Ever since I’ve had music on my computer I’ve had very detailed playlists. I have playlists for every season, for various holidays. I have driving playlists, sad playlists, hyper playlists, mellow playlists. When it was necessary, I didn’t have just one breakup playlist, but three. A breakup playlist for wallowing. A breakup playlist for being mad. A breakup playlist for getting over it. I’ve always created such playlists because I’ve found that music can make a good situation better and a bad situation easier to bear. It can help me understand and explore my emotions rather than just feeling the blunt sting of them. It helps me find the beauty in those stings. I believe that when we arrange music to life’s circumstances, we are weaving our tragic and comic moments into a song, and creating something beautiful.
Before Joseph was born, I created an extensive lullaby playlist, and he and I have had many a wonderful moment listening to it. But as everyone knows, babies are often far from lullaby-esque. As some babies do, Joseph often goes into a state of inconsolable crying. These episodes are exhausting and frustrating for all of us. Typically I approach them with a “do-whatever-I-can-to-calm-him” attitude. I rock him. I sing. I play music. And after four months, my husband and I have, for the most part, gotten calming-Joseph-down to a science. But still, every now and then, nothing seems to console our crying, flailing, grunting little boy and it sends me down this awful road of “whys.” I ask the questions that neither of us can answer, “why does he have to be in pain,” or “why can’t it be easier” or, “why is it not getting easier like it is for everyone else’s four month old.” We both know that this litany of whys is not helpful and only makes things worse, so when I start into it my husband takes Joseph, sits in a room with the door shut, holds him, and waits it out patiently.
Yesterday my husband suggested that I make a playlist for when Joseph gets like this. “Not another lullaby playlist,” he said, “Make it a ‘King of Prussia’ playlist,” (when Joseph gets mad we call him the King of Prussia because he acts like some legendary angry ruler) “and put songs on there that fit the situation.”
My first thought was, “How would it help to play music that fit Joseph’s mood rather than calmed it?” But then I realized something. The lullabies are good for both of us. But at some point, if they aren’t calming him, and we are both getting frustrated we need to try something else. In order to calm him, I’m the one who needs to remain calm. And to remain calm, I need to stop asking “why.” And to stop asking “why,” I have to embrace the moment. I have to embrace the chaos. So this morning I made a playlist of intense soundtrack scores and rock ballads. I selected music that I want to hear when I’m frustrated or music that I think fits Joseph’s feelings and mood. And when Joseph got into an episode, I turned on the King of Prussia playlist. Eventually I found myself dancing around the kitchen with him and overcome with patience and a sense of humor. Once we made it through the initial crying, we switched to lullabies and I was able to calm him to sleep.
The King of Prussia playlist is my way of creating art (and definitely humor, which itself could be considered art) out of Joseph’s freak outs. It makes them something more than senseless chaos. And when they aren’t senseless, there’s no need to ask why, because you already know the answer. That is, that life will be painful, but that the pain is only an experience- an experience out of many life experiences. And with every experience comes an opportunity. We can yell to the sky in anger and frustration- we can create a cacophony of whys (becoming senseless ourselves,) or we can make music. We can string together the nonsense and the chaos into melody and harmony, thus making it beautiful. And before we know it, the music has slowed and the key has changed to major. The King of Prussia has put down his scepter and a baby sleeps peacefully in my arms.