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Michele Willens Headshot

Face It: We Need a Little Self-Indulgence

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SELFINDULGENCE

When did I stop playing music in my home? As a child, I had a transistor radio attached to my ear. I would take it to and from school, sometimes even falling asleep with it. I remember my brother and I regularly entering a contest in which listeners guessed the following week's Top 10. The winner would receive the entire Top 40! I will never forget the day we heard our names announced. Our protective mother told us not to get our hopes up, but a few days later, a box wrapped in brown paper appeared on the doorstep. "Hey Paula" never sounded so good.

As I got older and 45s turned to discs, I revered the poets of our time, playing their music constantly and wanly interpreting it on the obligatory guitar. All this is a long way of expressing my utter surprise that even though we possess hundreds of musical recordings in various iterations, I rarely take one out and play it. I don't mean on the treadmill or the subway. I mean in the comfort of my home, where this abundance of great sound has every right to be heard and enjoyed.

When I ask myself why, this is what I come up with: It takes too long to figure out the damn technology the males in my home have installed; I was never good at doing two things at once. When I play music, I tend to pay close attention to the lyrics, to the point that I stop paying attention to everything else; there are flat screens at every turn, so it just becomes easier to find out what is going on in the world than to tune in to Paul Simon or The Roots; finally, the younger members of the house are always playing their music, and if I attempt to make a selection, it will be quickly replaced. Fortunately, the kids have come around to realize that our music was all right, and I hear a lot of familiar voices.

Therefore, like so many other things in life, I simply stop, with excuses: I can play mine later. (though I won't); It's a way to learn what the young generation likes today (though I can't); I will have plenty of time when empty nestdom arrives (though the technology may be even more baffling then).

I am speaking about music here, but I suspect grown-up good girls are guilty of what I call the Three D's in many aspects of our lives: We defer too much, we delay too often and we therefore deprive ourselves of things that have given us -- and can still give us -- great pleasure. Helicoptering children and surviving in the workplace have taken precedence, and they are exhausting. Who has time for anything but sleep? As a result, we are not hearing beautiful music, we are not eating where and what we'd rather eat and we are probably not giving enough attention and affection to our spouses.

We tell ourselves we can do it "later." But will we hear as well then? Will our taste buds be as sharp? Will our patient spouses still be there for us? Yes, we are living much longer, and the third chapter can be about doing, listening, reading and going where we want. But who is guaranteed that final chapter? I remember when my mother-in-law was taking care of her dying husband 24/7. I urged her to take a day, even an hour, for herself -- be it to read a book, take a walk or get a pedicure. She insisted that would be too much of an indulgence, and she would be able to do "stuff for myself" soon enough. Well, he did pass away, but unfortunately, so did she two years later.

Okay, so they don't say slow down and smell Guns N' Roses. Still, I am determined to get back to playing my music again, to get up and dance to "Proud Mary" and to feel the goosebumps listening to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." We should demand of ourselves some special time to do what we used to love, and can love again.

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