I’ve been surprised multiple times by the rigors of pregnancy, but it came to a head the afternoon I discovered my feet were swollen. I felt like a failure: one of the things I’d dreaded most and tried to prevent had finally come to pass.
It didn’t help that I’d also received an unpleasant comment about the size of my pregnant body that day, either. I’m notoriously thin-skinned, so the barb found its mark.
No wonder I was in tears as I retreated to my bed to nurse my hurt feelings and elevate my feet. But I also decided to play some music—and as is my custom these days, I turned to my very long and very full Taylor Swift playlist.
While I’d be the first to admit that not all of Swift’s music is appropriate, she’s been my favorite singer/songwriter for years. That day I chose one of her newer pieces, “You’re On Your Own, Kid”—and as her familiar voice surrounded me, my wounded mind absorbed the less-familiar lyrics. Despite the cynical-sounding title, the song is all about growing up from a lovesick teenager to an idealistic writer to a young woman who has loved, lost, and learned. 
By the time I got to Swift’s declaration to herself that she has no reason to be afraid, more tears streamed down my face. Yet they were no longer tears of anger and self-deprecation. I desperately needed to hear the kindness in her voice that afternoon. I needed the reminder that, regardless of swollen feet and callous words, I can still celebrate the fact that I am carrying my first baby, that my husband and I have embarked on a great adventure together, and that I really have no reason to fear.
It wasn’t the first time Taylor Swift has made me weep. I highly doubt it’ll be the last.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” According to the Internet, Victor Hugo penned those words—and though the lack of specific attribution makes me suspicious, I heartily agree with the sentiment.
Some of my earliest memories revolve around music. I recall dancing with my brother TJ to the tune of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Facts Are Facts,” beating the cushy recliner with Mom’s wooden spoons as if we were drummers. I performed in my first piano recital at the tender age of 4, and I sang “Hakuna Matata” to my reflection in the oven door. (To be fair, I don’t actually remember that last one—I was too young—but I’ve heard the story often enough that it feels like a memory.)
My dad is a music buff, too, so my siblings and I all enjoyed our fair share of Elvis Presley, The Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra, and James Taylor. My music preferences don’t stop at “older” American music, either! I’m just as likely to belt the lyrics of “Mo Ghile Mear” with all the patriotic fervor of a Jacobite on his way to serve Bonnie Prince Charlie.
In short, music reminds me that I have a body. I am a living, breathing, passionate young woman with a heart and mind that respond powerfully to lyric and melody. My enthusiastic physical reactions to music are completely natural and even good, because God made music and made us to enjoy it. And as Amber Salladin writes in Matthew Clark’s book A Tale of Two Trees,
“The words we sing mean something to our brains—giving them something to chew on, something to rehearse—something to memorize.” 
But after all this time, amid all these different voices and wordsmiths, Taylor Swift is the only one who consistently makes me weep, expressing for me “that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
At the time of this writing, she has just completed the first leg of her world-famous “Eras Tour.” Chances are you’ve seen a few fan-filmed videos on social media: maybe a clip of her hurtling across the stage before the final aching lines of “August,” or her stunningly clever transition from “Don’t Blame Me” to “Look What You Made Me Do.”
But for me and for so many women of my generation, the Eras Tour is more than just a 3-hour collection of catchy tunes and glamorous choreography. It embodies much of our growing up into womanhood—and for me, certain songs spark vivid memories.
Take the triumphant song “Long Live.” I rocked out to that song every morning for months while milking goats with my sisters Emily and Carolyn. When Swift re-released her album “Speak Now” this year and I first heard the remaster of “Long Live,” I burst into tears. 
Not only did it remind me of my sisters and of our sweet-but-never-healthy goats, but it reminded me of how far I’ve come since then. I’m no longer that same 18-year-old girl, wondering what I’ll do with my life, if I’ll ever write a book, if I’ll ever get married. Like Swift, I’ve grown up and seen quite a few dreams come true.
Or how about “Evermore,” from the album of the same name?  Every time I hear that song, I’m transported to a cold February night: it’s 2 AM and I’m wide-awake, riddled with pain from my shattered elbow. The soothing conclusion of that song, though, plays over and over again in my feverish brain, reassuring me that my misery is temporary. That was one of the worst nights of my life…but that song was with me when my weary brain couldn’t focus on anything else.
If space allowed, I’d go on to share how songs like “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” “Begin Again,” “All Too Well,” and even “Shake It Off” have blessed me in times when I needed to laugh, rage, give thanks, or take a deep breath and hold my head a little higher. But for now, I’ll say this: there’s a reason Taylor Swift has been named “the Poet Laureate of our time.”  Whether or not she acknowledges it, the Great Musician who spun the galaxies and made them sing granted her a gift for naming the nameless in us. She helps us embody our experiences…and I’ve had the time of my life fighting my dragons with her.
My sweet baby girl will be here in a few short months, and the closer we get to her arrival, the more I find myself singing to her. Sometimes it’s “Here Comes the Sun,” sometimes it’s “Jesus Loves Me,” sometimes it’s Taylor Swift.
I often cry when I sing to her. “Jesus Loves Me” is especially emotional because it reminds and reassures me that He loves her even more than I do. He already holds her, like Julian of Norwich’s tiny hazelnut, in the palm of His hand. And yes, I cry when I sing to her the Taylor Swift song that comforted me when I first found my swollen feet.
Songs like these give shape to the grief, fear, and hope all warring inside me. I, too, grieve over burned bridges, over my fear of loss and disapproval, over so many mistakes and self-deceptions. Yet I hear the truth ringing out behind those words, and my body responds. My voice gets a little stronger, and I place a hand over my growing baby.
I take the moment. I seize it, I taste it, and I see that the Lord is good.
I have no reason to be afraid.
 Taylor Swift, vocalist, “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” lyrics by Taylor Swift, released October 21, 2022, track 5 on Midnights, Republic Records, 2022, YouTube.
 Clark, Matthew. A Tale of Two Trees (Madison, Mississippi: Panim Press, 2023), p. 139.
 Taylor Swift, vocalist, “Long Live,” lyrics by Taylor Swift, released October 25, 2010, track 14 on Speak Now, Big Machine Records, 2010, YouTube.
 Taylor Swift, vocalist, “Evermore,” lyrics by Taylor Swift, released December 11, 2020, track 15 on Evermore, Republic Records, 2020, YouTube.
 Gabrielle Jackson, “Why Taylor Swift Is the ‘Poet Laureate’ of Our Time,” June 26, 2023, Full Story, The Guardian, podcast, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/audio/2023/jun/21/is-australia-in-its-taylor-swift-era-full-story-podcast.
The featured image, “Night Lights and Leaves,” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating.
Maribeth Barber Albritton is a small-town Southerner captivated by stories, the beauty and love of her Savior, and the power of the active-contemplative, Christ-centered life. During her years as a homeschool student, she developed a fierce love for history, literature, and film. These passions inspired her debut novel, Operation Lionhearted, as well as her blog, A Writer’s Tale, where she often reviews books and movies from the angle of the Christian imagination. She and her pastor-husband Casey, both hobbits at heart, live in southwest Mississippi in a red-brick manse they’ve affectionately named “Crickhollow.”
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