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SMITH: A pandemic playlist from the heart

found Izzie sitting on her bed today in tears.

“What’s wrong, Monster?”

She removed the earbuds and wiped snot on her sleeve.

“Mommy, have you ever heard a song that was so beautiful your heart gets really big really fast and it pushes on your lungs so hard you can’t breathe? Then you start crying, but it’s a good cry?”

Sure, I told her. Great music does that, I added, and then asked what she was listening to.

“‘Don’t Close Your Eyes.’ It’s a song by an old dead guy named Keith Whitley. (Our guitar teacher) Mr. Steve told me about him.” ~ taken from my daily journal, April 25, 2014

I was reminded about this moment when “Don’t Close Your Eyes” popped up in my shuffle while on a hike last week.

“I keep hoping someday, that you’ll see the light
Let it be tonight…don’t close your eyes”

It was a divine breadcrumb from the universe, a cosmic nudge, the exact words I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear them.

We need a word that describes that universal feeling that occurs when a song strikes us dumb with truth and meaning. When lyrics answer the question our hearts have been asking. When the right chord progression brings our unconscious desires and fears to the surface. When we know, without a shadow of a doubt that a certain song was written just for us.

I once wrote a letter to Stevie Nicks thanking her for “Landslide.” I’m certain thousands of people have thanked her for “Landslide” over the course of her life, and each one of us knows secretly that, while it’s fine for the world to listen, it’s really ours.

Music is a coping mechanism for an uncertain world.

No matter our native tongue, we speak the language of melody fluently.

Consider Italians, who’ve taken to their balconies in droves to serenade each other as they shelter in place. While I do not know the exact words they’re singing, the intention carries through my screen and leaves me gasping for air.

Music assures us, restores our faith, helps us process the joy or despair or confusion or vulnerability we’ve been pushing down.

It’s a soundtrack for compulsory seclusion. It moves us and the motion gives rise to emotion.

Thank God music hasn’t been canceled.

We’ve been turning to our turntable for succor. I find myself drawn to the live albums. I can hear the crowd in the background. Can I close my eyes and pretend I’m there with them, sweat and applause and collective effervescence.

I “attended” my first streamed concert last week. Barefoot and pajama-clad, we set up the laptop in the kitchen and danced and sang along with 60,000 other people. It was glitchy, and the sound quality was sorely lacking. But for an hour, I was transported to the place hope lives. With every booty shake and note sung off-key, I felt less alone, comforted by a group of strangers that felt like family.

What’re you listening to right now, and how is it helping?

Here are some quarantine playlist suggestions from the Smith family.

We hope something strikes your heart chord.

Erin’s Pandemic Playlist:

Best enjoyed at 4 a.m., while hiking in the woods or sitting on your back porch with bourbon while the sun sets.

Shuffle and let the universe choose the order.

If you are feeling emotionally fragile, do not under any circumstances listen to Jason Isbell.

— “The Promise,” Tracy Chapman

— “Time After Time (Acoustic),” Eva Cassidy

— “Relatively Easy,” Jason Isbell

— “Landslide,” Fleetwood Mac

— “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” Indigo Girls

— “Father and Son,” Cat Stevens

— “Always On My Mind,” Willie Nelson

— “Thank U (iTunes Originals),” Alanis Morissette

— “Having Wings,” Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals

— “Top of the World,” Dixie Chicks

— “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” The Once

— “Just One More Day,” Otis Redding

— “When You Come Back Down,” Nickel Creek

— “Up to the Mountain (MLK song),” Patty Griffin

— “Southern Cross,” Crosby, Stills, and Nash

— “Higher Love,” Lilly Winwood and Steve Winwood

— “God Only Knows,” Bryan Adams

The David Smith
Quarantine Experience:

I thought I would make a progressive list that takes you from my angriest to my most healing mindsets. That way, you can get out the painful stuff first and end on a positive vibe. Hope you find something that resonates.

— “Sabotage,” Beastie Boys (E)

— “The Power of Equality,” Red Hot Chili Peppers (E)

— “Bored to Tears,” Black Label Society

— “Beautifully Depressed,” Down

— “Bruises,” Band of Skulls

— “Communication Breakdown,” Led Zeppelin

— “Remedy,” The Black Crowes

— “Ascension Day,” Lo-Pan

— “Soulshine,” The Allman Brothers

— “Closer to the Heart (Live),” Rush

— “With the People,” Drivin’ N’ Cryin’

— “With a Little Help From My Friends,” The Beatles

Izzie’s Comfort Songs:

A compilation of feel-good and comforting songs to help us through this uncertain time. Best listened to by the fire with a mug of homemade hot chocolate.

— “The Knife,” Maggie Rogers

— “Sunflower, Vol. 6,” Harry Styles

— “Golden Hour,” Kacey Musgraves

— “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” Elton John

— “You Are In Love,” Taylor Swift

— “Andante, Andante,” Lily James

— “Banana Pancakes,” Jack Johnson

— “You and Me,” Niall Horan

— “Clean,” Ryan Adams

— “Yellow,” Coldplay

— “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here,” Ed Sheeran

— “Home,” Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

— “Don’t Stop,” Fleetwood Mac

— “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness” and the online host of the OM channel. Follow her on Twitter @erinsmithauthor.