For Singing Out Loud
My granddaughter Savannah’s favorite gift this Christmas was a karaoke machine. Once all the presents were opened and we each went to our corners to play with our favorite gifts, she switched on the machine, turned it up to full blast and began to sing … over and over … Call Me Maybe by Carly Ray Jepson (yes, I had to look that up). To these old ears, Call Me Maybe sounds like a corny pop tune aimed at pre-adolescents in the midst of their first crush. It’s harmless enough, easier to listen to than what Kohl’s plays over their sound system in the stores on a regular basis but … played more than five times in a row … it could be used in place of waterboarding. I would conservatively guess Savannah sang it thirty times Christmas morning.
Because Savvy is unlikely to read this post, I’ll add that although she loves to sing, she cannot carry a tune, so by the time ten off-key renditions had been completed, her Papa needed to retreat to the bedroom and put on his headphones.
This week, on the way home from volunteering at the local Al-Anon office (I’m the unofficial IT guy), I stopped at our local Von’s supermarket. It was three in the afternoon and Canyon High School, which is right across the street, had just let out. The store was crawling with loud, obnoxious adolescents who were clogging up the aisles as they shopped in packs for whatever high school students crave after school. As I left the store (as quickly as possible, I’d add), I heard someone singing the most off-key version of My Girl I’ve ever heard. The so-called music was coming from one of the students, sitting on a bench … ears covered with a pair of Dr. Dre headphones. Based on the tempo of his singing (if not the notes), he was listening to the Temptations, pretending he was lead singer, Jimmy Ruffin. His schoolmates were tossing him bemused looks, making me think this wasn’t the first time he’d serenaded them. Ruffin may have been turning in his grave.
So, by now, you are probably wondering, Where the *^&^#@ is Older Eyes going with this post? Well, where he was going at the time was to Yorba Regional Park for his afternoon walk. Older Eyes’ walks come in a number of flavors. There are exercise walks, done at a brisk pace and designed to get in as many steps as possible in the time available. The frequency of exercise walks is, by the way, inversely proportional to Older Eyes’ age. There are strolls, leisurely walks with no goal except enjoyment of the fresh air, the green grass and the various critters that inhabit the park. There are photo walks taken camera in hand, often taking even longer than strolls as I pause to try to get a decent shot of some bird at the top of a distant tree. For music walks, I don my Bose earbuds and put on a playlist of my favorite songs … or sometimes Shuffle All of the thousands of songs on my smart phone. Depending on the music, music walks can be as brisk as exercise walks.
OK, OK, we are finally to the point. Recently, I have added a variation on the music walk … a singing walk in which I limit my playlist to vocals and sing along. I have a nearly perfect memory for lyrics, so I don’t need a karaoke machine. Yes, I sing out loud, sometimes very out loud if there’s no one nearby. One of my favorite sing-along playlists is Slow Dancing, mostly sixties and seventies love songs that make up my younger life’s soundtrack. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is a personal favorite.
I have an ear for music and an OK voice but I usually lower my voice as someone passes … usually … because I know that it is hard to carry a tune with headphones on. Now, you might think I take singing walks when I’m in a good mood, but you’d be wrong. I do it when I’m struggling to get myself going, when some problem (real or imagined) is wearing me down. And it usually works.
According to Time Magazine, What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits. The elation may come from endorphins, a hormone released by singing, which is associated with feelings of pleasure. Or it might be from oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness. So, I am getting high on my own singing. Maybe Savvy is onto something. I knew she was smart little girl.