Just like Johnny Cash

My kids have been away this weekend, so I’ve been productive in my solitude. Work, rest, sunshine by Orchard Lake,¬†exercise, friends, family. And yes, I’ve watched a little TV.

Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash movie with Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix, has been running again and again on FX and though I saw it in the theater and fell in love with Johnny Cash’s music then, I can’t help but catch snippets of it when it’s no TV. I’m a sucker for a good love story.

Especially one that seems so ill-fated. So many women are attracted to the bad boys. Motorcycle riders, brooding men, lone rangers who live large but remain hard to figure out. Lord knows, I’ve yearned for my share of bad boys. What is it about this existential profile that’s a surefire attraction?

There are probably more “nice guys” in this world than grumbling, hard-to-reach Romeos. And logic would propel any sane woman toward stable, kind, and soft-spoken men. Men who are available, emotionally, physically, and practically.

Lately, I’ve been talking to friends about their oops moments – and it stuns me that nearly all of my friends have at least one. I won’t go into details but you know what I’m talking about. Relationships they’ve gotten into that they knew they shouldn’t have but just couldn’t help themselves.

Commentary on Johnny Cash’s song, “Walk the Line,” points to the lyrics as an expression of his lifelong attempt to try to please everyone – but himself. His first wife and their daughters. His heart’s desire, June Carter. His Gospel-singing mother. His ever-disapproving father. His brother Jack who died tragically young. His record company. His fans.

The story of Johnny Cash is legendary – an incredibly generous and talented man who was plagued by demons and self-doubt, he turned to drugs and alcohol to allay the voices in his head and nearly ruined his life. What saved him was the love of a good woman.

I grew up on chick-flick movies where beautiful people fell in love and through conflict and crisis, ended up happily, together. I live in an affluent enough society that it affords me the time to ponder the whys of my life.

Maybe my marriage didn’t succeed because my vision of relationships was too skewed by what I’ve seen in movies. Or maybe it was because when I found Avy, I wasn’t as confident as June Carter up there on that stage, singing her heart out and walking away from Johnny Cash when he was in his worst spiral, even though her heart was forever tied to his.

Or maybe my marriage didn’t work because we never had that can’t-live-without-you love that the Cashes had. When June died, Johnny knelt beside her coffin and whispered, “God please take me now.” He died six months later – of a broken heart, I surmise.

Still, I’ve never come up with a good answer to the question about the nice guy vs. the bad boy. Who wins, ultimately? And who is the preferred lasting love? Is it better to hold out for that vision of love skirting the perimeter of intellect? Or is it a wise woman who stays the course, walks the line, if you will, a perversion on what I believe Johnny Cash intended with his words?

If you’ve got answers, send ’em my way. Gotta go listen to my music.


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