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Cover Me Up

By Jason Isbell, Southeastern, 2013

The Song

A heart on the run keeps a hand on the gun you can’t trust anyone
I was so sure what I needed was more tried to shoot out the sun
Days when we raged, we flew off the page such damage was done
But I made it through, cause somebody knew I was meant for someone

So girl, leave your boots by the bed we ain’t leaving this room
Till someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom
It’s cold in this house and I ain’t going out to chop wood
So cover me up and know you’re enough to use me for good

Authored as the lead song on Jason Isbell’s first album after giving up drinking & drugs, Cover Me Up resonates in a clear, cutting first-person.  His now-wife Amanda Shires spearheaded an intervention that led Isbell to sobriety for the first time since before his days with the Drive-By Truckers.

To hear him sing this live in concert is simply powerful.  A cheer and genuine happiness from the audience consistently follows the lines:

Put your faith to the test when I tore off your dress in Richmond on high
But I sobered up and I swore off that stuff forever, this time


And the old lovers sing “I thought it’d be me who helped him get home”
But home was a dream, one I’d never seen till you came along

An ode to a woman that brought him back from rock bottom.  And didn’t just bring him home, but created that home.


Raw emotions of repentance, guilt, need, and desperation pervade the song. Although packaged in soft-spoken Americana, a clear passion burns through. Passion forged during toughest of times.  Not grounded in lust – but in life found & renewed.

The passion is the piece of the song that moves & inspires me.  It’s something I want.  Not necessarily as tied to forging a lustful bond in a mountain cabin (though that doesn’t sound awful…with my wife, of course), or as a part of overcoming a drug-induced rock bottom.  It may not always be the artful image of Jason’s cold Georgian cabin, but passion that can apply to any part of our lives.

Passion is caring about what you’re doing.  Immersing yourself.  It amplifies the highs and lows.  It slows down the minutes, but speeds up the days.

Passion, for me, is experiencing life’s moments fully.

Being passionate takes energy, attention, and perspective – directed at something important to me.

To have energy, I must be selective with what I do.  I certainly can’t do everything.  When I attempt everything, I wear myself down.  Worn-down-me can’t be mentally present in anything because he’s either (1) too tired or (2) too mentally busy with other things.

To pay attention, I need to focus my energy.  Slow down a bit.  Be in the moment.  Get on the same level.  Observe.  Watch both the subject and it’s context.

To have perspective, I need to have spent time in reflection.  Praying, meditating, or even thinking up blog posts.  Understanding my values – what is important to me.   How does my current activity fit into these values?  How does my today look, when I step back and look around.  What about this will I miss tomorrow, or next year?

When I can wrap these 3 together, I have passion.

So with this little recipe, I must be a constant little passionate fireball, right?  Nope, not really.

Passion’s been noticeably absent for me recently.

Mailing It In

Over the years I’ve gotten passionate about various pursuits.  Family.  Friends.  Learning & teaching.  Working and creating.  Faith.

I’ve even been pretty passionate about finances…or maybe better said: the path to becoming financially independent. The goal gave me passion for a while. But as I’ve neared the goal over the past year, I’ve not found directing extra energy to it very rewarding.  That’s what I was thinking, anyway.  Just a passing fad maybe.

But really, it’s worse.  I haven’t been passionate about much of anything recently.

Maybe it’s the rat race, somewhat.  Probably more so it’s parenting two little kids.  Ends up, being a parent is hard for me (and soooo hard for me to admit!).  And exhausting.  My wife & I have been covered up with stressors for the last few years, and just trying to keep our heads above water.

It’s hard to come up with the energy to take out the garbage.  Stirring up passion for something like finances has seemed miles away.

I’m nowhere close to depressed, so don’t worry for me.  I have just always enjoyed the thrill of living, so I’ve noticed “it” missing recently.  I’m no longer seeking change to negotiate, or attacking new challenges for the chance of success.

I do get close to terrified (and melodramatic) at times that life is passing me by as I just “mail it in.”


But I’ve recently given it some thought and cooled my worry-warting.  I remembered that (1) life comes in seasons, (2) this one may have been close to all I could handle, (3) there has been very much good in this season, and (4) the next season will be different.

I feel like we’re walking into that next season now.  As one friend said: we’re leaving the “wet stage” (drool, spit up, pee, poop, enough already you’re thinking) and entering the “little kid stage.”

It has been helpful to step back and put all this in perspective.  I don’t need to worry about the last season.  It wasn’t even bad, just exhausting.  Acknowledge that it’s been hard, and regroup for our next phase.  I can appreciate the many blessings I’ve had, and try to add back other missing pieces going forward.

But regardless of the hand I’m dealt this spring, don’t try to do everything.  Save a little energy for living passionately.  Life’s more colorful with passion.

If I’ve had no extra energy yesterday or today, then try something new tomorrow.  Or don’t do anything new.  Just re-forge an old friendship.   If I can muster it though – create things; keep learning.

Note to self: live passionately.