I’m tired, and I forgot my soap and I’m here at the gym to shower, humming a Miranda Lambert song to myself. My love for Miranda Lambert, who is a very popular country music singer-songwriter I didn’t know about until recently, creates conflicting feelings for me. Miranda Lambert sings about drinking a hell of a lot. As someone who quit drinking because she had to, I feel like I shouldn’t like listening to her sing about drinking. But I do.
At home, our shower is broken, so I got in the car to drive to the gym, listen to Miranda, and cry. I’m crying because it is December 26th, and this is a day that is notorious for preying on those with pent-up emotion, any emotion, and making us sob. Like crying at the end of your birthday when you were a kid (or last year–totally fine). It’s a release and I was really letting it flow: anger over the broken shower in our new home, confusion over how to feel during the hap-happiest time of year, and an irritated, red-eyed sort of feeling that comes from reading about Covid on your phone for the last 2 years. Low-grade, constant stress, and then larger spikes of stress, and then here I am, alone with Miranda, in the dark.
I am listening to her sing about drinking. About how it’s too late to stop drinking and too early to go home, or some shit. These songs are about someone else. Still, there’s something comforting about hearing why someone was drinking. Listening to her sing about a life I had, in a lighthearted, rhyming way, is soothing. My own narrative is so shame-filled, and I focus so much on what I should have done differently. Why didn’t you stop earlier? I ask myself. And then I listen to a song about a woman who is at home, drinking a bottle of wine, angry about everything, feeling like smashing things or maybe not wanting to spend the night alone, or yearning to drive all night to see some shitty lover and smoke some cigarettes on the way. It just reminds me, gently, of why I drank.
I drank because I had feelings that were hard to deal with. I didn’t want to stop drinking because then I would just have to go home alone with all of my dumb feelings. Ew. And I drank because I was having fun. Now that I’m sober, it’s almost like I don’t get to admit that I had fun. However, I feel like I’ve beat myself over the head with how bad it was enough that I might allow myself to be comforted by a song about someone drowning their damn sorrows in a bottle of whiskey. Jesus. Let me cry in this Planet Fitness parking lot. Let all of the things that seem like they can’t exist at the same time just exist. And please, let me just listen to a woman sing a song about it, where there is no answer, and there is no message about how it would be better if she just cleaned up her act. We do that enough, all on our own.
Sometimes, you can be happily married, and sober, and just need to hear a song about your drunk and broken heart, because you can feel that like it was yesterday, even if it was 10 years ago, and that girl doesn’t deserve your judgment. She’s just at the bar, accepting what she’s getting because she doesn’t even know what to ask for, and she’s going to keep drinking because that’s the easiest way to change how she feels. She’s lonely, and she doesn’t know how to be alone, and her friends are here at the bar anyway. How could I be mad at her for not going home and drinking a cup of tea? It took all of the time it took for me to figure out how to go home and make tea. Miranda Lambert is singing me a song about that girl and I need it, especially at night, the day after Christmas, when my heart is raw, and the world feels like it’s been slapped in the face.
I hear a song about tequila and Bud Light and falling in love and at the end of the song, you can hear Miranda and the other singer laughing about how silly the song is. Yes. Thank you. Please remind me that some of the stuff I made to be so heavy, some of it is just silly. It was silly. Until it was dangerous. And then I stopped. That’s a nicer story than the ones I was telling myself.
Things can be so hard all on their own, that we don’t also need to make our narrative a mean one. Maybe if my mean inner voice that tells me about the bad shit I’ve done was a little more like Miranda Lambert, singing about heartbreak and whiskey and driving all night to Waxahachie, then I would sleep easier. I could just listen and say, man, that was a really silly time, huh?
Serve that stuff to me a little softer, thank you. I deserve a sweet little country song soundtrack for my stories. We all do.