The Thing About Country Music

Country music wasn’t always popular. My Grandma listened to Alabama, Johnny Cash and the Everly Brothers. She’d tap her foot and pat her heart when Johnny would hit those low notes. Then she’d sigh.

That’s the thing about Country music, I mean the ‘real’ country, the country from the heart. There is something that hits the core when lyrics of truth are fused with harmonies and toe tappin’ rhythms. It ain’t all sad. In reality, country music is hopeful.

I like Tim McGraw’s recent release of “Humble and Kind”. It’s core to me. Core is simple truth, there’s nothing super deep about it, and yet it’s as deep in consciousness as it can go.

Just the other day I spoke on the phone with a customer service rep who was clearly over-worked and over-tired and beyond any ability to listen to what I was saying. Reading the script was about all she seemed to have left. But I couldn’t hear that either. The inner frustration of dealing with just another ‘customer service rep’, as if that is a thing and not a person, bubbled up inside me.

It wasn’t her fault the first bill I received from her company included late fees and interest charges because the whole transition from the old company to the new was convoluted and bizarre. And the company clearly gave her a script saying to just give those folks ten bucks back and they’ll be satisfied. That’s ten bucks off $30.00 plus in fees no one wants to pay.

I suspect most folks guffawed at this clear effort to make some cash. I’m sorry for my poor behavior in this, my lack of compassion, my forgetting people on the other end of any line of communication are human. After hearing her pat answer for the third time, I cursed. Not the worse curse we know, but a curse nonetheless, and her script that “We don’t need to go there,” kicked in.

I’m glad that script was there. It’s true. It’s not her fault. I could have asked for a supervisor, but I was boiling after a 30 plus minute hold and a script that didn’t go nearly far enough. I apologized and told her I felt what I was saying was simply not being heard. That the situation does not reflect who I am — I like to pay my bills on time.

She offered a bit more of a refund. It was a utility company, there’s not much negotiating room there. I could have asked for a supervisor, but instead contacted my village, who has far more clout than I, as an individual, and perhaps more diplomacy as well. And that is what I could have done without a single curse word.

But my feelings were as core as Country music, as real as real can be. So was the apology, and so were the woman’s on the other end of the phone — her feelings were as real as mine.

Chronic pain leaves me never quite sleeping right. No matter what day you catch me, I’m fatigued. It’s the way it is. I get frustrated how often I am reminded of this in my actions and behaviors. Often I see it on my own, but sometimes I need someone to point it out — even a script works when fatigue is acting out and I don’t even see it!

At first I feel ashamed. Shame isn’t a bad feeling, as long as it passes. The best way I know to let it pass is to change, as quickly as possible, to better behavior; to apologize; to be aware that this is a part of my life today…a part over which I have some, but not total control. I can do my best.

I’m not a bitch or anything. Most folks I know think I’m a bit on the ‘too nice’ side. But I bite, just like everyone else, and I really don’t know anyone who enjoys it anymore than I do. I know, there are sociopaths, but most of us regret lashing out.

So let’s pause a moment and realize something…I’m not sure I know anyone who never lashes out.

Some folks have ceremonies or religious functions they can use to forgive themselves. Others don’t, but it doesn’t change the reality we all bite from time to time. So, for all those who have never forgiven themselves, who keep all those incidents neatly packaged so the the next time it happens they can feel completely horrible, (you know who you are), can we just take a minute right here and right now to validate you?

Repeat aloud to yourself: “Right now I am ‘human’, just like everyone around me and just like anyone who reads this post. It is all I am supposed to be. ‘Perfection’ is the goal, so I let perfection go and spiritually hug myself, forgiving past mistakes.”

Some of our past mistakes might be big. A simple affirmation might not be enough to free them. It helps me to look at them. Sometimes it can seem scary to look at, but I try to understand where my behavior came from.

It might be habitual, might be fatigue, whatever it is, it helps me to look at it. And if you’ve never tried this, go ahead, it’s okay to look back. Take a look, you can journal on it, write a list, make a grid, whatever works best for you. Write down what happened, what you felt and then think if there was a reason.

I had come, at one point, to despise customer service reps. That’s what bubbles up when I’m fatigued. I know it is there, and that ‘knowing’ often helps me to remember they are not things, but human beings, doing a job which causes them to interact with enough hostile people already — I don’t need to add to their pile. And because they are human, we can talk, and be civil, and they may not be able to solve “all” my problems and issues, but I can escalate to the next human and so on and so on until I am done or satisfied or both.

So when this happened the other day, knowing what I know, I was able to tone it down when the representative pointed it out to me, not just escalate it further until she would have had every right to just hang up on me.

That is the benefit of looking at these things. If looking at them gets overwhelming (meaning it creates too many painful feelings), put it down for a bit, give yourself time to recover.

We’re not just talking about how we treat phone calls or customer service reps. We’ll find many other things, and some might be painful — especially those that involve the people closest to us. So it’s okay to take a break, take time to recover, and come back and see the human-ness in it, and the opportunity for change.

After we find the reason, we look for where can change, what we can do different. It’s so key for me. Playing it out in my head how it might have been different, without beating myself up. Just giving it a mental ‘re-do’. It’s a form of mindfulness, of practice, to help find balance. It’s worthwhile for me to do several scenarios in my head. I don’t want to give way where it is not appropriate, I don’t want people walking all over me, but I don’t want to be unreasonable either.

Great athletes play out their performances in their mind over and over and over before they take to the field in real life. So can we! Doing so is no guarantee of perfection, (giggles), but, it improves the odds we perform well — research shows this. So there is a benefit, but a reality too — we just aren’t gonna be perfect.

Imperfection causes many of us pain. Or we might think our imperfection causes others great pain (which might be true). So once we have a good look at things, we can decide if apologies are in order. I know some folks who think you can’t apologize unless you are set on never doing the behavior ever again. That’s a goal of perfection.

I don’t promise perfection anymore. I try to let the person know I should not have treated them the way I did, or that I didn’t want to treat them that way. If it is someone I love, I tell them so, right there and then. “I love you, I don’t like treating you the way I did,” or “I love you, I wish I hadn’t said what I said, it doesn’t reflect how I really feel.”

For the customer service rep, I told her she was right, I shouldn’t have gone there. I didn’t feel heard. At that point we both took another effort at communicating, and I felt she changed too. That is the power of acknowledgement and ownership.

Finally, when I am done, I try to remember I still have found everything I’ve ever done.  As I said earlier, there are times I totally miss what is happening with me. I am overwhelmed. If someone points it out, it’s a gift, especially when I can hear them tell me. Sometimes, I see it later down the road. It’s never really too late to take ownership, to let someone know you see now what you did then, and wish it had been different, that you love them.

They may not feel similarly, but this exercise isn’t for them. It’s for me, to try to help me be better going forward. Not everyone will forgive my past, but I hope they can, because it is freeing for them as much as it is for me, and, in some cases, I wish they were in my life today, a part of it, instead of apart from it.

And what does all this have to do with Country music? Well, cause I think we could write a wonderful Country song after any such effort:

  1. Something happened, it created strong feelings
  2. I love you
  3. I wanted something different, this is what I could have done, so you’d know…
  4. REFRAIN: I love you.
  5. I’m not perfect. Here is how I want to do it next time, so you know…
  6. REFRAIN: I love you.
  7. I love you so…

It’s a great Country song! You don’t need all those parts, “Humble and Kind” is more like practice, the mental work before stanzas 1-4 above. It includes words that are a little scary for me, though, like “always”. I probably won’t ‘always’ be humble and kind. I’m human, but I want to do better at it, I want to continuing improving.

So write some Country music. It might start out sad, but see it through, add some harmony and a bit of rhythm and you are set!

Peace to all of you. I know I am not writing as much. You all know my situation. I would like to write for you more. I love you all. Like many of you, I need to write as I can, take care of my body and mind as I can. Thank you for understanding.

P.S. – I love you Grammy. I love you Mom. I miss you both so much. Happy New Year! I know you’re both working hard up there. Thank you for all you do.

She will rise like the phoenix –
Perhaps to her surprise –
To love, care and warm
Wherever her soul should stride.
— “She Rests”

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