Helen sunDo you remember when Mike and the Mechanics sang Over My Shoulder? I used to sing along to that song in bedroom, standing on my bed, yelling into a hairbrush. I was eighteen at the time. Twenty one years on, nothing has changed, except now I repeat the same performance with my eight year daughter. One the sad things about the song is that it is full of regret and hankering after the past. I was driving to work the other day when this song came on the radio and it got me thinking the consequences of looking back when we should be concentrating on the future. At the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife looked back and she turned into a pillar of salt. She was told not to, but a fleeting moment of curiosity ended her life. I don’t do regret, it’s a lens that distorts the reality of the future. It leads to nothing and makes us focus on our failures.

If we constantly have our eyes on the rear view mirror, we repeat the cycle of who we were and not what we could become. Time allows to move forward but never back. We are given a gift of moving  forward and it’s up to us to choose how we react. We can meet the future with hope and expectation or with fear and sadness.  Even when we pass through seasons that are not what we want, every day moves us closer to something much better… even when we don’t feel that way. When Alanis Morissette sang “the only way out is through”, she hit the nail on the head. Sometimes we have to grit our teeth and believe that there are better things on the other side of the season.

A few months ago I hit a wall with the whole music thing. Everything I had built up came crashing down and try as I might I could not rebuild it. Truth be told, I was too knackered and broken to fix it. Years of being a freelancer, performer, teacher, composer and everything else had worn me down. I kept looking in the rear view mirror and what I had lost and wondering whether there was any point continuing in music. But the law of life is that as something dies, something else is born and new shoots begin to sprout. Things are already moving on and I’m getting back some of the music opportunities that I lost a long time ago. I have opportunity to reinvent my music and in turn myself. Life constantly evolves and we should take every opportunity to grow and develop.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s don’t look back over your shoulder, face the future and reinvent yourself. Reinvent yourself

 

Something unusual caught my eye on Facebook the other day, it was a post stating that Alanis Morissette is backing Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 30 day Forgiveness Challenge. At first I thought I’d read the headline wrong, but closer inspection confirmed my initial reading. Why would rock n roll Alanis Morissette back a campaign with Desmond Tutu?

As we all know, Alanis is famous for her 1995 hit single “You Oughta Know” which is about an acrimonious break up with her boyfriend. One thing I’ve always admired about her is her honesty in both her lyrics and in her public life; she has the ability to air her thoughts in a revealing and restorative manner. I too can attest to the need to think through and order my thoughts on various situations through the process of songwriting; there is something very cathartic and healing about letting go and accepting where I am. However, Alanis’ latest response to this creative process made me think…

“I naively thought that the writing of a song could provide healing, but I quickly came to see that regardless of how many nights I would sing ‘You Oughta Know’ over and over again on stage, that the real healing came from actual relationships and communication.” Alanis Morissette, 2014

A bold admission considering the song made her a household name and helped sell 33 million copies of Jagged Little Pill. Through admitting her mistake and making her journey into forgiveness public, she has undoubtedly encouraged and helped many people to experience the same forgiveness and healing. I found her statement very moving as she was prepared to be an “open book” and declare that what she had intended as a public declaration of anger hadn’t fulfilled or healed her. Alanis has stated that up until that point she found songwriting cathartic but it didn’t offer her any healing and that this eventually pushed her to discover where forgiveness begins: with acceptance of each other. In being honest, she has taken responsibility for her former emotions and taken her listeners on a journey that helps them to grow and mature.

The song that she hoped would hurt and seek revenge became part of Alanis’ journey into freedom; she thought her story ended with pain but through time it ended with something very beautiful, absolution and a chance to become a more rounded person. An inspirational tale, it gives us hope that whatever our circumstances are, something good can come out of it if we are prepared to wait and make changes in our lives.