Thursday, June 28, 2018

Everything is Still Awful and I Want to Die But Music Helps a Little

Hello again, friends.

What now seems like a hundred years ago, I wrote a post called Everything is Awful and I Want to Die But Here's a Joke I Heard. A few readers contacted me back then to let me know that it helped make them feel better.

Well, if you're the type of person who thinks like me, everything is still awful. More awful, in fact. But, because I'm a sucker for hope, I thought I'd share something that helped me, at least briefly, feel less shitty about everything.

The other morning, I was driving my kids to camp, and, full disclosure, I was wallowing. I had NPR on the radio, which was reporting story after story that made me want to pull the car over, roll down the window, and barf out onto the streets of northern Baltimore.

My daughters Caroline and Hazel are 8 and 6 years old, respectively, so they have about thirty-seconds worth of tolerance for news, bless their hearts.

"Daddy, can we play Ready for It?" Caroline asked from the back seat. Ready for It, by the way, is the first song on Taylor Swift's latest album, which I have listened to in the car with them no fewer than seven hundred times.

I looked up in the rear view mirror, fully prepared to tell them no and to hush so daddy could continue being horrified. But then I saw that they were smiling. Both of them. They were excited for a day of swimming and playing games with friends. They were young and happy and glowing and shiny. I mean that last part literally. I'd just put enough sunscreen on them to safely protect a herd of adolescent elephants.

So, I said, "OK, yeah. Tay-Tay it is."

I hit an icon on my dashboard that switches over to my phone via Bluetooth or science or ghosts or whatever. When I do this, for reasons I can't explain, it automatically defaults to shuffle and starts playing a random song from my music library. That particular morning, the song was Losing My Religion by R.E.M.

If you're around my age, you've heard this song so many times that you don't really hear it anymore, so I went about the cumbersome task of scrolling around to find Taylor Swift.

"What's this song called?" asked Caroline.

She's a little girl, so she's got a little girl's voice. But on the rare occasion that I have her full attention, that voice sounds more purposeful and focused.

Hazel chimed in, too. "Yeah, Daddy. What is it?"

I told them the name of the song, and then I told them the abbreviated history of R.E.M. and that Losing My Religion is, arguably, their crowning achievement. By the time I was done with all that, the song was over.

"Can you play it again?" asked Caroline.


Caroline and Hazel agreed, Losing My Religion is a great song. And, as I played it again, and then again, I remembered just how great. A small musical masterpiece.

I feel hopeless and sad. For the last year and a half, I've been saying vaguely optimistic things like, "We'll get through this." Maybe that's true, maybe it's not. But, when we got out of the car and walked through the parking lot, I listened to Caroline and Hazel shout in unison: "That's me in the corner! That's me in the spotlight losing my religion!" And, for a few minutes, I set all of that aside and enjoyed the moment.

Thanks for that, girls. And...good luck. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this, I truly enjoyed it. Music and books have been an escape for me in the last few harrowing years. Looking forward to your next book!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. Music has been my refuge for the last few months too and it has been wonderful to disconnect (and rediscover) even for a few minutes. New books help too (hint hint)

  3. Thanks for sharing, but as bad as all the big things are (and they are terrible right now ) your 2 little centers of hope and light shall lead us to better tomorrows. And new books by authors you really like also help! I don't know if anyone has mentioned that.

    1. Thanks, Unknown. And yes, I am also waiting impatiently for a new Jess Walter novel.

  4. Your first book was a recommendation from after my purchase of a few Jonathan Tropper books and it was not a disappointment. I loved it, and was also excited to learn that Richard Russo is a favorite. I'm probably old enough to be your mother, but your writing is so entertaining and you have a touch of an old soul. Thank you for a pleasant couple of afternoons of reading and I'll order your second book right now....

    1. Thanks! Hope you like We're All Damaged, too.

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  6. I read both books a while ago and decided I wanted to reread them. Loved them just as much the second time around. Just wish there were a bunch more.