I recently shared with my daughter the story of an indigenous response to feeling melancholy or disheartened. If you came to a shaman and said you were depressed, she would ask you one of three questions: When did you stop singing? When did you stop dancing? When did you stop telling stories?
I suggested that singing, in particular, was so easily accessible it was the very best place to start. I suggested she begin with My Favorite Things, from The Sound of Music. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Let’s start at the very beginning. The very best place to start. Ok, Ok, I’ll quit.
Well, talk about lessons learned, relearned, and learned again! I wasn’t singing. It’s been forever since I sang on a regular basis. I used to sing in a choir, for crying out loud! So, just as an experiment, I began to sing. Out loud. Out very loud. I sang all the way home from my daughter’s apartment. Singing while driving alone is so easy. When you come to a stop light you just bob your head and tap on the steering wheel and the other drivers think you’re singing along to the radio.
When your goal is to keep on singing, it’s not always easy to come up with music out of thin air, you know. But if you start singing out loud the words on every sign you see, throwing them into any melody you can generate, eventually you’ll stumble upon the melody of some song you recognize. Then you can sing a real song that’ll take you several miles down the road. After you’ve gone a ways singing, “Speed limit 45 and Walmart and Speedway”, to the tune of My Favorite Things, you’ll latch onto absolutely any real song that pops up. You’ll be satisfied to Sing a Song with Karen Carpenter. (I apologize for putting that one in your head. You’ll get over it in a few days.)
I don’t know whether it’s the extra oxygen or the belly laughs at myself trying to keep on singing, but I have found the practice does lift my spirits. And the feeling lasts for quite a while after I’ve gotten out of the car. I’m experimenting with frequency and duration. How often do I need to sing, and for how long, to create a euphoric mood? I’m thinking about putting together a CD of music I love to sing along to. I’m afraid the trick of singing the words on every sign might be just a one-time thing.