What Am I Gonna Do (With the Rest of My Life)?

They say that when you’re happy, you enjoy the music, but when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics. On this occasion, they, whoever ‘they’ are, are right.

There’s something really powerful about music and the connection it makes with our innermost beings. For me, nothing comes closer to echoing the cries of my heart than country music. I’m not talking about the modern pop that masquerades as country, but the classic artists, such as Merle Haggard, George Jones and Kris Kristofferson. Perhaps they’re not quite so fashionable as once they were, but as far as I’m concerned, ‘three chords and the truth’ will always resonate with me and never go out of style.

My heart is breaking right now, and nothing articulates my anguish better than my favourite country songs.

Consider some of the lyrics of:

‘What Am I Gonna Do (With the Rest of My Life)?’ By Merle Haggard
I can make it for a day or two without you
And maybe I can make it through the night
I can smoke I can drink and probably be alright until morning
But what am I gonna do with the rest of my life?

‘Looking For a Place to Fall Apart’. By Merle Haggard
Looking for a place to fall apart
Trying to find a place that I can leave my heart
I need to be somewhere hiding when I feel the teardrops start
Looking for a place to fall apart.

‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ By George Jones
He said “I’ll love you till I die”, she told him “You’ll forget in time”
As the years went slowly by, she still preyed upon his mind
He kept her picture on his wall, went half-crazy now and then
He still loved her through it all, hoping she’d come back again
Kept some letters by his bed, dated nineteen sixty-two
He had underlined in red, every single “I love you”
I went to see him just today, oh but I didn’t see no tears
All dressed up to go away, first time I’d seen him smile in years
He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they’ll carry him away
He stopped loving her today.

‘For the Good Times.’ Kris Kristofferson
Don’t look so sad
I know it’s over
But life goes on
And this old world will keep on turning
Let’s just be glad
We had some time to spend together
There’s no need to watch the bridges
That were burning
Lay your head upon my pillow
Hold your warm and tender body
Close to mine
Hear the whisper of the rain drops
Blowing soft against the window
And make believe you love me
One more time
For the good times.

I could go on and on. There are so many of them. And each of them speaks to me like an old friend who knows every single thought, good or bad, and yet still loves me unconditionally.

The music doesn’t make my pain go away. Just now, I don’t believe the aching will ever stop. The best I can hope for is that I will learn to live with it. But what it does do is to remind me that I am not unusual – I am not alone. While I will never have the gift of words and music that these musicians were blessed with, I can share in their interpretation of what it is to be a human at their most fragile. And more than that, the music gives me permission to grieve.

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