My Way

July 3, 2010

My Way

My Way

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of happy destiny”…

How are you at asking for help? When it’s offered, how are you at receiving it?

Yesterday was a stressful day, and I didn’t feel like asking for help from anyone or anything. As I surveyed the aftermath of my “compulsive self-reliance,” the results were plain: everything was a mess.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was in pain. The house looked like it had been turned sideways and shaken. I had a spiritual awakening. I thought to myself, “Maybe I should ask for help.

As I went about straightening up (with one arm in a sling) I found myself singing the song “My Way.” It’s a deliciously perverse song, and it got me to thinking, “Who the hell came up with this song — and how well did their way turn out for them?”

Being a perfect way to distract myself from my To-Do List, I turned to a reliable source for compulsive procrastinators: Wikipedia.

It turns out My Way was written by Paul Anka. Paul’s life turned out okay, if you don’t count divorces and lawsuits. Apparently these come with the Famous Singer package. But Paul wrote it for Frank Sinatra, after Frank told Paul he was miserable and wanted to get out of show business.

Frank did it His Way, all right: a long and successful career. He also had three divorces and a life overshadowed with untreated depression and mood disorders that plagued him—and gave him a reputation as a very difficult person—up until his death.

Dorothy Squires, a Welsh singer who grew up in carnival caravans, recorded My Way. It was a huge hit in the UK. She divorced English “James Bond” actor Roger Moore, was convicted for drunk driving, and went on one of the most remarkable litigious benders in British history: 30 legal cases in 15 years. She sued newspapers and other performers. She was charged with bribing a radio station producer to induce him to play her records, and with assault on a taxi driver who tried to throw her out of his cab. All done, one presumes, “Her Way.”

Elvis Presley then recorded My Way (a poignant fact in that he ignored Anka’s advice that the song and Elvis were not a good match). He sang it publicly at what turned out to be his final concert. He went home and died from a drug overdose. The song was released and went on to be a posthumous hit.

Next came Sid Vicious, notorious bassist for the punk band The Sex Pistols. Sid did a punk rock version of My Way. He was then arrested for murdering his girlfriend Nancy in the Chelsea Hotel in New York. Sid attempted suicide in jail and got clean, but several months later after being released on bail, his mother arranged to have some heroin delivered to a party celebrating his return. To show she cared, one would would presume. Sid overdosed and died on the spot.

Much as it’s a catchy tune, I’d have to say “so much for My Way.” *

What is this, the burning desire to do things My Way, in spite of the evidence that My Way simply, plainly, obviously—and often dramatically—does not work?

Is it pride of authorship? The leftovers of damaged trust from childhood? A legacy of Depression-era morality? The burden of cultural stereotypes of “being a man,” of being unique and self-contained?

For my purposes, I’m not sure it matters. However I’m driven to recognize unmanageability, and to admit that I can’t change myself or my life for the better without help, it’s the start, and I’m getting there.

Happy trails!


* PS. Englebert Humperdinck, William Shatner, Tom Jones and Luciana Pavarotti and a host of less remarkable performers also recorded My Way to no particular acclaim. Their lives seemed to have turned out okay. Apparently recording this song with no one noticing doesn’t bear any ill effects. So I’d say it’s safe to sing it, just don’t live it. Here are the lyrics:

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets I’ve had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes there were times I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all
And I stood tall and did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now as tears subside
I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that
And may I say not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a man what has he got
If not himself then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes it was my way