When I was a teenager, I’d often sit at the kitchen table doing my homework (usually struggling with math), and my Mom would wander in, ready to cook something for dinner. I loved the way she floated around the kitchen, usually barefoot and wearing a long homemade dress that would swish as she walked. She was in love with the tomatoes she would slice, oo-ing and ah-ing at their perfection. She would pat the thawed chicken affectionately, and thank it for being so beautiful, and for becoming our dinner. I truly believed that any chicken would honored to be one of her meals, because she was an extraordinary and loving cook. Meanwhile, a cloud formation outside the kitchen window might catch her eye, and she would gasp in awe and wonder at its beauty.
This was my background music as I struggled with each math problem, tearing up when I couldn’t grasp the concepts. While she was in rapture with the wonder of existence, my brain was in a painful vice grip, drowning in a tumultuous sea of numbers and symbols.
“I hate math!” I’d say, and throw my pencil across the room. And, then I’d cry.
And, that’s when my Mom would begin to sing.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray. You never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”
And, I would laugh, and couldn’t help but join in on the fun. Because, it wasn’t just singing. It was backwards singing. Yes, you read that right. My Mom, instead of blowing her breath out as she sang, would sing while sucking in air, and the result was this squealing funny voice that never failed to have me in stitches. We would sing backwards while she conducted the music with her spatula, and we would try not to laugh, but before we knew it we were laughing so hard we could barely catch our breath.
And then, I would pick up my pencil, look at the math problems again, and for some reason all of the answers would come to me easily. It was as if singing backwards would rewire my brain to look at the problems differently. It showed me how to see life from a different perspective. Singing was great, but singing backwards was hilarious, and it helped me lighten up just a little bit more.
By singing backwards, my Mom opened up a crack of light in my shroud of darkness, and suddenly my world was illuminated with joy and clarity.
So, when you’re feeling a bit stuck in life, and can’t find your way out, try singing backwards. I’ll bet you can’t do it without at least smiling.