They ought to give me the Wurlitzer prize
For all the silver I let slide down the slot
Playing those songs sung blue
To help me remember you
I don’t want to get over you
That’s the chorus to “The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don’t Want To Get Over You)” by Waylon Jennings, written by Chips Moman and Bobby Emmons. The song is from the 1978 album “Waylon & Willie,” Willie of course being Willie Nelson.
The song is from the point of view of someone who is holding on to a relationship that has ended. The song doesn’t say specifically how the relationship ended, it’s just over, and the singer doesn’t want it to be over.
So, he (or she, Kacey Musgraves did a version of the song a few years back) goes to places he went with his old flame, back when they were still together. He plays sad songs on the jukebox (“Wurlitzer” is a brand of jukebox) and sits there remembering the good times, feeling sorry for himself and crying into his beer.
To be clear: this is one of my favorite songs, from any genre. I’m not poking fun at it, I am just telling you what it’s about.
I like the song because it’s catchy, it’s fun to sing along with, and it’s not that hard to play on the guitar. And at just over 2 minutes long, whoever happens to be around when I’m playing and singing it won’t have to endure the torture of listening to me sing for very long, ha ha.
I also like it because I can relate to it. Years and years ago, I had a relationship end that I didn’t want to end. But it ended anyway, and I was sad about it.
I moved on then, many long years ago, but then something terrible happened. And “terrible” doesn’t even begin to describe what happened. There isn’t a word or series of words that can describe how awful this was: she committed suicide.
The aftereffects of that event haunt me to this day. I mean, it was 14 years ago now, and here I am blogging about it. It’s not something that gets me down or anything nowadays, but I do still think about it.
Here’s a visual analogy: imagine that my mind is a swimming pool, and the waves that gently reverberate back and forth across the water are my thoughts.
Now imagine that someone dropped a boulder into the middle of that pool, from a very great height: there’s such a huge splash that the pool is now half empty, and the water that’s still in there is crashing violently against the sides of the pool.
Over the years, I tried to heft the boulder out of the pool (so to speak) but it kept falling back in, creating more waves.
Now, all these years later, the boulder is still there, on the bottom of the pool. The pool itself has been refilled, and somehow the boulder has shrunk quite a bit. And sometimes when I am treading water in the pool (so to speak) I might stump my toe on the boulder’s jagged edges. And when I do that, it hurts pretty damn bad.
That’s how it is, all these years later. And either the pool is getting deeper or the boulder is still shrinking, because I don’t stump my toe on it nearly as often now.
Here’s how all this relates to the song quoted at the beginning of this post: for a good long while after this huge jagged boulder was dropped into the swimming pool of my mind, I would periodically swim out to the boulder and kick it on purpose.
So to speak.
I would do what the singer of the song is doing, except in my case there was no jukebox. I just used my phone or computer to listen to sad songs and cry into my beer.
I would sit there and get drunk, and play a certain set of songs that reminded me of the event, and just cry and cry and cry.
To be clear: I am not bragging about this. But I don’t feel particularly ashamed of it either, at least not anymore.
I am writing this to tell you that late one night, if memory serves on a work night, meaning I had to work the next morning, I found myself with my head down on my computer desk, forehead resting on my crossed hands, which were wet from all the tears, snot pouring out of my nose, silently sobbing, feeling horrible, head starting to hurt…
And I realized: I was enjoying this.
To be clear, there were times when I honestly believe that I needed to do that. I needed to just sit down and cry about it for a while. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I can tell you from experience: repressing negative emotions only makes things worse, in almost any situation.
But I went way past the point of it being healthy. The first few times I did that – stay up late listening to sad songs, drinking my face off, and crying like a baby, I mean – it was cathartic. The last few times, it was no longer cathartic, it was just me crying and snotting all over the place, clinging to the strong emotions it made me feel.
And maybe someday I will be able to explain what I mean more clearly, but for today I will just say that this one night (which was several years ago now) I realized that on some level, I was making myself feel horrible for the simple reason that I enjoyed it.
And when I realized that I was enjoying this strange torture I was putting myself through, I couldn’t enjoy it anymore.
It wasn’t that I became ashamed of what I was doing. I was ashamed of it already, that’s why I only did it late at night, by myself.
What happened was, I became conscious of the fact that I was enjoying it.
There was nobody making me do that. There was no rational reason to do that. Going back to the swimming pool analogy, the jagged boulder of the suicide was underwater, in the deep end of the pool, sticking up just enough so I might accidentally stub my toe on it every now and then.
And entirely of my own volition, on my own, with nobody telling me to do this, I would swim out to the middle of the deep end and kick that jagged boulder as hard as I could. Then I would sit on the edge of the pool, crying because my toe hurt.
To be clear, grief is a much more serious thing than stumping a toe. And I am not writing this to make anyone feel guilty about their grief.
I am writing this because somewhere out there in internet land, there might be somebody out there doing what I used to do, swimming out to the deep end of their pool and kicking the boulder (or boulders) that sit on the bottom.
And I just wanted to tell you: you don’t have to do that.
Thank you for reading. 🙂