Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
We tend to meet our weakest selves in the moments when we sure wished they wouldn't have shown up. We wished that we would have benefited from some new fortitude, an unveiling of some thus far unheard of strength. You'd like to think that you could hold it in, to hold it back. All those people who are quoted as saying, "I told myself I wasn't going to cry," when they start to well up on live television, can't help how their emotions are betraying them. This usually happens when we've allowed ourselves to get mixed up with another person, where we've already sacrificed our vulnerability in the hopes that we'd finally find that last love we've wanted all along, the one that we're planning on taking to our graves.
Jill Andrews, a songwriter from Tennessee, writes about these marked moments, the times that get a little tear-soaked, but are eventually dogeared and kept as tokens of something other than those soft spots, or anything that bears shame. They are kept for what happens next and what was actually happening as we were hitting our bottoms, as we were taking that tumble into what we felt at the time as being our lowest points. These were our restless nights and our endless days. These were the times when the suffering seemed to hit us like the output of a furnace. We were finished, distraught and ready to throw in all of our damned towels. The thing that seems to come out of those times -- and rather quickly from them, it seems -- are the new dimensions of spirit, those fresh wrinkles to our storylines that make us even more of the people that we've been wanting to be. We move closer to becoming the person that we always thought we could be, in spite of the hurt that we're going through, in spite of any foolish chances we may have taken or stars or blue moons that we may have bet on. It's in getting to these spots, where it finally becomes real. There are dress rehearsals and for all of the shitty luck in love that most people are beset with, the storm usually breaks and we see what all of the precipitation can produce. The way that Andrews sings about love and the way she looks at love, it must be love. It must be that -- after all of this time and through all of the unfortunate days that she's struggled through on the wrong side of it -- this is starting to look more like it.
The beautiful and pained songs that she writes are the kinds of episodes that you have as a student. She is a scientist of them, turning them over and around, figuring out where the bottom dropped out and what's going to happen next. Throughout, as she does most spectacularly on a song called, "These Words," she recognizes that things have been altered forever with a breakup or a betrayal. She sings, "And oh, God knows/We've had a time/Seeing what grows/On a shriveled vine/Look me up when you've had your space/When you're ready to see my face/In a room where we both could be/Where somebody else may be loving me/Would you ball up your hands/Would you clench your teeth/Would you walk away in disbelief/Are you ready to leave?.../You can go, but I swear, these words will stand up to you in your grandest place/You can't come back." The lesson has been learned. Love or a dismissal of what could have been love has changed her, and she's better off for it.