Relationship Mirrors (And Isbells, And Shires)

Jason Isbell’s Running With Our Eyes Closed documentary has a few moments of spouseful spatting that make it particularly remarkable. You just don’t see stuff like this. Hardly anywhere – for good reasons I’m sure. 

Isbell and his wife, Amanda Shires, are successful artists in their own right. Trudging through their pasts and various source materials can’t be easy. But the rehashing of trauma is as much a part of personal growth as it is at the core of so much honest art. 

When the breaking doesn’t break you, it can make you stronger. 

Capturing a shard of the shattered, it’s a whole other mess.

Running With Our Eyes Closed is largely about Isbell’s album Reunions. The subtext here is all about reflections. 

Reunions with people he’s gotten distance from, and reflections by those people of the past and present. 

But back to Isbell and Shires – because the snippets of their relationship stress feels the most profound. 

Marriage is a union. It’s two people coming together. They don’t stay together unless they reunite. And they won’t reunite unless they reflect. 

Reflecting can get ugly. It can be hard to stare into that mirror someone you know you love is holding up to you. The question is – can you (can any of us) reunite, repeatedly, after the most honest reflections? 

We get to watch them wrestle with it. It’s humanizing. And it’s big-time relationship goals material too. 

These people make a life of exploring and sharing their shit. 

Now I understand why Isbell told Bill Simmons this was really hard for him to watch and he couldn’t quite believe how much of himself this doc was putting out there. 

I can’t recommend watching this enough. Not just because I’m a huge fan of his work, but this is as real and raw as living and loving gets. 

Two quotes I had to look up and jot down – 

Isbell says about the vulnerability of creating (emphasis added): “I have to come to terms with things that don’t make me look cool or don’t paint me in the best light or don’t promote an idea I have of controlling my own image. I think controlling your image is the opposite of creating art.”

Shires says about revisiting past traumas repeatedly onstage, “There’s a couple parts in ‘Cover Me Up’ I still don’t like to hear, but I listen to it anyway.” 

Like so much of Isbell’s music, the documentary is both beautiful and profound. Give it a shot, and I highly recommend watching it with someone you love too.