“Well I lay my head on the railroad track
Waiting on the Double E
But the train don’t run by here no more
Poor poor pitiful me” – Written by Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon wrote and recorded “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” in 1976 on his self-titled album produced by Jackson Browne. It is surmised that he wrote it, making friendly fun of his producer Browne’s own writing such as “Here Come Those Tears Again” and “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate.” Linda Ronstadt released it as a single in 1978 where it reached number 31 on the Billboard charts. Terri Clark released her version in 1996 where it hit number one on the Canadian radio charts and number 5 on American Country charts.
“Poor Poor Pitiful Me” was the very first song that popped into my head as I started thinking about this column installment. I wanted to write a confession of sorts regarding how poorly I deal with disappointment. I suppose we all have those feelings when we perceive we have been passed over or rejected. I really struggle with those feelings internally quite often and I am hoping that writing about it will somehow be cathartic. So, here goes nothing…
You know sometimes it seems I love to wallow in self pity. Why didn’t I get accepted to a festival when all my friends did? Why won’t this concert venue give me a shot? Why isn’t radio playing my new record as much as I think they should? I really don’t like myself very well when I have those kinds of thoughts.
This is a difficult column to write because it is true. Perhaps too true. It is a truth I don’t really feel comfortable letting go of. In fact, it is quite embarrassing. But, in the last couple of columns I have focused on writing songs that are based on the truth. So, I figured I need to practice what I preach in all my writing.
Yes, I am almost 70 years old and yes I have been writing songs since I was 14. I have won numerous songwriting contests and have gotten glowing reviews for my records, played many of my bucket list venues and yet I am still pushing to get better and have my music become more popular. All that is probably normal. The embarrassing part is that after all these years I still get the “poor me’s” when things don’t work out like I think they should. You’d think I would have out grown that kind of reaction by now. I can be such a baby!
This isn’t some few minutes of disappointment. It is a multi-day funk of self doubt I often fall into. With accompanying thoughts such as: I should just quit, I’m not good enough, I am too old and why do I waste my time doing this. These are dangerous counter productive thoughts and I know it. Yet, I follow each and every one down the rabbit hole to a dark place where I can live for days.
I know in reality, I should look at rejection logically and rationally but instead I take it personally. I know and appreciate that I can’t be accepted to everything I apply for and that others certainly deserve their successes.
The reality of the situation is that no artist is everyone’s cup of tea. Every event and venue has folks who dig though the submissions and have to make the decision of who to choose and who to reject. They make their selections based on their own personal likes and dislikes. I have been there myself and it is a difficult but necessary and often thankless job.
There are literally hundreds of artists in every genre and sub-genre of music vying for every slot in every festival, venue and performance opportunity. I know this intellectually. But I still have a problem with rejection and take it personally far too often.
How can I fix this? How can I turn my negative reaction into something more positive? I have tried many things. I always congratulate my friends who are accepted to my most desired event slots. My comments are honestly felt and sincerely given. I am truly happy when others have their successes even when their success is instead of my own. But that doesn’t change my internal reaction to my own perceived rejection.
I continually tell myself that am not working hard enough or that my art no longer has a place in the music world. I intellectually know those things to be untrue yet continue to beat myself up about these perceived failures. So, instead of offering suggestions and encouragement in this column as I normally do, I am asking for suggestions on how to stop this ridiculous flow of negative internal torment.
It is difficult to ask for advice. At least, it is for this set in his ways, proudly (yet falsely) self reliant songwriter. It seems that I struggle with these feelings more each day and I am ready for it to stop.
I want to thank everyone who has read my past columns and that will hopefully read this one. I sincerely would like any productive comment on how to deal with perceived rejection in a more positive way. Let me know how you deal with the “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” response. I sincerely want to handle rejection better. Thanks!
Randy Lewis Brown may be a over-the-hill, baby boomer, curmudgeon who is also an award-winning Northeast Texas-based singer-songwriter and self-proclaimed “performing philosopher”. Despite his years, and an early bedtime, he remains stedfast in attempting to decipher the intersection of spirit, faith, science and the human condition. Always trying to maintain a sense of wonder and whimsy in his occasionally clever folk-Americana songs and stories. He still can’t believe he responds so childishly at every little perceived rejection. How infantile!