play the piano every Sunday for the children at our church is such a gift; I'm rediscovering the making of music, and taking back something that I loved.  I'm even toying with trying to compose a children's song.  Any lyricists or poets among you?

As you listen to music from the time in your life when you still knew you were Rachel, what do you remember about who and how you wanted to be?  How can this remembering help you to be the hero of your story?

2)  Are any of the songs/musicans we loved as teenagers the keepers of our dreams?

In his book ‘This is Your Brain on Music‘, Daniel Levitin writes “Safety plays a role for a lot of us in choosing music…To an extent, we surrender to music when we listen to it — we allow ourselves to trust the composers and musicians with a part of our hearts and spirits.”  (Tell Your Soundtrack Story: Career, Motherhood and 9/11)  Remember how each of my soundtracks had a song that I labeled as my ‘imagine and explore' songs, from ‘Everybody wants to be a Cat‘, ‘Play that Funky Music White Boy‘ to ‘Smooth‘?

As you re-listen to music you loved as a teenager, is it accurate to say that these songs felt safe to you?  What did you aspire to be or do that you couldn't share with others, but shared with the musicians you listened to?  Is it time to take this piece of our selves back?

3)  Soundtracks tell the story of finding our voice

It is interesting to me that I loved Helen Reddy's ‘I Am Woman' thirty years ago, but it is striking that my ‘girl power' songs have evolved from the myth of Psyche's head-butting to fleece-gathering ‘girl power'  – whether India.Arie or Zap Mama's songs.

What will your soundtrack say about the finding of your voice?


Virtual Insanity — In the spring of 2005, just weeks prior to my leaving Merrill Lynch, I was in Holland in the back of yet another cab.  Jamiroquai's ‘Virtual Insanity' came on the radio.  I was so taken with the music, I asked the driver to turn the volume up really loud.  This song, more than any other, reminds me of the thrill of imagining and exploring and then daring.

Sweetest Someone that I Know — It wasn't until my husband and I had been married for over 20 years that I heard a song that pinpointed how I feel about him.  It is fitting that this song came from the mind and heart and voice of Stevie Wonder.  It also reminds me that when we as women undertake the hero's journey, the journey only has meaning if it helps us be happy at home.

Miss Q'In – Love the music.  Love the lyrics more.  Zap Mama distills into one song my hope for me and for all women — that we may travel far and wide, seeking to be a princess, but eventually we will realize that what we want is to be ‘me'.  Such a Rachel, learning-to-be-the-hero-of-our-story, song.

For Good — I've written extensively on this song (see Why I Like Wicked below), but at its most basic this is my systergy song.  It always reminds me how happy and grateful I am to have so many women with whom I can share the dreaming and daring.

Beautiful Flower —  India.Arie is herself a huge admirer of Stevie Wonder.  Yet another Rachel, myth of Psyche song.  For more details, see the ‘A Song to dream by' below.


Related posts:

Thank Heaven for Little Rachels

Tell Your Soundtrack Story: Career, Motherhood and 9/11

Second Thoughts on Psyche's 2nd Task

Why I Like Wicked

What I’ve Learned by Identifying My Heroes

Writing about my heroes (which you can find at the bottom of this post) was indeed revelatory. Here's why:

1) I was surprised by how much my heroes have changed over time — from Bewitched‘s Samantha to Peggy Noonan?


2) It was also interesting to observe that my childhood heroes were imaginary. A reminder just how much children identify with the imaginary, magical world. I wonder too if I over-agonize about the quantity of television my children consume. I clearly watched television as a child, yet most would consider me a contributing member of society.

Who were your heroes as a child? Who are they today? How have they changed?

2) My heroes have played a greater role in who I've become than I would have predicted prior to this exercise.

Example A: The fact that I so admired Samantha and Shirley Partridge as a young girl makes it a lot less surprising that I care about mothering well, my many years of “not wanting to have kids yet” notwithstanding.

Given your current vantage point, anything about your childhood heros that surprises you?

Example B: I'm rather astonished that my interest in attending UCLA was piqued because of their cheerleaders; were it not for a providential fluke, I would be a UCLA graduate. Which leads me to wonder what other decisions I've made on the basis of who I admire. Perhaps more importantly, why did I admire them in the first place?

What about you? Any decisions that you've made that now surprise you given how little forethought went in to the decision?

Example C: If I consider a cheerleader a metaphor for a hero of support, I've observed that in some aspects of my life I've internalized this role so thoroughly, it has actually been problematic as I've pursued my career. Sometimes you can be too good at something.


3) On the premise that my childhood heroes have helped shape who I've become, I am consequently hopeful that I can become like my current heroes, whether Peggy Noonan, Laura Laviada, Galadriel, or India.Arie. That I can, in fact, successfully undergo Psyche's journey, learning to be the ship AND the harbor, the hero of support AND the hero.

Who are your heros today?
What do they tell you about what you are hoping to accomplish?
Who and how you want to be?


Below is what I wrote for Matt Langdon's blog:

My hero as a young girl was Samantha on Bewitched. She was pert, adorable, and no matter what kind of tangle she found herself in, she could make things better with a wiggle of her nose. I also idolized Shirley Jones, who played the mother in The Partridge Family with whom I became even more enamored when I saw her as the ingénue in the film Oklahoma. As an eight year-old, it was magical to see that the same person could be a mother and ingénue.

In high school, my heroes were pretty, popular, feminine cheerleaders. So much so that UCLA became my top college pick because I loved watching their song girls perform whenever they played Stanford in football (my father took us to Stanford football games every fall from the time I was 7-8 years old). Footnote: Stanford was actually my top choice, but I was on the waiting list, whereas I was accepted to UCLA.

My heroes today are women who successfully embark on Psyche’s journey: they’ve learned to say no, to exercise choice, to achieve goals without throwing their caring and compassionate selves under the bus. In other words, I see all of these women as living in a both/and world.

These heroes include: Peggy Noonan, a Wall Street Journal columnist who made her name as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, Laura Laviada, the former CEO and major shareholder of Editorial Televisa, Mexico’s largest magazine publisher (and who I had the privilege of interacting with when I covered the stock Televisa (NYSE: TV), Galadriel in Lord of the Rings, and India.Arie, a musician-singer-songwriter who it would appear loves Stevie Wonder’s music even more than I do. Until very recently, I would have also included Sydney Bristow, the fictional lead in the television show Alias.\

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