The joy of Taylor Swift, a tiny poodle, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, and Mom and Elvis

I had the privilege of attending the Taylor Swift concert in Nashville, Tennessee, on Sunday thanks to my sweetheart’s tenacity when tickets went on sale in February. Her name is Taylor, too, and she waited on the Internet five hours to buy tickets.

I like some of Taylor Swift’s music, but as a teenager of the 1980s who’s now a middle-aged man in his 50s, I’m not her target audience. I wasn’t a fan of Taylor Swift’s, but after attending her concert, I am now. I say this after standing three hours in the Nissan Stadium lobby through a lightning delay and standing another three and a half hours through her epic concert. 

Why did I become a fan? One word. Joy. While waiting three hours in that lobby packed like sardines, I met her fans. Seeing the effect that Taylor Swift has on her fans was awe-inspiring to me. The crowd would spontaneously burst into singing Taylor Swift songs throughout the lightning delay, filling the lobby with their sounds of joy. One of the fans proudly showed us her new tattoo – a Taylor Swift quote – written across the skin of her right collarbone. She also gave my sweetheart a friendship bracelet. I should’ve been miserable being stuck standing in a lobby for three hours because my feet hurt, but my heart felt good.

We had excellent seats at the concert, but I found out quickly that you don’t sit down at a Taylor Swift show. Still, it was the best concert experience I’ll likely ever have. I listened to tens of thousands of her fans singing along to every song and watched the joy of people dancing and screaming their unconditional love for all the world to hear. I teared up quite a bit when I looked over at my sweetheart and saw her crying and singing and smiling. There were tears of joy in her eyes when she turned to me and said, “Can you believe we’re this close to Taylor Swift?” 

I’m sure Taylor Swift has her critics, but someone who can bring that much joy to that many people is doing a lot of good, especially when joy seems to be in short supply these days. 

That’s why we should appreciate moments of joy in our lives and remember them from time to time, because even the memory of those moments can bring tears of joy to your eyes. And that’s a good feeling. 

Since my dad died in 2015, I’m more surprised by moments of joy. When you lose a loving parent like my Dad, it sucks a lot of joy out of your life. You never really recover the full amount back. But I still have my moments of joy. They just catch me off guard and pull a little harder on my heartstrings when they happen. 

For example, when our tiny white poodle Tillie came into our lives, she was in rough shape. The previous owner had a debilitating disease and couldn’t take care of her anymore. Tillie’s hair was matted so thick over her eyes and feet. It was heartbreaking. I remember the blood-curdling screams she made when she had to have all that hair cut off. Poor Tillie. She was removed from her home, probably felt like she was being tortured, and our jealous 15-year-old dog Mollie wouldn’t give her the time of day. I worried about how Tillie would fit in. I forget how long it took, but one day I opened the back door to let the dogs go weewee, and Tillie ran out, hopping like a deer, alongside Mollie. It was the first time I’d seen her act like she truly belonged to our little family. I teared up quite a bit. Why? Joy. 

One of my little bundles of joy, Tillie says hi.

Another joyous moment was when my dear sweet Mom bought me tickets to Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra concert in Nashville. The first eight-track tape that I ever purchased was ELO’s Out of the Blue in 1978. It remains my favorite album to this day. Jeff Lynne and ELO disbanded before I graduated high school, so I never had the chance to see them live. But Jeff Lynne (who’s 75 now) returned to the stage with a new band and tour. And more than 40 years after I bought that eight-track, I was watching them live. And when I heard the first note of the opening song, “Standin’ in the Rain,” I teared up quite a bit and kept tearing up throughout the concert. Why? Joy. 

Another moment of joy was with my Mom, who’s always been there for me in every way possible. She’s been fighting cancer for several years now, so I want to be there for her now more than ever. She’s been on chemo for quite a while and understandably doesn’t feel like getting out much. However, one day last year she felt good enough for me to take her out to lunch and see the new Elvis movie in an actual theater. We both love the King of Rock and Roll. I remember she ordered a mushroom and Swiss burger for lunch, and knowing what she normally eats, that burger had to taste extra good. The movie was good, too. Hands down, it was the best film I’d seen in five years. I teared up quite a bit during the movie not because I love Elvis, but because it was so nice to see my Mom enjoying what most of us take for granted … a trip to the movies and a burger. Why the tears? Once again, joy. 

I see a common theme here. My moments of joy mostly hit me when I see others experiencing joy, whether it’s watching a tiny poodle named Tillie run out the backdoor of her home; or my hard-working sweetheart enjoying her bucket-list concert; or my Mom savoring a mushroom and Swiss burger before watching Elvis

I wish I could bottle up the joy in the audience at that Taylor Swift concert and spread it around, but I can’t. I can only hope you experience joy in your life. 

As the German composer Wagner said, “Joy is not in things; it is in us.” 

I hope it is in you, too. 

‘Flying High’ … a poem for Dad

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