living out loud · poetry

guilt and art.

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Miss M and I just got back from a few days in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. And one crazy afternoon in Gatlinburg at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Aquarium that felt more like people were stuffed into an aquarium and the sea creatures were ogling us. I was at times amazed by what I saw and towards the end so over other human beings I couldn’t see straight. (My friend Patresa coined the term “crowd rage” years ago, and I have used it ever since because it sums up perfectly how I get in a very intense press of people. I don’t normally enjoy big crowds, but I can do them as long as my personal 3 foot bubble of space isn’t repeatedly violated. Otherwise, within about an hour or less I’m doing things like looking at strangers’ bodies going: these people are filled with feces and stinky pee and germs and need to dress better…WHY GOD WHY????? And I’m grumpy and generally unpleasant to be around. Apologies to my family. I did thoroughly enjoy the shark tube.)

Now I get to start mentally preparing to get up at 5 AM every morning to go work. I have about 110% less angst about actual work itself this year, yet a tremendous sense of guilt for leaving my fellow soldiers in the classroom trenches behind as I take a cushy office job off the frontlines. I thoroughly enjoyed and felt extremely blessed by my 3 gift-vacations this year (magically stunning Disney World in April, a wild animal safari with severely aggressive large animals from the bovine family, and channeling my inner Ricky Bobby in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains)…yet I feel a tremendous sense of guilt for enjoying life when I know there are people out there who aren’t as fortunate or can’t, for whatever reason. My sense of guilt can be overwhelming at times.

So it’s been an odd summer. A summer of some really lovely, good days and some really really bad days (and nights). I know some good people, I’m (hopefully) getting better about weeding out the bad ones, trying to find a way to just live with and accept the confusing ones I love a lot, learning how to let go of this incessant need I have to fix and be fixed. So it was good to get out of town a few times this year to kind of escape all of that, but coming back to this apartment…it’s depressing, you guys. Not gonna lie. On a certain level, it feels good to be home, in my own bed, surrounded by my own things. On the other hand, it was so good to get the hell out of this space.  This life. (What the hell am I even doing? I ask myself every time I am in this space for more than 5 minutes.)

What I’m saying is: I think I need to burn some sage. Do some energy clearing. But I’m not sure, even though I bought like 3 big bunches – three very large bunches of sage – it’s going to be enough to air this place out. And I have a whole ‘nother contract for a whole ‘nother year here. And probably another year after that. I’m not going to be emotionally ready to go anywhere, any time soon. I am just now getting my sea legs. And some days I’m still retching over the side of the ship, blowing huge chunks into a dark, cold ocean churning with hungry sharks (that’s YOU, social media).

And yet. Like everything, there is good/there is bad. Yin Yang. A writer on Twitter I met at some point last year wrote me a series of off-the-cuff tweet-poems when I was having a particularly bad few moments several days ago. It was one of the kindest, nicest things someone has said or done for me on social media, and I have compiled all of his thoughts here, into one seamless poem (I think I got most of it in sync with his tweets):

Reading of the reckoning

I felt the you deep within

Who’s scared of all the loving

And just wants to be strong.

I know not what words to say

Your soul and heart to heal

So I’ll just say it plainly

In our tribe you can stay

We’ll not coddle

We’ll not cajole

We expect sheer honesty

Writers know this all too well

There’s no room for much else

They would bend you 

They would break you

For their pleasure

In their squalor

That is not love

For love heals and conquers

People speak in twisted ways

Sarcasms and ironies

But the best way to be

Is to write the truth

Most painfully

And when your ink upon the page

Scares you to your core

Know you’re staring in the mirror

When finally you are alone

And no one in the world cares

You have to learn to care for you

For you’re an awesome creature

I’ve read those words of yours

They cut me to the bone

They reflect what’s in me

In great and many ways

But what I’ve learned I’ll share

We are all wonderful

Creatures of love and hate

Made of light and darkness

And we can’t be ashamed 

Of who we really are

For it is our darkness

That makes our light so bright.

In closing I’ll just say

You are precious to me

And in so many ways

I want the best for thee

Life is a mystery

A grand experiment

Live not to please others

For Amy you must be

And love her very much

In the night

Desperately

We cling to what once was

But a new day comes

And we rise with it

Stronger than before

They say words 

With their eyes

They would dance you 

Into the night….

They can’t even walk on their own. 

Let not the thoughts

Programmed inside unravel

The love you feel, the love you know is heart.

Unprogram  the thoughts; be free. 

                                                                                    —Chris Mahan, Twitter poet

 (he’s very talented, and if you follow me on Twitter, I’ll occasionally retweet something he’s written because it gut punches me…and quite frankly, I don’t understand why he’s not got a whole series of award-winning, celebrated chapbooks of poetry under his belt right now.)

It’s hard to learn to love yourself. Really, really hard. Friendships are hard. Relationships are hard. Raising kids is hard. Not being a jackass is hard. Not overthinking is hard. Not getting involved in other people’s dramas because you’ve chosen to over-care is hard. But even more than that? Learning how to love and (especially) forgive yourself is really, really, really, really HARD. Thank god for poetry. And Art.

More poetry/Art:

I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife

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