Things That Comfort Me When Every Fucking Thing Goes Wrong: John Prine.

John Prine

Things tend to go wrong. This is the first in a series of blog posts about the things that I think about during those moments when the wrong things happen.

I remember the very first time that everything went wrong for me. I think I was in first or second grade. My family was up in Pennsylvania at Sesame Place, a Sesame Street-themed water park. My dad and sister and I were going down a water slide. I went down first, and waited for them to come down after me. But they never came. So I waited and waited, and then I got upset, and then first-or-second grade me started to cry, and then I got hysterical, and then I started to think I’d lost my family forever, and then dad found me and everything was fine. The whole scene — from me thinking my family had abandoned me to me finding my dad, going back on a water slide and completely forgetting about it — took five or 10 minutes in real time, and several hours in elementary school time. In the moment, it was terribly scarring, and it seemed to take forever to find my dad, and then I was over it before I’d even gotten all the way down the next slide.

Since then, I’ve been through more a few more situations where Every. Fucking. Thing went wrong. There was the time I almost got deported by the Chinese. The time I did a mile-long sprint through Houston Intercontinental in sandals. The time my mother nearly dropped the Torah during my Bar Mitzvah.

You get the idea.

But not everything is a full-on disaster. What I’m learning is, when everything goes wrong, it’s usually never as terrible as it seems in the moment. I’m learning how to put things into perspective.

This one song by John Prine helps. It’s one of my favorites, called, “That’s The Way The World Goes Round.” And the chorus goes:

That’s the way that the world goes ’round
You’re up one day and the next you’re down
It’s half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown
That’s the way that the world goes ’round

It’s that third line that I love the most: “It’s half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown.” Isn’t it almost always? I find that the worst mistakes, the biggest fuck-ups… well, they’re really not that bad at all.

It’s just that in the moment, every other thing in my mind gets blocked out, and all I can think of is how everything is going wrong. I lose all perspective.

And then I remind myself that it’s just a half an inch of water, and the moment tends to pass.