Yesterday was a bad day. A no-good, low-down, rotten, miserable scum of a day. I won’t offer details because they are a combination of melodrama and mundane, and you’ve all been there. I wanted to bang my head against a tree. I wanted to fix a strong drink–maybe seven of ’em.
And then a small grace occurred: Rock n’ roll saved the day.
Isabel, my four-year-old, and I went grocery shopping (a too-long and too-expensive trip that featured Bel crying and saying, “You hurt my feelings!” because when she asked for a balloon I said, “No”) and came home to find Michaela, my wife, feeding Henry, our six-month-old, in the kitchen. Softly, in the background, she had the Arcade Fire “Funeral” album playing. I turned it up a bit as I began to put away groceries and fix Isabel’s dinner.

Then–how else to say it?–Arcade Fire sucked the glum of the day right off me. In a few minutes, I went from being stressed and depressed to bouncing lightly toward the refrigerator, tomatoes in hand. A few minutes later, Bel had stripped down to her undies and was dancing with me–“Do the grumpy dance!” she said, grimacing and stomping; “Do the happy dance!” she said, with a silly smile and jazz hands.
I took Bel on an iPod tour, playing the White Stripes and doing my best Jack White impression, or, at Michaela’s suggestion (she had a cruddy day, too), playing R.E.M.’s “Bad Day” and jumping like Michael Stipe. For 45 minutes the Dodd family rocked out. We got our silly on, and the day’s grime was washed off us, and it felt like a gift from God himself.

And I have to say, it wasn’t just because we found some fun music. The same tunes are always on my iPod, but we don’t always respond to them the same way. But for some strange reason–this is the “small grace” part–yesterday as I put away groceries, I tuned into the lyrics of the Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up.” The opening lines spoke truth to me:

“Somethin’ filled up
my heart with nothin’,
someone told me not to cry.
But now that I’m older,
my heart’s colder,
and I can see that it’s a lie.
Children wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.”
It’s a call to push back against the world. It’s a call to be. It’s a recognition that life can hurt, and we tend to believe the lie that it’s wrong to admit those hurts, to admit we’ve been filled with nothing. We gotta name that lie as a lie, and wake up.
The song woke me up, woke my whole family up. We had a silly hour, and then Michaela and I had a couple hours of rich conversation that would not have been possible without that silly hour. It was fun to dance, but more importantly, it was necessary to wake up.
Thank God for rock n’ roll.
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