Anchoring One Another

All I really have to know/ Is that you are here/ And I am not alone” — “Anchor Me

My friends, I have a new obsession: The Tenors! I have listened to their covers of Lean on Me and Hallelujah for months on my Spotify ‘Liked’ playlist, and something made me explore the rest of their music this holiday season. Now I’m hooked!

Check out their YouTube channel for heartwarming videos not just of their music, but tributes to their moms and dads, baking adventures during lockdown, and a touching farewell to their longest leading member. They sing with passion and love, driven by the deeply held belief that music heals. I agree, and of course it makes me think about how we relate through music.

So many people are having a hard time now. One friend’s dad recently died; another faces a toxic divorce. A third prepares for major surgery, and yet another finds herself suddenly estranged from her close friends. And oh my gosh the pain all around us in the world, how are we getting through any of it? Sometimes only music and song can convey the depths of emotion and need. The Tenors’ song “Anchor Me” feels like both a lament and a prayer. I find it incredibly hopeful, and also convicting. The first verse is a beautiful expression of pain that we have all experienced:

Oh my soul is troubled
Oh my will is worn
Tired and discouraged
Trampled on and torn
Every breath a battle
Every step a war
My heart a broken vessel
This night an angry storm

The chorus:

When sadness crashes like an ocean
When fear is deeper than the sea
When I am swallowed by the darkness
Will you come and anchor me?

Verse two goes deeper, laying bare the powerlessness and vulnerability of grief, sadness, depression, and disconnection, and the courage it takes to ask for the help we need:

I cannot see through this
Can you be my eyes?
I’m completely hopeless
Can you shine a light?
I have no more strength left
Can you stand and fight?
I’m dying in this doubt
Can you be my faith tonight?

And the bridge brings it all together; this is what we all seek in these times:

Hold me still and hold me close
Until it all passes away
I beg you not to let go
All I really have to know
Is that you are here
And I am not alone

… Who anchors you? Whom do you imagine singing, or sending, this song to?

I think first about my tribe, my pit crew. I call on them first, every time. I could not get through much without them, and I show up for them, too. It’s a boisterous lovefest in joyful times, and a swaddle of steadfast strength and love in grief. But sometimes the hole is deeper yet, and I must call on something bigger than us all. Call it God, Providence, cosmic forces. I can get still and commune with my own deep faith in galactic nature, in the eternal. And I can find spaces where I feel that communion more tangibly–in my favorite chapel, in the mountains, by the lake.

Sometimes I feel I can anchor myself. Through the years my tribe has reflected my own strengths, values, and purpose back to me. They coach me, remind me Who and Why I am. So on my own, I can recall their reflections, feel their love, and that holds me up even when I cannot reach them directly. So maybe it’s not me at all, rather it’s the gift of tribe and belonging, of cosmic energy that ties me, anchors me, like a belay.

And what about strangers? Are we ever truly strangers? The most loving and inclusive aspects of our faith traditions all share a teaching of communion with all of humanity, no? And haven’t we all had the experience of random kindness, offered by a random other, while we flail in the throes of despair, throwing us a line and tugging us back to somewhere solid and light? Where do these angels come from? Perhaps the cosmos sends them? Whatever we believe about it, wouldn’t it make everything better if we each resolved to participate in the giving, to be that kind and anchoring stranger whenever we can, in whatever way we can?

It may seem trite and cliché, but just making eye contact and smiling at ‘strangers’ on the street makes a difference. To acknowledge another person, to mark them with your presence, to exchange a mutual nod of existence, this is anchoring. It proves that we are visible, that our being is noted. Imagine walking down the street, never once meeting anyone’s eyes, never catching anyone’s awareness. Research shows that this–to be ignored by people we don’t even know–affects us deeply; it feels incredibly lonely and isolating. Harm occurs when we do this to one another.

“Do not pass by a man in need, for you may be the hand of God to him.” Memes of this quote atrribute it to Proverbs 3:27, but I’m not sure that’s correct. Regardless, the expression is instructive.

All I really have to know/ Is that you are here/ And I am not alone.

This can be any one of us, for any one of us. Maybe we can all try a little harder to help one another feel less alone, ya? Whom can I anchor today? On whom will I call, and/or who might just appear, to anchor me tomorrow? Everything goes around and comes around. We can make it better, help one another suffer a little less.

We can hold one another steady.

The Playlist

Earworms.

Do they bug you? Baaahahahahaaaaa!!!

I get one almost every morning, a song that starts playing in my head, repeating lightly in the transom between conscious thoughts and brushing teeth. How fascinating! Apparently for some people it’s annoying, even distressing, but I like it, especially when it inspires me to dance a little. Music makes me happy.

Duran Duran was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, woohoooooo! If you have not already, I highly recommend listening to John Taylor’s memoir, In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran, which he reads himself. It’s poignant and honest, funny and endearing, and for us 80s kids, a window into our music heroes’ lives. “Ordinary World” plays as I type now, and when “Rio”, “Union of the Snake”, or “The Reflex” come on I’m 14 again, walking the halls of AHS. There is just something about music from adolescence that we internalize, that vibrates as deeply as anything else from our most formative years.

More often over time, I’m adding ‘oldies’ to my Spotify Liked Songs list, including classics by Bryan Adams, Kenny Loggins, Journey, Gin Blossoms, and Eric Clapton. When Maverick came out I added “Danger Zone” and the Top Gun Anthem. When I was very young, my parents played John Denver, Johnny Cash, and Sonny and Cher. OMG the nostalgia, it’s so powerful. Each of these songs evokes something unique… something warm, comforting, utterly limbic and visceral; ineffable and yet completely tangible.

And remember Band Aid? I still love their single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” In sixth grade we learned “We Are the World” in sign language and performed it for our parents. Many of you likely recall these songs. What you may not know is that pop singers in Taiwan also did a similar project, “明天會更好”, “Tomorrow will be even better.” This one makes me especially emotional because Ma and Ba had always played the individual artists’ songs in our house. Tsai Chin‘s voice is especially distinctive and recognizable, and thus nostalgic for our whole family. All of these collaborative songs, but the Chinese one in particular, evoked a sense of being part of something bigger–something global–decades before the internet led us to take that feeling for granted. They still do this for me, in a deeper way.

Thanks to my kids, I also discover new (to me) music every week. Daughter has introduced me to K-pop, so my playlist now includes BTS and Blackpink. She and I are big fans of Oscar Isaac; did you know he sings, too? I added at least 5 songs from the To All the Boys soundtrack, and I liked the movie, too. I discovered One Voice Children’s Choir’s version of “Memories”, then Son/Daughter showed me the original by Maroon 5; they’re both great!

*sigh* I so love my playlist. It’s eclectic, personal, and joyful. I play it shuffled, so I never know what’s coming next, and it always makes me happy. Other drivers may often see me bopping along Lake Shore Drive…

When I write, I like instrumentals. My go-tos are the soundtrack for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, selections from The Hobbit soundtrack, and my favorites from December by George Winston. Sometimes I just play a single song on repeat, which feels meditative and inspiring. Recent tracks include “Variations on the Kanon”, “Hallelujah” by The Canadian Tenors, and “Lean On Me” by The Tenors.

Music. Such a phenomenal thing. Thanks to iheart11 over at Passion…Unbridled, once again, for inspiring another of my 30 posts for November. I hope you have clicked on some of the artists/songs above and found uplift today. Life is too short to not hear something good every day, whenever possible.