Living on a prayer.

In the words of August Rush, “I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales.”

For years, I lived with a guitar and a pen in my hand, writing a song to handle every emotion that came my way. As a high school student, I was assigned an essay about “home” – I wrote about an empty stage. And to this day, when I purchase a new album, I listen to it slowly, deliberately, paying attention lyrics and songwriters and instrumentalists.

Nothing heals me like music. And if a song on the radio can help when my heart is bruised, it’s live music that helps when I’m torn apart.

Sunday night, I headed to Des Moines with my friend Michelle to see Bon Jovi in concert. I expected an amazing show from a history-making band. Bon Jovi delivered.

What I didn’t expect – though I should have known better – was to be so wrapped up in the music that everything else seemed to disappear for a while. There’s just something about singing along to hits like “Bad Medicine” and “You Give Love a Bad Name” with thousands of other fans that can turn a bad day around pretty darn quickly.

What struck me most, however, were the songs from Bon Jovi’s new album What About Now – none of which I’d heard prior to the concert.

I have giant, big dreams. Dreams of writing. Dreams of making a difference. This brand new blog is really only a tiny spark in that plan. So when I heard the song “Because We Can,” in which Jon sings “I don’t want to be another wave in the ocean / I am a rock, not just another grain of
sand / I ain’t solider but I’m here to take a stand / Because we can,” it was fist-pumping time. YES. That. Exactly what I needed to hear. Because it’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say.

There’s little I love more than that moment when you hear a song for the first time and it just explains everything you’re feeling. It’s like suddenly, you’re not so alone after all.

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, there was this song:

“Army of One.” Welcome to my life. Every day, I wake up fighting. Sometimes at the end of the day, I’ve been victorious, and other days, the battle takes its toll. And while there have been so many people in my corner (more than I realized), when push comes to shove, this journey of grief and healing is mine alone to take.

“I’ve got a voice / That’s all I need / A beating heart / Inside of me / I’m an army of one / I’m a soldier”
“Never give up / Never let up / Ever / Never give in”
“I know that life’s a battlefield / When times get tough / I’m a soldier”

Songs like this drive me forward. Prove that there’s a reason to try today. Get me back on track when my 3 rules didn’t give me the push I needed. Because I am, indeed, an army of one. And I will never, ever stop fighting. I titled my blog “Determined to Shine” because I believe it’s determination that makes the difference. It will always, always, always be easier to stay down. But I will never stop getting back up.

And this is why I love music – especially live music. Because long after the show is over and all I have left are some blurry photos of the stage and an overpriced t-shirt, it is the memory of being wrapped up in a melody, lost in a lyric, that stays with me long after the final note is played.

The show ended, naturally, with “Living on a Prayer.” A song I’d heard hundreds of times. But on this Sunday night, when my heart had been so tired for so long, the song had new meaning.

“We’re halfway there / Living on a prayer / Take my hand / We’ll make it I swear”

I’ve come so, so far from that awful day last summer. But I still have so far to go. Dreams to chase and phrases to turn. Halfway there, indeed. Here’s to the journey. And somehow, yes, I know I’ll make it. Because every day of my life, I am living on a prayer.