When my husband got home late on Tuesday night, I knew he hadn’t had a chance to watch the news for the latest election results. As he ate a quick dinner I pulled up a local news website and started reading updates to him. Of course, that led to my frustration bubbling up again. Frustration led to sarcastic comments about political commercials and voting memes and the most recent Facebook posts to send my blood pressure through the roof. I went on to spit out my exact feelings and wishes for people who don’t feel the same — and, as I did, I watched his eyes widen. He slowly backed away, saying, “Ooooookay, well . . . I’m going to bed now . . .”
I’m pretty sure my anger scared him a little. To be honest, it scares me, too.
No matter what side of All The Issues you stand on, you probably know what I’m talking about. From family dinners to Facebook, from news reports to conversations with the neighbors, life is rife with opportunities to be offended, disgusted, appalled, disappointed, frustrated, and generally upset. It’s easy to get mad; it seems much harder to get un-mad. At least that’s been my experience. If I’m honest I’ve been low-grade angry (alternating with bouts of hair-pulling, mind-blowing outrage) for the last two years.
Don’t worry; I’m not interested in talking politics in this space. (If nothing else I don’t want to be responsible for exacerbating any anger problem you might have!) I’m more interested in talking about the toll these difficult emotions can have on our souls — and possible solutions for the problem. Specifically, I want to tell you what I learned tonight, two days after my scary — and, yes, regrettable — display of anger.
Months ago I saw that Ben Rector was going to be in Kansas City as part of his concert tour. A casual fan until that moment — the kind who gives a few of his songs a thumbs up on Pandora, the kind who knows about half the words to a few songs — I don’t know why I clicked over to check out ticket prices. But I did. And then I just kept clicking until I had bought two general admission tickets.
I promptly began listening to more of his music, and I invited a friend to go to the concert with me. When my plans for a fun night out began unraveling (all the babysitters are busy! the forecast is predicting snow! something I ate for lunch is upsetting my stomach!), I wondered if I’d have to cancel at the last minute. But the stars aligned and everything worked out and I went to the concert.
And you guys? It was magical. (Okay, FINE, pun intended. Ben Rector’s latest album and his tour are both called “Magic.”) But, really, it was! The show was fantastic — the songs, the band, the banter and “bits” in between songs, the lighting, all of it. It was top-notch, well-done, high quality, and quite possibly the best show I’ve ever seen.
If you aren’t famliar with Ben Rector, but are approximately the same age as me (a few months shy of 40), you will likely love his music. On top of being an excellent vocalist, in addition to playing a mean guitar and keyboard, even more than having a great stage presence and rapport with the audience, what Ben (Rector? Mr. Rector? What do I call him???) excels at is exuding warmth and evoking nostalgia.
His approach to the audience is to treat us like we’re already friends, like he couldn’t possibly put on an act with us, like he’s comfortable enough to tell us how it really is. And his lyrics, while smart, are frequently simple enough that even a casual fan (or someone completely new to his music) can catch on and sing along by the second or third verse. Every single song he sings paints a vivid picture of the great love he has for his wife and family and friends. And from 80s movies to 90s music, he takes us all back to the best parts of our childhood with a glowing thread of nostalgia that guides us from the opening song to the encore.
Seeing Ben Rector in concert tonight — especially bookended as it was by dinner with one of my favorite friends and arriving home to see my neighborhood dusted with snow like an early winter wonderland — was the medicine I didn’t realize I needed. The anger that’s been simmering in me for so long has left open wounds in my heart, and tonight was a welcome step toward healing.
Because not everything is terrible. Not everything is beyond repair, doomed, depressing. Some things are still lovely. And warm. Even magical. And I needed to remember that this week.
That’s why I write about pop culture, you know. Because sometimes movies and books and TV shows and music can teach us or challenge us or simply entertain us. Other times, though, it can heal us. It can give us hope and point us to Truth. It can make a difference, and that’s worth paying attention to and talking about.
So, if you find yourself struggling in this season — with anger or grief or disappointment, for any reason at all — I hope you can find some encouragement or hope or even healing in the next book you read or song you hear or movie you watch. I hope your hard week (or month or season or year) has enough warm, wonderful, surprising, delightful moments to balance out the difficult and bring you back to center.
What helps you remember the good things in life?
If you don’t know Ben Rector yet, I recommend starting with Old Friends.