This week’s song of the week is Madonna’s “Nothing Really Matters” from her 1998 album, Ray of Light. Here’s a clip of her singing it at the 1999 Grammy’s:

I’ve been looking for more than a song of the week since the beginning of the new year; I’ve also been looking for a theme for the year. Last year, my theme was “Here, Now, and Me,” which became a kind of mantra that helped me keep focused on what seemed most important: living in the now (rather than the past or future) and focusing on what it was I want out of life.

Since the new year is a time for resolutions and new commitments, I started looking for a theme that encapsulates what I’m thinking now. At first, I couldn’t find anything that felt right, but then I remembered Madonna’s song, which I’ve always liked. In fact, it’s one of my favorite songs from Ray of Light. I even bought the single when it came out.

So, I broke out the single and started listening to it in my car as I drove back and forth to work. The more I listened to it, the more it seemed to fit my mood and thoughts at this moment in several ways.

First, I like its sense of growing older, of maturing beyond selfish youthfulness:

When I was very young
Nothing really mattered to me
But making myself happy
I was the only one

I feel that this describes accurately describes me and my worldview until relatively recently. I can look back and see that so much of the pain I’ve caused those I love has more to do with selfishly making myself “happy” than with anything else. I did see myself as the only one that mattered to me. I also see that this “happiness” was rarely real. It tended to be momentary and fleeting, mostly because of its self-centeredness. It’s like eating candy: it tastes good while you’re eating it, but it doesn’t do anything about your hunger for something substantive.

I also like that it attributes growth to the influence of someone else:

Now that I am grown
Everything’s changed
I’ll never be the same
Because of you

This “you” can of course be several “yous.” Change seems to come not just from inside but from seeing yourself from someone else’s point of view. It’s seeing ourselves in relation to others than changes our worldviews and behaviors.

Which brings us to the chorus:

Nothing really matters
Love is all we need
Everything I give you
All comes back to me

I love that this chorus returns to the idea that nothing really matters but fundamentally changes the next prepositional phrase: nothing really matters except for me becomes nothing really matter except for love. It’s our relationships that matter, not just the individual:

Looking at my life
It’s very clear to me
I lived so selfishly
I was the only one

I realize
That nobody wins
Something is ending
And something begins

This last bit also stands out to me. All the clichés apply here: when one door closes another opens, etc. But it is important to remind ourselves sometimes that every ending is the beginning of something else.

But sometimes the past is difficult to shake off. It can haunt us even when we’re ready to move on and start something else.

Nothing takes the past away
Like the future
Nothing makes the darkness go
Like the light

You’re shelter from the storm
Give me comfort in your arms

That’s when we need to embrace the future even more, which is what I feel I’ve done this past year. I’ve let go of some aspects of the past that have continued to haunt my present by embracing the future, especially my professional future.  I think my new job has helped me mature and has given me a greater purpose than I had before.

So, my theme for 2010 is “Nothing really matters, love is all we need.” This theme means a couple of things to me. First, PJ is my shelter from the storm, the man who gives me comfort when things aren’t going well at work or when I feel overwhelmed by all the challenges I face. His love is all I need. Second, it reminds me that everything I give comes back to me. The effort, love, and hard work that I put in for my college will come back to me. I won’t always know how or when but it will come back one way or another. That feels very rewarding to think about.