The country music singer Jimmy Wayne made me cry. He was the final speaker at my company's annual conference. That day is usually a "light" day. All of my responsibilities are over. I am just an attendee at this point. We have breakfast, our customers vote on their choice for next year's venue, and we have one last speaker. Last year it was Bob Eubanks, former host of the Newlywed Game. The year before it was a man (can't remember his name) that was very funny. Based on past history, I wasn't prepared. And actually you have to go back a couple of days to see where the problems began.
We were in a bar. I don't normally go to bars because as a teetotaler, it really isn't somewhere you want to hang out. Having adults pressure you to drink when you don't gets old. Just because I don't drink alcohol and act stupid doesn't mean I am not having a good time. All of our employees and most of our customers are at the Wild Horse Saloon. Two of my colleagues come hand me a camera and ask me to take photos for a while because they are going across the street. Later they reappear with plastic syringes. Jello shot skeletons. When it is getting near time for the last bus to the hotel to come, they are not back, so I go across the street to find them. They aren't going back and they beg me to stay with them. Maybe they didn't beg, they might have called me a baby. Whatever the case, I agreed to stay and walk back with them later.
So we leave that bar and go to BB Kings down the street. Some customers are with us and I am the only completely sober person in the group. Some people are so wasted I am pretty sure they don't know where they are. I am very concerned when one woman stands up certain she is going to hit the floor every time. At one point the bartender looked over at me and was giving me a sign that I interpreted as "she is cut off" and I made a sign I hoped he would interpret as "bring me the bill". I pay the tab and we convince everyone to go outside. My colleagues want to continue to one more bar where the owners of our company are rumored to be. We put the drunks that can't make the walk down there in a cab to the hotel and head out.
This bar - I don't even remember the same - is LOUD and very crowded. You are having close personal contact with anyone in your general vicinity. Except for me because I step inside the door and plant myself right there, conveniently next to my boss. The rest of the group disappears into the crowd. The music is so loud I cannot hear my boss even though he is yelling in my ear. I can feel my spleen vibrating in my body. And suddenly I feel like I might cry. So much so that I step outside for a moment to get ahold of myself.
I go back in and find the two ladies I started out with to tell them I am leaving. They have just ordered a drink and say they will come with me when they are done. I go back to my position by the door. The feeling that I might burst into tears persists. Fortunately I manage to hold it down and when they come out we, along with our boss, get in a cab to the hotel. When I got to my hotel room I had it under control but all the next day it is right there on the surface. Waiting for a chance.
Fortunately, the next night I am off the hook for bar hopping as I had been asked to go to the Ryman and agreed.
We are way up here but it isn't that big to start with. And let me say that Larry Gatlin is funny. He is the host of the show and he is good at his job. And the Gatlins sound exactly the same as they did 20 years ago. They came out and started Houston and I couldn't believe how good they sounded. The seats are church pews and our little group is getting pretty cozy so when no one sat behind us, two of us moved back.
I really enjoyed that show. One of the people I was with later said, "I only knew 2 songs". I only didn't know 2 songs. And as it turned out he didn't know 2 because when he started talking about the "Johnny Cash song" that no one sang, he had to take his number to 1.
The next morning, me and about 200 other people present ourselves in the ballroom where Jimmy Wayne is getting ready to do his thing. He starts by singing the Hall & Oates song Sara Smile with just his guitar. Good. Safe. Then he starts to talk. Jimmy Wayne also wrote a book called Walk to Beautiful about his horrific childhood and later walking from Nashville to Phoenix to bring attention to kids aging out of the Foster Care system. While he is talking about his drug addict mom, abusive grandfather and step father, not having any food when school let out on Friday until they went back on Monday, I start to feel a lump in my throat.
Normally this kind of thing wouldn't get to me. But as I get older I am finding my ability to control my emotions, sadness/tears in particular, is leaving as quickly my natural hair color. And as I told my boss later, this story was a little too close to home. If I had known what he was going to talk about I might have been okay. Most of you that know me personally know why this is. Those of you that don't, suffice it to say there is a child I wanted to spend time with and to do that, I had to go to a Child Protective Services office and be drug tested. The child was under a protective order and without proof that I was drug-free, I couldn't be with that child unsupervised. So I drove to their offices on a Friday and sat in a chair in the waiting room looking at the public service posters on the wall, the rug that was twisted that I wanted to get up and fix, the Lego table that was woefully lacking in Legos.
When I first arrived I was the only person there. As people came in and sat down, I believed they were thinking what I was thinking...why are YOU here? I was called back and sat across the desk from a woman who handed me what kind of looks like a square white lollipop. You have to scrub it around in your mouth while she watches. Behind your teeth, under your tongue, in front of your teeth, the roof of your mouth. Scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing. While I sit and scrub I am angry. I am angry that I have to be here at all. Angry about so many things that haven't been let go of. Some that still haven't.
And Jimmy Wayne just keeps on talking. I am trying not to look at him. I look everywhere else telling myself to SUCK IT UP. DON'T YOU DARE CRY IN FRONT OF ALL OF THESE PEOPLE. Some of these people have known me as long as I have worked at my company, others for less and some not at all. The man sitting next to me is a new customer that I will be working with and this week was the first time we have ever met or talked. I do NOT want to cry in front of him. But 2 days of holding it in start to be too much and it comes. At first, just a few tears here and there and I try to be all subtle in wiping them. But Jimmy Wayne will not shut up and soon the tears are flowing and I am very concerned that I am going to make a noise. Progress to a sob. Thankfully he finished and I was determined to get the hell out of there as fast as I could.
I am on the third row. As I am trying to escape up the far aisle a customer stops me to get a hug and I am about to completely lose it. I do the fastest hug I can and race for the back. There is a little alcove where I am going to try and hide because there is no way to get out of the room without being stopped a lot. A woman that I don't know finds me and says, "I am glad I am not the only one he did that too." Great. I am working hard to get it together when one of my friends comes to talk to me and I had to say, "Nope" and walk away. Not ready yet.
Later, I think I am okay and I am in the lobby with the lady that hugged me. Jimmy Wayne walks into the lobby and they are trying to talk me into taking a picture with him. ARE YOU INSANE? No way. I don't even want to look in his direction. As soon as they start talking I can feel it right there on the surface again. Fortunately it is time for me to go. I have to go to the airport to pick up a rental car as 4 of us are staying the night but we have to change to a different hotel.
Later that night, me and my 3 girls have plans to do the General Jackson Showboat tour. We head over a little early and they have drinks at TGI Friday across the way at the Opryland Mall. I don't need to drink, I already feel wasted.
L-R: Marie, Kawiana, Marci, Me
These ladies know me well and keep telling me it was no big deal. Makes me more human. But they don't know what happens yet when I get really tired. They are about to.
When I am tired, I laugh and I can't stop. To the point of tears and stomachache I will keep laughing and I very literally cannot stop. Over the dumbest things. So I thought I was done crying but I wasn't. But now, the tears are from laughter. If my family had been there they would have been embarrassed and/or making fun of me. They say I laugh like Mutley the dog. For those of you who don't know who Mutley is he was Dick Dasterdly's dog on the Wacky Racers. Here's a link to YouTube in case you need and audio reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uSTOHa4Im4
For example, how did Kawiana manage to eat only the crust from the cheesecake but keep it correctly oriented on the plate? I don't know but I find this hysterical. Like Marie's ponytail. Or the fact that the half-drunk lady next to Kawiana asked her a really stupid question and we had to tell Kawiana to control her face. Or the big blonde girl in the show that was overselling everything.
So in one day I have run the gamut of emotions from sadness and anger (the most likely reason I will cry) to uncontrollable laughter. I need a vacation. These three ladies leave the next morning but I am staying for 3 more days with this lady:
Me and my cousin Dawn. Can you tell we share a little genetic material?
Dawn and I have always been close and we don't see each other enough so this is just what the doctor ordered. We have plans to go to the Grand Ole Opry that night to see Ricky Skaggs and several other acts. I didn't enjoy this show as much as the Ryman to be truthful. There are four 30 minute segments and a different person hosts each part. None are as good as Larry Gatlin was. Some of the acts I have heard of and some I have not. But, as anyone who has ever gone to the Opry knows, they sometimes deviate from the published schedule. So when the 2nd host announced Jimmy Wayne, I wanted to get up and leave. HE IS NOT IN THE PROGRAM! I AM NOT READY!
First song, we are all good. Do You Believe Me Now is about a girl leaving him for another man and how he had predicted that very thing. Very nice job (I have downloaded his music since retuning home) But then. Oh no. No No NO NONONONO! The second song is about a little boy that just wants his dad to love him. And he stretches his arms out and says, "I love you this much". HOLY COW. I have to avert my eyes. He is getting to me again. I won't tell you how it ends, you can find it on iTunes, that is the title of the song. Now I am crying in front of the entire Grand Ole Opry. Thanks Jimmy Wayne.
When my girls were teenagers and you didn't know what mood they would be in for 5 minutes at a time, they would watch movies that would make them cry on purpose. Our oldest especially. She wouldn't take a shower for the whole weekend and would be all ripe in her bathrobe and say, "I'm going to go cry". Rent did it every time. Or The Notebook. Or any of 100 others we had on hand. Maybe she was on to something.
Maybe the answer all along was to let go and have the cry. That's what I should have done that first night. Or maybe you are thinking, seriously lady, maybe you need pharmaceutical intervention. Already done. Sometimes it isn't enough. The problem is that I have spent so many years of my life trying not to cry that it is hard to give that up. I could be home alone and I would still avoid it. Maybe the answer for me isn't the cry. Maybe the answer for me is sleep deprivation so instead of unhappy tears I will cry from laughter at something random and ridiculous. It may not make me more human to others but you know what they say...
Laughter is the best medicine.