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"Cover Me Up" Is Vulnerability in a Song

A heart on the run

Keeps a hand on the gun

You can't trust anyone

- Jason Isbell

boots by the bed
Girl, leave your boots by the bed.

The most gifted songwriters can capture a lifetime of pain through a haunting voice set to melodic poetry. This song makes my heart hurt. Why do I love it so much?

Perhaps it's the vulnerability. The rawness. I've never been afraid to share my whole self with someone. Sadly, I mistook love-bombing for love. I paired myself with people who wouldn't or couldn't see and appreciate my wholeness.

In this song, I hear a man who has failed, his heart in his hands. But he stands in his weakness, which is his strength, to claim the love of his woman. Jason's voice carries the texture, the grit, and the pain of personal mistakes desperately desired to be righted.

Who doesn't live with that ache, to some degree or another? I can listen to this song endlessly. I suppose it's because I relate to him and the woman implied in the scenario.

I relate to the man in the song because he is as raw and fragile as a human can be– standing in his own skin beclouded with a lifetime of trying, failing, loving, hurting, yet desiring something better. In this moment, he doesn't want to leave the sacred space where the universe becomes known through the blissful union of two people who love one another. He is singularly focused on his present desire but unflinchingly honest about his brokenness.

The woman in the song is only referenced. But I get her. She has loved this man with her entirety. But she is weary. Tired of being the recipient of his personal demons wreaking havoc on her soul. She's always given more weight to the good and persevered through the bad. Maybe she had been afraid of him.

But here he is baring stark vulnerability. How does she say no to him when he finally arrives as he truly is? Does her desire to be loved supersede the probability that this moment won't last, especially after the magnolias bloom?

Sometimes I worry about my heart. I don't want to keep my "hand on the gun." I hear stories of people who love through the mystique, grounded in life as it is, accepting the totality of being human with one another. I'm at the inflection point where I have come to the acceptance that I may live the rest of my life without experiencing such love.

Unlike the opening lyric though, I do not feel like my heart is on the run. It is rather quite still. In its stillness is my acceptance. I am not resigning. Simply accepting the possibility that perfect imperfect human love may evade me.

I had told the last man that I loved that I wanted someone who had been broken and put back together. He didn't understand what that meant. Should I ever share love with a man again, that man will understand. Because I won't settle for anything less. Besides, he'd have to be broken and put back together in order to love me. It would be the only way he could truly see me.


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