Dancing with Tears in My Eyes

“Dancing with tears in my eyes, cause the girl in my arms isn’t you, dancing with somebody new, when it’s you that my arms are calling to. I’m trying to smile, once in a while but I found it wouldn’t do. Dancing with tears in my eyes, cause the girl in my arms isn’t you.”

Trigger warning: depression—or maybe it’s just sadness. I’ve never posted a trigger warning before, but I keep stumbling upon them when I read other people’s blogs, and my posts typically contain all sorts of triggers. I figured this might be a good time to start.


Other Stuff regulars, those of you who have been around for a while, know that I often use a lyric as a jumping-off point for a post. Something happens in my life that reminds me of a song, and that song becomes the soundtrack for my life. It gets lodged in my brain, playing an endless loop, and the only way to set it free is to write it out. Dancing with Tears in My Eyes has been with me all week.

This is an old song… really old. I’m not sure what year it was written, but the writing team, Al Dubin and Joe Burke, died in 1945 and 1950 respectively. The version I’m hearing was recorded by the rock band X.

I call them a rock band, but X is actually a punk band. But by writing that, I worry that you’ve already dismissed the song as so much noise. The song isn’t noise, and it isn’t punk, it’s reminiscent of the ballad-crooners from the 1940s—those guys who originally recorded the song when it was written. It’s a style of song you would expect to play on your Victrola. A song that would only seem more authentic if the playback sounds tinny and thin.

It’s a sappy song. And there’s not much to it lyric-wise. A spurned lover bumming over the one he lost. How did this get stuck in my head?


On Sunday night, going to bed, an uneasy feeling settled into my stomach. Something was wrong. Nothing I could necessarily put my finger on, My weekend was fantastic, but it was over.

On Friday, my kids were off school for Easter. We took a road-trip to Washington, DC. Lunch with my father, an afternoon walking around viewing the cherry blossoms surrounding the national monuments, and dinner at an Afghani joint called Kabob Palace. Being non-Christians, we celebrated Easter, not in a church, but by going for a hike on a sunny fifty-degree day in Cactoctin Mountains Park. My weekend was loaded with what I consider my favorite activities.

But bedtime: I was overwhelmed with sadness. It made me want to cry.

I recently wrote about my prior job, the one I quit after only three months. During that period, I often went to bed with tears in my eyes. I often sat at my desk with tears in my eyes. Taking that job ruined my life; I felt trapped.

And now, Sunday night, for no apparent reason, the feeling was back. That’s when the song started.


Have you listened to the song yet? It’s not very long, and completely unoffensive. If you do, you’ll probably roll your eyes and wonder why I’m making such a big deal about it.

Here’s the story: After X earned some some early success and critical praise, lead singer Exene Cervenka (that’s not a punk name, it’s a Russian name) lost her sister when she was killed by a drunk driver. Eighteen months later, X released the record album Under the Big Black Sun. It was an obvious departure from their early punk sound. Longer, slower introspective songs, at least three of them were directly related to the death of Exene’s sister.

In this context, Dancing with Tears in my Eyes isn’t about a jilted teenager, it’s about a grieving sister. A young woman who’s lost her best friend. Yes, she’s going through the motions of her life, but she’s on the verge of a breakdown.


On Sunday afternoon, out on our hike–a rocky, wooded trail to an interesting rock formation where our kids could scramble and play while Susan and I sat and talked, Susan asked me what I was planning to do with trail running. Two summers ago, I was a running machine. Out every weekend before dawn, knocking out twelve to eighteen mile runs. Last summer, there was none of this: I spent a few months fooling around with some short forty-five minute runs, but I quit when my calf started bothering me.

Now I’m not running at all. This nags at me every day. Each Saturday morning, I plan on a weekend run, and each Sunday night, I recognize that I, once again, skipped my chance. So many things in my life trouble me like this.

Whenever I think about trail running, I grieve. Something I love, a part of my identity, has been lost. When I think that Sophie, one of my three favorite people on earth, will soon graduate from high school and leave home for college, I grieve. When I think about the wine I no longer drink, and the and the friendly, tipsy get-togethers I no longer attend, I grieve.

I reach Sunday night, after a perfect weekend, and I focus on what isn’t perfect in my life. I focus on my regrets and my losses. I don’t need the corrective statements I expect to get in my blog comments. I know already that I’m blessed. I have a steady exercise regime–even without the running. Not only is my daughter one of my best friends, but she’s also college bound, approaching the independence I’ve been instilling in her since she was an infant. I’ve gained control over one of my biggest stressors in my life; I no longer need to track and worry over my alcohol intake; I don’t drink anything anymore.

I’m fully aware that I can switch my perspective. These problems can all be seen as positive. When I go to bed feeling sad, these topics are not foremost in my consciousness. They’re in the background nagging away at my mind, I need to bring them forward and celebrate them. Acknowledge them and turn them around.


Now that I’ve written this topic out, I’m hoping that Dancing with Tears in my Eyes will stop haunting my thoughts. I love the song, but I’ve overdosed on it. I’m sick of it. Last night, as I scanned the internet, refreshing my memories on the circumstances of Exene’s sister’s death, I listened to Under the Big Black Sun. Listening to music is something I rarely do any more–maybe something else to grieve–but last night I heard songs I haven’t really thought about in a decade. Last Sunday’s episode may have been unsettling at the time, but I think it’s left me in a far better place.

10 thoughts on “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes

  1. “Whenever I think about trail running, I grieve. Something I love, a part of my identity, has been lost.” At last, a man who understands that running is a huge part of (my) identity, and the loss of the one is a loss to the other.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Identifying the sources of grief matters, I think, by virtue of reducing confusion. It also begins to create possibilities of “what next”– is there an action I wish to take, or simply move forward as is. No clear answer in my book, although in the mode of rude outsiders, I would suggest a run. Cheers! Good post, Jeff.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This has been an introspective week. I’ve learned a lot. Now just like every other saturday, I’m about to hop on my spin bike. It might help if it warmed up outside. It’s still pretty much late winter weather here.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I listened to the song. Wow it was really different and the backround info made it even more interesting.

    I totally understand the grieving you’re talking about. I don’t think you’re ungrateful or that you lack perspective at all. It all makes perfect sense!

    I grieve for the fact that my 16 year old is about to forget what childhood innocence feels like. I grieve for knowing that my 10 year old will never want to sit on my lap again. I grieve that my aging hands won’t allow me to play drums for more than a few songs so that part of my identity is fading.

    I will admit the post is a bit triggering. But we all need to stop and check on these realities at times. At least I know I do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think that for those of us old enough to have some regrets, this sort of introspection can be triggering. I know that things go in cycles and 2 years from now I may be marathoning again. Right now, I’m trying to be happy with what I’ve got.


  4. Thank you for sharing such an honest post! I get a few lyrics of a song stuck on repeat in my head all the time. I have to play the song, read the lyrics, basically immerse myself in the song to get it to leave.
    We can’t be “🎶shinny happy people🎶” all the time. It’s false. Acknowledging losses is equally as important as recognizing blessings. My opinion anyway, for what it’s worth 😜

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The thing about depression and specifically grief, whether it be for a person, a relationship, an idea, or for a part of yourself that you feel you’ve lost, is that it’s not a tidy bell curve. You don’t feel ok, feel awful for a period, and then “come out the other side” as the cliché goes. It has sharp, sudden, unexpected crescendos in a year, five years from now. It’s the price of loving someone or something that it’s loss is acutely felt, yes?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think you’ve got it. I expect a raucous rollercoaster over the next few years as my kids break their childhood ties with us. Also, the aging process (which I’m having a harder time denying is happening) is causing loss as well. This would be a good time to take up drinking.

      Liked by 1 person

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