Poetry Friday: Then and Now

Then and Now

I travel in my mind
from that memory—
foamy ocean wave creeping
up my toes, feet, ankles,
slow as a weary sigh,
as I blink my eyes
once, that blue landscape
of water and sky darkening
behind tired eyelids,
losing my surroundings as the
wave eases up to my calves,
and my eyes inch open again,
my body exhaling—
to this one, this flurry of movement,
of feet splashing in smooth,
sandy rolls of seascape,
a laugh in my mouth
and my arms stretched out,
sprinting after a dream
that today, I suppose,
my heart is not too burdened
to entertain.

I breathe in salt air
in normal amounts of seconds,
and know I am free.

Ferguson

I was going to do a gratitude piece, but I can’t. Not today. I have no words.

https://twitter.com/alexandsieraa/status/537077068069343234

 

November

We all hide our faces from the cold as we walk from building to building, minutes oozing by like syrup from maple trees. Or maybe it’s just me, my scarf wrapped twice around my neck and my chin buried in the scratchy layers, my eyes watching for ice on the sidewalk. My head is covered from the elements, the rough material catching pieces of my short hair and wreaking invisible havoc there.

No one speaks (I know because I wait, listening), their lips frozen shut in this world of only learning. I keep my hands folded in my pocket, clasped together so I don’t lash out or spin or clap or wave. My legs work furiously and I no longer walk, I charge across campus, running from this icy place because why enjoy this? This is not my life any more than it is yours. I belong to the machine, like a train that chugs around under the dry and brittle Christmas tree, always moving but with no direction, no destination.

When I hit the warmth of my first building, as the heated air pours over me, thaws me, fills my lungs with stuff that doesn’t suffocate, I pull off my scarf and my beanie. In this moment, I pretend I am free.

Not Knowing, Just Hoping

You guys know that I started coming off my happy pills a few weeks ago. (I only have about a week to go and then I’m done.) It’s been kind of frightening; I was so afraid that I would sink back into that dark, numb place again, which would mean that I would have to take pills for possibly the rest of my life. And I’ve also been wondering a lot lately if I will forget what it’s like to be depressed. And am I still clinically depressed? Should I still label myself that if I graduated from taking happy pills?

Well, I got one answer today in the shower. My grandpa came over this morning to fix a leaky faucet and he left a few of his tools around the bathroom. I turned around in the shower to grab the shampoo and there it was: a large red razor with the rusty blade exposed. My heart skipped a beat, I think, as I picked it up to get a closer look, squinting because I wasn’t wearing contacts. I remembered how I purposely ignored the disposable shaving razors during those hard times. And in that instant, as I retracted the blade and returned it to the shelf, I realized that yes, I will probably remember what it’s like to be depressed.

I think I’ll always remember.

And that is my blessing. Because while I remembered all those times the razors seemed so tempting–and just those flimsy shaving types, not even the real deal–I also remembered the strength it took to put suicidal thoughts out of my mind. I remembered that I am strong. I realized that the habit of living that I have developed will help me in the future on days when even to live is an act of courage.

I’m no hero. I’m probably not even as strong as I give myself credit for. But I have been “just enough” for so long that now it is a habit. Dealing with dark thoughts has become easier. And on bad days, I remind myself what my counselor loves to say:

“I am, in and of myself, of infinite worth and good enough.”

And so are you.

I think this is going to be my last post for a while. I finished classes at the end of April and now I have some free time to reevaluate who I am and what I want to do with my life. We both know that I want to be a writer. And as much as I love blogging, I think I need to go back to novel writing until Fall semester starts. Of course, I might not even return to this blog; who knows? That’s the beauty of life: not knowing, just hoping. And I hope to see you all again soon.

Cutting Strings

For a long time I had this image in my head of a bunch of helium balloons tied to the ground with strings, straining against their bonds, dancing a little in the breeze. I imagined taking a pair of scissors and, one by one, cutting them free, watching them fly into the never-never blue, watching them shrink into nothingness, watching them join the stars.

In my mind, these balloons were pieces of me. I longed to be set free from this world, to fly into that beautiful, mysterious unknown. After a while, the phrase “cutting strings” came to mean letting go of my worldly cares, pretending that life was beautiful, and closing my eyes to my pain. But then one day I was at my friend’s gravestone.

(You should know that I searched for journal evidence of this moment, but I couldn’t find any; therefore, I am forced to tell this memory as a story, remembering the details as best as I can.)

There had been a beautiful bouquet of balloons floating peacefully above his stone a few days ago, but there had been a windstorm the day before. A vase of flowers had tipped over and shattered on his cement, and a few of the tangled-up balloons had popped, holding their whole brothers near the glass shards in the grass. I saw this, and I was filled with some inexplicable need to set the balloons free. So I knelt in the grass and, careful to avoid being cut, I used one of the pieces of glass to sever the popped balloons’ strings from the bouquet. Then I meticulously untangled the strings, and one by one, I released each of the whole balloons into the air. They sprang back into their soldier-like guardianship of his stone, content in their place in the world, secured by their strings.

I had desired for so long to set myself free from my pain, but I thought that I would need to distance myself from life in order to do so. Clutching the scraps of ribbon and balloon in my hands, I realized that maybe cutting strings meant that I needed to cut away the pain and fear and guilt that I had been carrying around with me.

We are meant to stay grounded to this life. This is where we belong. Being free, cutting ourselves loose into the metaphorical sky, isn’t real freedom. That is the land of the lost. Unless God calls you back into the sky, you are meant to be here.

Some strings do need to be cut; just make sure they are the weights that hold you down, not the lines that hold you to life.

Karma (or what I consider Good Consequences)

The most important moment of the day is when we fall asleep. During the day, we get so many options, right from the moment we open our eyes. For me, it’s choices like what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, whether to take this or that bus, whether to go to school, who to sit by in classes, whether to get a drink in this or that fountain, whether to stay after and study, la la la, you get the drift. But that’s only on normal days! I could randomly wake up one day and drive to Houston. Or, I don’t know, quit school and start training for the military. Or get in contact with an old high school friend.

I hope I’ve established that we have a lot of choices throughout the day. And I’ll admit, I tend to make choices that give me more choices: save money, go to school, obey the Word of Wisdom (my church’s health and wellness law), be nice, etc. But let’s talk about you. Let’s just say that one day you decide to break out of your normal routine and just drive and drive away from home on the highway. And after seeing some sights, and maybe meeting some new people, the sun goes down and the sky becomes dark. You decide you need to find yourself a motel or something, since it’s too late to drive home. You get ready for bed  and crawl into the covers in the cigarette-smelling motel room, wondering maybe who else has slept in this bed, and feeling a vague sense of being quite estranged from everything you care about, and eventually falling asleep. Hypothetically.

I posit that this moment, this settling down into the choices one has made over the day and deciding, “Well, I’m too exhausted to do anything else, so if anybody Up There cares, you just have to take the things I’ve done and deal with them,” is the most important moment of the day. It is the summation. The climax. Despite what most people think, that by the time you’ve gotten ready for bed  you have passed that vital moment of the day, this is when you accept the day as done and allow yourself to rest. And not only is that infinitely beautiful and poetic, I believe it also has eternal spiritual significance.

Death comes from life. Night comes from day. End comes after beginning. (Haha, this sounds like a cheesy poem, hey.) I believe there is a God, and that He knows me by name. So when I fall asleep, I do so knowing that He knows and cares that I’ve done the best I can over the day, and He is (I pray) proud of me. SO, bringing this random tangent of a post full circle, I’m glad that I make the choices I make. I’m glad I go to school, and spend time with my family, and try (and usually fail) to be a good person, and so on, because when I fall asleep at night, I feel like I am at peace with our Heavenly Father. And that’s probably the best feeling in the world.

Hats Off to DFW

My AP English teacher first introduced me to David Foster Wallace’s speech “This is Water.” Few literary passages have changed my life so profoundly as this one did. I hope that everyone within earshot of my cyber voice will read it and try to understand it and do something because of it. Read it–go on! It gives me chills.

He posits that we are innately selfish beings. Everything we think and know and experience revolves around us, and the default setting of our state of consciousness is to perpetually focus on ourselves. In his speech, Wallace presents a life-changing choice. He words it best:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the “rat race” – the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

It is one of most beautiful feelings I have ever experienced–the realization that I am not the center of the universe. I can choose–choose, people–to care about things outside of my intimate circle of consciousness. It is so wonderful. I have the power within me to think about you, and care about my earth footprint, and try to make this world better, because it will live on after I’m gone. Of what worth is money, power, beauty, intellect? Every day we are surrounded by other people who are just as important and needed and loved by our creator as we are. That is true beauty.

“It is about simple awareness – awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: ‘This is water, this is water.'” -David Foster Wallace