Stuff I’m Into Lately: Songs to Cry At

Today’s ridiculous moment:

Driving on the highway, behind a pickup truck with an NL sticker, next to a work van with a terrier mutt hanging out the window biting the wind, tears running down my face because I’m listening to “She Used to be Mine” for the third time on repeat.

There are lot of songs that I know, and listen to, and even like partly because they make me cry. One sure-fire tear-jerker was always “The Christians and the Pagans,” by Dar Williams. The live acoustic version was given to me on a mix-CD ten years ago, and even though I knew it was coming, every time I listened to that CD, I couldn’t get past “Where does magic come from? I think magic’s in the learning, ’cause now when Christians sit with Pagans, only pumpkin pies are burning,” without water actually running down my face. (update: okay, still can’t)



There’s a part of the Disney song “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” (from Hercules) that has this effect, though less reliably. When the muses sing “Girl, don’t be proud, it’s okay, you’re in love,” I occasionally lose a little of it.

“And So it Goes” used to do it, although I may have worn its power thinner in time.

There have been other times where a very specific combination of a song and situation would draw tears, but those aren’t on the list as reliable-hitters. I do remember a moment being homesick in Japan, and “Party in the USA” actually did it to me, which made it possibly the least likely tear-up song to ever make me tear up.

I only recently discovered this latest for the short list, from the musical Waitress with songs by Sara Bareilles, when I attended a talent show at the school where I sub. I sat there listening to the lyrics thinking, oh shit.


This song hits me like a bag of hammers every damn time, and the reasons are multi, yet fairly simple. I react that way to most anything that hits too close to home.

The overall theme of not recognizing yourself is hauntingly real to me from my time teaching. I can strongly identify with the line “this place and its patrons have taken more than I gave them,” although of course she is a waitress, and I was a teacher.

I have recently said that I feel more like myself, and I do. I’ve been turning back into something more recognizable, although I am not entirely the person I recall, I feel more like her, much more like her, than I was or could be last year or the year before.

It’s not simple to say
that most days I don’t recognize me.
These shoes and this apron,
that place and its patrons
have taken more than I gave them.

It’s not easy to know I’m not anything
like I used to be oh,
it’s true I was never
attention’s sweet center,
but I still remember that girl…

She’s imperfect, but she tries. She is good, but she lies. She is hard on herself. She is broken and won’t ask for help.

(At this point, I’m a guaranteed mess, because I identify very strongly with all of those statements.)

She is messy, but she’s kind. She is lonely most of the time, she is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie. She is gone, but she used to be mine.

Actually, I identify with most of the lyrics of this song, despite having never been a pregnant waitress in a bad marriage.

When I first heard the song, I didn’t know that background bit, and so I didn’t realize that the “you” she refers to, and the “life that’s inside her” are a baby; I thought she was just talking to herself.

So this is a song I’m really into lately, that has never yet failed to make me cry.


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One Response to Stuff I’m Into Lately: Songs to Cry At

  1. Just an update, also Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” is a tearjerker too!

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