And freedom, oh freedom - well, that's just some people talking

Your prison is walking through this world all alone

-- "Desperado, " by the Eagles

That song was playing on my car radio on the way to the gym this morning; it's one of the few that's always been able to punch me in the sternum since high school, especially this particular little slip of lyrics. (Sorry, Udo Lindenberg, but your lyrics, though they try to translate while rhyming, just... seem wrong.) Another, more recent sternum-punchin' song is Sara Bareilles' "Gravity," with the lines "You loved me 'cause I'm fragile / when I thought that I was strong / but you touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone."

Music. Maybe it's because I've been able to perceive so little of this thing that has been such a big part of my life, but the emotional magnitude of its torrent has been one of the biggest surprises of my acclimation to hearing aids. I may have written before about how tears started rolling down my face on the drive to Illinois when I first heard a classical chorus thundering with the sopranos out in full force. I had to stop in a parking lot when U2's "One" came on. The amusement of being able to hear how out of tune my baby grand piano back in Glenview was.

The drive down from Indianapolis to Berea with Sebastian -- I'd saved listening to some of our shared favorite songs until he flew in. I complained that Phil Collins sounded like dishes smashing when I started getting more percussion that my brain couldn't decipher. He laughed, then restarted "In The Air Tonight" and started to tap out individual drum parts on my arm as they came in; they leapt into clearer focus, and the song became less muddled. (Later that summer, he showed me his old drumset in the basement of his parents' house, which was awesome -- but the sound of symbals is still downright awful to my ears.)

Matt and Carrie have boxes and boxes of amazing CDs, and we pulled them out in their living room one evening in June and listened to song after song after song, barbershop quartet to classical guitar to Supertramp. My favorites all sounded wrong. Where were the blessed harmonies of O Magnum Mysterium? The bass solo of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" which I'd blared out the window of my mom's minivan as a teenager, one of the first bass lines I'd tried to learn to play? Gone. Gone. Destroyed.

Hardest of all was hearing Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathetique) and the third movement of Sonata No. 14 in C# minor ("Moonlight's" Presto Agitato) in brilliant, sparkling, precise glory. These are pieces of music that have been worn into my fingers over years and years of practice, sonatas I have come back to time and time again since my childhood, in some cases since elementary school when my tiny fingers could not yet physically span Beethoven's chords. My hands have stretched and reached and grown into them, loved them -- loved them, fueled by rage. When I learned these pieces, they became my punching bags, my outlet for storms of anger. In middle school, which I went through feeling like a bomb waiting to explode, it was the first movement of the Pathetique I thrashed my rage into; the second movement calmed me down again. The third movement of No. 14, which I never really mastered, felt like running; as a preteen hungering to bust out and learn things beyond what I felt I could do in my hometown, this piece -- this particular piece -- was the one thing that pushed at the boundaries of my mental and physical limits. To discover that my sonatas, soaked in sweat and storms of anger, foxholes of solace for over a decade -- were dull, muted, pale shades of what they could be with full hearing -- that shook me. It was like looking at your childhood best friend and realizing that you'd never really known them. That night, after everyone except Sebastian and myself had gone to bed, we sat on the couch and he held me as I sobbed for a long, long time.

It's much, much easier to not know what you've missed, not know what you are missing, especially if it's likely that you'll always, always miss it. But I resolved a long time ago to choose awareness over absence of pain, and while I falter often on that resolution, it's still something I strive for; the falterings usually happen along the way to picking myself up repeatedly and trying to be brave enough again, again, again.

One of the things I hope to be able to do in dancing at some point is to move through music that makes me feel, try to express some of those emotions with my body. It is strange, having feelings, allowing them to exist. I don't know what to do with them. I need to move more muscles to get them unstuck, let them out. I need those muscles to be strong enough, flexible, able to catch themselves; I need to know my body's ready for me to trust it. With dancing, with music, with writing, with anything -- it is the discipline that gives you the power to be free. It's why I work so hard. It's why I'm so damn tired; I want more freedom in my life, so I push and push -- and it is worth it, being able to have those moments when things work. How much farther can I keep on going? How much can I improve the way I train myself?

A friend sent me photographs of spontaneous joy this morning. One goal of mine is to have more unguarded moments when I allow myself to be that way. This is surprisingly difficult. One reason I decided to keep my studio apartment instead of moving into a cheaper place with friends is that it's liberating to have a space where I can play with scary things -- emotions, moving, pouring Bach-Busoni through my speakers and rolling out on the floor and noticing what happens as the piano swells itself into an organ and comes down, sheet upon sheet of sound, through me.

More music. Good music. Feed it to me now -- classical, contemporary, anything. Music that comes through and makes you feel. What should I hear?