Poetry Friday: Reason$ to Live

*trigger warning*

Reason$ to Live

The old feelings return and
my concentrated suffering
could kill every light in the city.

I can’t even trust
the emptiness to stay;
abandons me faster than hope
and leaves me numb.

I can’t even complain
because I’ve been worse.

Perspective.

It’s cheaper to hide than to act; blood flows in green bills,
sucking life from the ones who care.
So I die inside until it grows too strong,
and even then my blood comes out as ink.

Death Will Grow My Jasmine

Today I opened the door and was greeted with a hearty gust of wind. It tugged on my flyaway curls and buffeted my face.

The walk to the bus stop was spicier than usual, bits of dirt and leaves and twigs scratching my calves. It was the first day I wore shorts to school this semester, and already it was paying off.

I crossed the street to stand by the lopsided blue sign, halfway convinced the bus had already come and gone. Cars whipped past on the busy road, swirling blossom petals and making once-ugly trash dance in the breeze.

I breathed in the April air, cool and fresh as the mountain it had run from.

I remembered that just a few months ago I wanted to die; had begged God for it.

And I was happy to be alive.

But looking back now, hours later, it feels bittersweet. I’ve buried the Maney that wanted so desperately to die, just so this Maney who craves life can live.

So now we’re dancing through the garden
And what a garden I have made
And now that death will grow my jasmine
I find it soothing I’m afraid

Now there is no need for suspicion
There ain’t no fraud kissing your hand
I won’t be lying when I tell you
That I’m a gard’ner I’m a man
In your eyes babe

Lyrics from “The Gardener” by The Tallest Man On Earth.

Building Elves

I am a building elf.

You know when you enter a conference room and there are bunches of chairs and tables arranged conveniently for your use? You know when you walk into a bathroom and (of course you wouldn’t notice this but) the paper towels are in rich supply? You know when you look on the ground and the only stains you see are faint pink or pale brown? Well, look no further for this source of sorcery, for I am a building elf.

The point of that random intro was that I got a job on my new campus, and I finally understand who keeps the world from crashing into chaos. –> People like me. <–

“New campus?” you ask. Well, my dear Reader, I am now a transfer student. Yes. Not only do I have elvish powers, but I am also that fruitcake you see walking around your elite, world-renowned campus with a local community college T-shirt on. I’ll be the one that won’t let go of the easy life. The beautiful grade curve. The magical hour-long bus rides to school. The 100% acceptance rate.

It’s not like I don’t want to be here. Actually, that’s a lie. Nothing so far has truly inspired me to want to be at this new fancy-pants university. I guess the future job resume might seem perkier, but that’s in so many years… I’m complaining, aren’t I?

Sorry.

The point is, every day is turning into a huge mind game for me. Constantly I have to convince myself to not run off screaming, or at least to just keep still and get over myself. Because truly, Reader, I act like I am just sooo entitled. I often catch myself thinking (in no uncertain terms), “The world revolves around me and get me a dang milkshake or something, you peasant!” So I often tell myself, “Hey, Maney. Chill out. Remember David Foster Wallace’s speech about true education. It’s about awareness…”

So here’s the quote of the day: (And, Reader? This is water.)

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day…

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death. It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
“This is water.”
“This is water.”

Litany of Banal Platitudes

Don’t give up. Don’t let go.

Keep going. Keep it up. Keep moving forward. Keep your faith.

You can do it. You are enough. You are wonderful. You are perfect. You are unique.

You have incredible potential. You are here for a reason. You are a child of God.

God loves you. He knows what you are capable of. He believes in you.

Follow your heart. Follow your dreams. Focus on the positive.

Choose to be happy. Choose to move forward. Choose to forgive.

Move on. Move up. The world needs you. We need you. We want you to make it.

You are, in and of yourself, of infinite worth and good enough.

Remember how valuable you really are.

Turkeys; Understanding Zero to One

(writes “0-1” on the whiteboard)

I have this friend who’s told me on multiple different occasions that he wishes he could be a turkey. I feel like, of all the animals in the world, why would you choose a creepy and delicious one? You’re doomed to be scorned all your life and eventually served with mashed potatoes. Besides, don’t turkeys do that thing of looking up at the rain and drowning? How pathetic can you get? Well, the truth is, we can all be turkeys.

I’ve spent much of the last year convincing myself every day that my life is still worth living. Mostly this is because of a few traumatic events that occurred in my life last year. In March I was officially diagnosed with clinical depression and some PTSD. This has been good because I finally got medical attention for my emotional problems. I tell you this because I want to introduce myself to you as a failure. I never intended to make the mistakes I did; I never planned on getting my heart broken, losing my self-esteem, being afraid to answer the phone. I never wanted to be the girl crying in the bathroom stall. Can I not call myself a failure in this sense? I had a lot of great expectations for my senior year of high school. It’s hard to believe I spent most of my lunches in the science room, not talking to anyone, shutting out the world.

So now that I’ve established myself as a depressed failure and threatened you with turkeydom, I’ll get to the point. Lots of people, just like me, find themselves in unfortunate, unpleasant, and unexpected situations. Say they lose a loved one, they lose their job, they get an inhibiting disease, etc. They, just like me, might subscribe to the “life sucks and then you die” philosophy. You’d think that no one else has more right to think this than turkeys, right? One minute they’re the butt of the joke, and the next minute people are roasting and eating their butt. However, turkeys are more enlightened than some of us pessimistic people. They understand the concept of “zero to one.”

(points to the whiteboard)

Imagine that God is up in Heaven with all His creations, and He’s giving numbers to everyone to represent their place in the great scheme of things. Using the numbers from zero to infinity, He gives people more numbers if they have more potential for greatness. You watch as God gives Lady Gaga all the numbers between 2,000 and 3,000; that seems fair, you think. There’s no one else quite as interesting as Lady Gaga; her fashion choices are so hot they’re bacon. Then God turns to you and says,

“Well, my child, I’ve decided to give you all the numbers between zero and one.”

Your first thought is, “Why didn’t I think of a meat dress?!”

Really, though, can you imagine? Here you are, staring up at your creator, and even He seems to think you will amount to nothing. Ah, if only you were a turkey. You would realize that there is an infinite amount of numbers between zero and one. God is just being God; confusing you beyond belief while at the same time making His thoughts perfectly clear. He smiles wisely and says,

“My child, I have given you just what you need. Make of it what you will.”

Whether you like it or not, God is saying that you have infinite potential for greatness, although at first glance it may appear otherwise.  You can choose to be satisfied with infinite potential, or you can focus on the fact that you only got the numbers between zero and one. You can choose to be satisfied with your depression and anxiety issues, and allow yourself to be grateful for your opportunity to be alive, to make a difference in people’s lives, to experience love and pain deeply.

I am looking at a classroom full of failures. We have all been given the numbers between zero and one. Our lives won’t turn out the way we expect. We won’t achieve some of our dreams. Bad things will happen to us, some of them beyond our control. How do we measure our life when it hurts to admit we only got from zero to one? We have to forget the breadth of our existence and focus on the depth. Turkeys understand this.

Turkeys are debatably ugly creatures. They have these floppy red things all over their faces, called the snood, wattle, and caruncles. Male turkeys are bred too large to have natural fertilization without hurting the hens, so that part of turkey life is done artificially. They are produced on farms and kept in such close quarters that they can’t even stand up without touching another bird. What a sad life.

And yet, when it rains, turkeys look up.

Whatever the reason, and whether or not turkeys really do drown in the rain, when they feel the raindrops on their feathers, they forget the pathetic reality they exist in for a few precious seconds. They may even forget that their eyes don’t allow them to focus on what’s above them. For those seconds, with the water running down their back, with the steady rhythm of drops hitting the dirt, with the distant thunder rolling over the earth, turkeys partake of their own “zero to one;” their piece of eternity.

This is why we all can be turkeys. We have the ability to pause occasionally in life and look up. Despite our flaws, our faults, our mistakes, our regrets, we still can achieve greatness. We are all connected to that wondrous, flowing, bonding river of numbers, that eternal supply of remarkable human capability, no matter if we have a snood or anything.

I have experienced pain to a degree that I thought wasn’t humanly possible. I never thought I would end up like I am now. And yet, I need not be afraid to live my life. I know that I will fail again and again and again. I can be a turkey; I was given the numbers between zero and one. It’s up to me, and each of us, to decide that our lot of zero to one is equivalent to an infinite potential for good.

Trials

I pray for trials because I know they bring me closer to God. This habit of mine has become something of a family joke; my family says I should leave them out of these prayers because they have enough trials. I think it’s true and I try hard to get the point across to my Creator that I want the trials to affect me and me alone.

Anyway, a trial I’ve been facing for the past few months is dreaming every night. I’ve already discussed this but whatever. I dream about offending people I love, making huge mistakes and feeling guilty, being in scary TV shows I watch, missing classes in school, seeing my dead or missionary friends, etc. I hate dreaming I hate it hate it hate it. Haha, I used to love dreaming because my dreams used to be funny or interesting. Nowadays I face my deepest fears when my eyes are closed and my breath is steady.

My Heavenly Father must know I need these nightmares because in the morning I am deeply grateful for reality. I see the beauty in dust motes, ticking clocks, dappled sunlight, chirping birds, socks, poetry, rustling papers. I know He wants me to be happy. So today I am grateful for my nightmares, because without them I wouldn’t know how special my life is, in all its quiet, lonely, and uneventful glory.

Foolishly Happy

I am not filled with flowery words tonight, but I want to write on the topic of choosing. For example, the older I get, the more I realize I don’t know. Sometimes it bothers me that my mind, my only tool with which to perceive life, is inadequately informed about the world. But other times it intrigues me–makes me want to keep living–and isn’t that all we can ask for? I love that I don’t know everything. I choose to be interested in life so it keeps interesting me.

I used to be a very optimistic person. It used to be my natural state of being. And then I guess life happened: family problems, deaths of loved ones, a broken heart, and eventually mental illness. I lost the piece of myself that naturally looked on the bright side. Although I’ve come a long way from my darkest moments, I still tend to default back to pessimistic thoughts about humans, the world, and life.

What I’ve learned is that life happens, and you can’t always control it. When you’ve done all you can to make your life and your loved ones’ lives better, you have to rely on your imagination to look on the positive side of things. It’s your choice. It’s your responsibility. Look at yourself in the mirror and decide that the person staring back at you is worth being happy. And then, quite simply, with no self-help books, and almost foolishly, just be that way. Be happy. It’s a choice. And you deserve it.