Writing the music of our life story

Recently, listening to the In A Time Lapse album by Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi that I have played innumerable times, I was drawn to a component of the music in the track Experience which to me had previously remained unnoticed. It was the very subtle bassline.

Suddenly, the piece of music transformed to a completely different one before my ears. My emotional reaction to it completely changed and I felt uplifted.

This experience came at a time in which I have been examining and unpicking the narrative I tell myself, and others, about how my life has unfolded. It occurred to me that music and the narratives of our lives we compose could be connected.

It would be easy to look back on my life and write it as a story full of woe. It might resemble the following: I was bullied throughout my school education; my mum got sick then better but then contracted something worse before becoming temporarily better; my dad died of a heart attack (his third) and took a week to die following catastrophic brain damage; I struggled emotionally and mentally at university where I was also treated badly by others to the point I questioned whether my existence was worth it; my mum died of oesophagal cancer; I had a number of difficult relationships; my partner and soulmate went through grueling chemotherapy following an advanced blood cancer riddling his body; I was made redundant; our car was written off following two accidents on our honeymoon.

Whilst I cannot change those horrible events, I can alter my perceptions of them. I can choose to acknowledge and explore the positives and lessons to be drawn from them.

It is helpful to imagine telling the narrative of our lives as if we were writing music. This composition is partly unchangeable and partially fixed in its skeleton structure. The events are the bassline and cannot be changed. However, we can alter the volume of this bassline and we can decide the melody or lyrics to be layered over it. This is the narrative as we perceive it and, unlike an album released to the general public forever set in stone, we can modify it at any time. You might even see it as making a greatest hits album from which you remove the songs that are unimportant or unwanted, leaving just the fundamental parts you hold dear.

With this in mind, my narrative can instead be transformed as follows:

Academically, I thrived at school because I had a real first for learning. I was complimented on my reading skills and was gifted in maths. I took real pleasure in gaining as much knowledge as possible. Whilst I was bullied by peers, I formed strong friendships because from a young age I was always fascinated by others and sought to help people. I achieved excellent grades, and slowly I gained greater insight into who I was as a person and learned to ignore the bullies.

My mum became ill with solitary plasmacytoma followed by multiple myeloma but she was strong and it brought our family closer together. She helped people with the same illness by undergoing a clinical trial.

My dad died following a heart attack (his third), taking a week to die following catastrophic brain damage but we shared many happy years together in which he was my best friend. Through his death, I gained strength and a unique understanding of loss and grief in order to be able to help others, and I sailed through my A Levels in spite of it.

I struggled emotionally and mentally during my undergraduate degree, being treated badly by others to the point I questioned whether my existence was worth it. However, I gained amazing friendships and I never gave up. I kept fighting even when my mum was dying of oesophagal cancer at the same time as her multiple myeloma returning.

I had a number of difficult relationships, both in terms of my behaviours and comportment and theirs. However, they taught me tolerance, independence and a greater awareness of that which I truly value in life.

My soulmate went through gruelling chemotherapy following an advanced blood cancer riddling his body, but he came out of the other side. Through me caring for him our relationship grew stronger and he is now taking control of his health and has a real thirst for life.

I was made redundant from a job that was causing me a lot of anguish both mentally and physically. It felt horrific when I was dealt the blow but I have come to release that this was one of the best events to ever happen to me. Without it I would not have taken the decision to take control of my mind and to work towards becoming the person I want to be. My confidence has flourished and I find so much joy from life.

Our car was written off following two accidents on our honeymoon, but we still made the most of the trip and we now have a shiny new car which I am much more confident driving than our old one with its disconcerting rattles.

I am sure that you will be able to see that there is a distinct difference between the two narratives above. Imagine the difference between the pieces of music that could be composed from the two.

How do you wish the story of your life to sound?


  1. It's amazing how we can pick certain words and a story can sound one way but if we decide to pick different words about the same scenario it can take a whole new path

    1. Thank you for the comment, Candace. Indeed! It's so powerful the difference it can make.


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