“…but he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind until the night he put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger and finally drank away her memory. Life is short but this time it was bigger than the strength he had to get up off his knees. We found him with his face down in the pillow with a note that said “I’ll love her till I die”. And when we buried him beneath the willow the angels sang a whiskey lullaby…”
This is a pretty serious song, huh? Bill Anderson and Jon Randall, the songwriters, weren’t playin’ around with this one!
You know how there are certain songs that you can count on to bring you to tears? The ones you’ve told your best friend not to let you listen to when you’re having a bad day? Yeah, this is one of ’em. It’s pretty much up there with George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” or “The Grand Tour” or…Okay, pretty much this song and just about all of ole George’s greatest hits fall into that category for me. Guaranteed tear-jerkers. Ugly-cry inducers. Y’all know what I mean?
Have you seen the video though? Aside from Brad Paisley (who has just a hint of a mullet) and Alison Krauss, Ricky Schroder, that kid from Silver Spoons, is in it. He plays the handsome male lead, a devoted soldier just home from World War II, who finds his wife in bed with another man. To say it goes downhill after that is the epitome of understatement. Pretty much, he’s heartbroken and drinks himself to death. Then his wife, who’s riddled with guilt, drinks herself to death. I’ve always seen it as a cautionary tale, I guess, about the harshness of life. About the consequences of our choices. About living with pain and regret.
I hadn’t heard this song in forever until I was trapped in the Verizon store one evening trying to get a new phone. As the lyrics filtered down through the myriad of voices around me, I suddenly felt as if I’d been kicked in the stomach. It struck me that, while everyone pretty much agrees there are certain things we do to ourselves that are killing us little bits at a time- the drinkin’, the smokin’, the texting while driving- there are just as many, if not more, less dramatic things- perhaps even innocent things- that we do that are just as surely killing us. Maybe not our physical bodies like the protagonists in this song but our spirits, for sure.
Did you hear that?
There are just as many, if not more, less dramatic, and seemingly innocent things we do everyday that are killing us just as surely as if we were puttin’ that bottle to our heads.
We overextend ourselves.
We undervalue ourselves.
We talk to ourselves in a manner and tone we’d never even consider using with someone we hold dear.
We don’t sleep.
We don’t connect.
We pretend all. the. damn. time.
And living that way? It breeds chaos and contempt that’s strangling your joy. Resentment that’s stealing your contentment. And don’t even get me started on how anxiety, panic and fear have robbed you of your spontaneity. I’m pretty sure you know all those grisly details though, huh? Probably way more intimately than you’d care to admit.
And it all starts because of the absence of a tiny two-letter word.
Take a second and think about this- Think about a time when you said yes to something even though you knew in your gut it was the wrong answer. You acquiesced out of guilt or obligation or because you wanted to be the hero. Now I’m not talking about “bad” things. You didn’t agree to rob a bank or knock over a group of senior citizens as they crossed the street. I’m talking about innocent things. Things like volunteering for a job at your kids’ school. Or saying yes to another responsibility at church. Maybe it was agreeing to take over a task at work. Regardless, you knew IMMEDIATELY that it was something you were going to regret. Hell, you regretted it before you even agreed out loud to it!
Now think about THIS- What was the fallout like? What weight did you carry around every second of every day related to that project or task? Think about the dread. The sick feeling in your stomach. The headaches, both literal and figurative. The hours of preparation that you didn’t have to spare. The expense you weren’t really able to afford. And the good stuff in life you missed out on. The yeses that you couldn’t agree to because all of the time, space, and energy in your life was tied up somewhere else.
You know that drug campaign, “Just Say No”, from the 1980s and 1990s? The one that gave you a bunch of different examples on how to refuse illegal recreational drugs? I wanna start a little “Just Say No” revolution of my own. It would involve a mandatory 24-hour waiting period and would require the approval of at least three of your closest friends- your own personal board of directors, if you will- before you could take on a new responsibility or committment. There would be rubrics and cost-benefit analytics. Strategery. Maybe even a bitch-slap or two. All in an effort to safeguard the precious LIMITED commodities of time, space and energy.
What do ya’ think? Would you be on board?