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A Long One from Jess

This morning I did something I do quite well, something I haven’t done in awhile—dissect a poem.  Now hear me out—Although we’re never sure how much complexity the author actually meant to chalk into their work, much meaning can we sort of squeezed out of it, if you take a critical look and open your mind.  I think part of the draw for me is that I find bits of wisdom & inspiration under layers, where I wonder if anyone else has looked.  Thus, today’s example is a song:

Empty
Ray LaMontagne

She lifts her skirt up to her knees, walks through the garden rows with her bare feet laughing
I never learned to count my blessings; I choose instead to dwell in my disasters.
I walk on down the hill, through grass grown tall and brown and
still it’s hard somehow to let go of my pain.
On past the busted back of that onerous Cadillac that sinks into this field collecting rain
Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged
Of these cut-throat busted sunsets, these cold and damp white mornings I have grown so weary.
If through my cracked and dusty dime-store lips, I spoke these words out loud no one would hear me
Lay your blouse across the chair, let fall the flowers from your hair, and kiss me with that country mouth so plain.
Outside the rain is tapping on the leaves, to me it sounds like they’re applauding us, the quiet love we’ve made.
Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged
Well I looked my demons in the eyes, laid bare my chest, I said do your best at destroying me
See I’ve been to hell and back so many times, I must admit they kinda bore me
But there’s a lot of things that can kill a man, there’s a lot of ways to die
Yes as some already did that walked beside me
There’s a lot of things I don’t understand-why so many people lie
It’s the hurt I hide that fuels the fire inside me
Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged

Did it make you feel sad?  It certainly did me!  I find so much meaning in this song that I could write a long, long explanation.  However, I like you and, unless we have something spooky in common, you’d rather not indulge me there.  Basically, Ray is so very melancholy, so much so that he only vaguely enjoys the best things in life-natural beauty, happiness of others, love/sex, etc.
Melancholy is dangerous for people like me, who can’t always shut it off once it starts gaining momentum.  Not only will it ruin your day, it gives you this false righteousness that causes entitlement thinking, blame and other ickiness.  It can bring others down too, those who care for you, such as the ‘She’ in this song.
Yesterday was the first time in a while that I’ve heard this song and I’ll admit that I cried a likkle bit!  The contrasts of ethos in the girl and Ray reminded me immediately of the truth I already knew:
We continually have a choice to either count our blessings or to dwell in our disasters.
I wholeheartedly agree with something I read in Grace’s blog yesterday—that the toughest challenges for me (in PC-Ja) aren’t physical (foods, sweating, bugs) or even emotional (missing home, loneliness).

They’re mental—they are me vs. Me.

Through listening to this Jonah series and reading other volunteers’ blogs, it’s apparent to me that I’ve put way too much emphasis on my work (what I “do”)—my identity is so wrapped around what I accomplish and what others think of me that I forget how to just abide, to just be myself.

The truth is Isa.51:3, that my “waste places” (disasters) are made like Eden (garden) when I choose to “look to the rock from which I was hewn (v.1).”  Where do you choose to look when you’re feeling down?
Alright, that was well personal and long-winded!
Now for the update, if you’re still awake.
–That proposal I was working on? BPFA didn’t make the deadline—couldn’t find the financials in time.
–Ann came to town yesterday & approved our new place.  It was fun having she and Un visit our site!  We can move in as soon as our schedule allows so…next weekend it is! It’s gonna be great.
–We head to Kingston early tomorrow (Friday) for Peace Corps quarterly meetings.  We are staying w/ Embassy workers at Manor Park, which should be fun.  Then back on Saturday night.
–I’m still working with SDC & our water committee to collect house-counts and maps. It’s going well, just sloooow. Next will be household surveys, which will take some time and another training session.  I just hope we actually have a meeting in November!
–November 11th is the date set for BPFA’s “Knowing Your Business” seminar. The resident trainer can’t make it, so apparently Ms.Lin & I are supposed to run it…here we go again? I have high hopes for the group’s organization & sense of direction after this seminar, if successful.
–Josh and I stayed at another guest house in Port Antonio called Scotia. It’s very close to downtown and perfect for the traveler on a budget.  $800J for a clean room with a fan, sink and big bed (shower & toilet down the hall).  We also made dinner at Shannon’s (and Rob joined!) and the chicken caesar salad was so tasty.
–Josh acquired good drafting software recently! This will allow him to start making site plans for many proposals that BPFA and Moore Town hope to flesh out in the coming months.  At least it’s something he can continue to do inside while it’s raining outside. All the time now. ☺

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One Response

  1. I LOVE this entry, Jess. I’m one of the ones who has something “spooky” in common with you, and would’ve loved to hear your complete literary analysis, if one ever could be complete. However, i know for the readers’ sakes you must withhold.

    Meloncholy comes on me like a wave, too. It can start with one little thought that seems to take over my whole world. Kyle told me recently that meloncholy’s not bad as long as it’s controlled, and therein lies my problem. It takes over everything and taints with gray every little piece of my hour, day, week, however long i choose to indulge. Nothing in my world goes untouched my it, and you and Ray are right, everything loses its luster.

    Thanks for the bluntness of reminding us (me) that it’s up to us. The choice is mine, and it’s sometimes as simple as asking the Lord, “Please, Abba, wrap Your arms around me. Change this wretchedness to brilliance.”

    Remind me not to listen to this song when i’m down. I often pick music that pulls me further into my bad mood instead of out of it!

    You sound a bit more “up” than you had sounded several weeks ago when last we talked. I hope that’s true. It sounds, even from just reading your blog, like God’s doing things in you that He simply couldn’t have somewhere or sometime else. You two are set apart in the most obvious sense of the term, in addition to other ways, heart, mind, normalcy. It’s a beautiful/painful/frustrating process when God pulls you away from all the things in which you’ve found your identity, but it’s then that you truly find Jesus.

    Love you sister. Sorry for the lengthy comment. Never could tell a short story. She get it from her momma.

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