Patty Griffin is a brilliant storyteller of tragedies large and small. It's no wonder she and Emmylou Harris collaborate so well together. I could pick any number of her songs, some more subtle perhaps. But "Poor Man's House," from her first album, aptly named Living With Ghosts (recorded essentially as a demo) is spare and hard . It starts:
You know you've done enough
When ev'e'ry bone is sore
You know you've prayed enough
When you don't ask anymore
You know you're coming to some kind of
When ev'e'ry dream you've dreamed is past
And you're still standingI could go on, but that last line... There aren't too many people I know who have to live with that kind of sorrow and defeat. "Every dream you've dreamed is past and you're still standing." Why bother standing at all? Is it an act of courage or duty to do so? Or is it because if there is any glimmer of hope at all, it tends to shine. What is left of us if we have no dreams remaining, not even for someone we love?
I think that there was a time when I was so overwhelmed with grief that I had no dreams left. I remember telling my grief counselor that I had nothing to look forward to and that I had squandered my life -- that I would never be successful at anything again. I truly felt that at 34, there was nothing but downhill left. I guess that I had dreams for my children, but they seemed so remote that I couldn't focus on them. And yet, I was duty bound to them so I didn't consider suicide in anything more than a passive sense.
Daddy's been working too much
For days and days and doesn't eat
He never says much
But I think this time it's got him beat
I imagine that what kept him standing was his children, knowing that the alternative would only be worse for them. The more I think about it, the more I think it was purely duty and not hope that kept him going.
Perspective....I got my ability to dream back over time. My ambitions eventually reignited, with a lot of help. And on the other side of that coin, I would go so far as to say that I have less fear now, less inhibition. A year ago this blog was visible only to me. I had never submitted anything I wrote or created (with one exception -- I did submit an essay to This I Believe) to a public forum. Writing and photography both help me work through grief and also give me a feeling of accomplishment. I'm not quitting my day job, but I am okay with that.
There is no video for this song that I could find, but this is the song put to images. At least you can hear it in Patty's voice, rather than a cover.