Oh, For the Love of Dolly

My love for Dolly Parton knows no bounds. If you don’t know this about me, now you do. Take from that what you will. Which is why, when in Nashville, Tennessee, a place I find myself a couple times a year, I’m always on the lookout for Dolly. I’ve never ran across her, not in Nashville, not in Southern Missouri, not in Sevierville, not even in concert. But I’m always on the lookout to learn more about her, to emulate her caring, compassionate nature, and to understand what makes this woman, who doesn’t call herself a feminist, but is a feminist by all accounts, tick. So when my husband stumbled across the podcast “Dolly Parton’s America” and asked me if I’d listened to it yet, I was shocked that I didn’t even know it existed. Am I slipping off my Dolly train, I wondered, as I went back “through the years, wondering once again, back to the seasons of my youth…” No, I’m just not up to speed on a lot of podcasts.

Turns out “Dolly Parton’s America” is badass, just like Dolly.

Turns out “Dolly Parton’s America” is truthful, and honest, and raw. Just like Dolly.

Turns out “Dolly Parton’s America” is exactly what I needed in my life right now.

I learned a lot of new things about Dolly, but the most important thing I learned was that Dolly hasn’t always been the Dolly we see now. The Dolly of my childhood. The Dolly fighting for equality. The woman writing hundreds of songs about love and faith. In fact, Dolly was dark for sometime, in a bad place, and that led me down a rabbit-hole of Old Dolly, and now I’m more in love with her than ever before. Here, have a listen.

What though, Dolly?!

“My body aches the time is here it’s lonely in this place where I’m lying / Our baby has been born, but something’s wrong, it’s too still, I hear no crying / I guess in some strange way she knew she’d never have a father’s arms to hold her / So dying was her way of tellin’ me he wasn’t coming down from Dover…”

Oh, it gets worse than an illegitimate, still-born baby, y’all. Much worse.

Christ Missy, why you ruining our lives with this shit today? Okay, fair question. It would seem that Dolly, as happy, and as lovely, and as beautiful and talented as she is, had some hard times. Real hard times, y’all. Writing suicide notes, hard times, y’all. In fact, she said something on the podcast that stung pretty hard, because I myself have thought that exact same thing. I’m paraphrasing here, but it went something like this:

“I don’t think I wanted to kill myself. But I’d come to the point that I understood why people do it. I understood how a person can get to that point in their lives to think that this is the best solution.”

That’s a tough thing to admit. That’s a tough thing to admit to anyone. In fact, up until today I had only admitted that to my husband, but after hearing Dolly admit it on a podcast, I realized that I’m probably not the only person who understands that feeling. And that makes sharing her story, sharing my story, more urgent.

I’m not suicidal. Let me get that out of the way now. I’m doing pretty well right now, in fact. But I have been. I’ve been “wondering if I can remember the code to the gun safe” suicidal. That particular bout was brought on by a new medication I’d been put on the week I lost my daughter, and my doctors straightened it out pretty quickly. But only because I told my husband. Only because I talked about it.

And isn’t that the hard part? The talking about it.

I’m more in debt to Dolly today than I have ever felt before, because she had the courage to talk about something that a little, backwoods, girl from Tennessee should have been taught not to talk about. And I’m more conscious of the people out there who have taken their lives. And their family members. People I have known and people that I love, who are dealing with the world after losing their loved ones. I wish I could reach out and hug you all. Please know that I think about you and your loved ones who reached that point in their lives. I think about you and them. And I make an extra appointment with my therapist. Or I talk to my husband about how I’m feeling. Or I blog about Dolly Parton. And suicide prevention. Because we all have to start somewhere. And we all have to do something to make people feel a little more in control.

Listen to some Dolly today, y’all. One of those songs with a good beat and a little heart. Like my favorite from my childhood, which was maybe, sort of, absolutely the first time I ever heard the name Jackson, and decided I’d name my first son after him. Told ya I love Dolly…

Love to you all.

Be kind to one another, and yourself.

M.