Tag: grief

poem: how many times

How many times
have i prayed,
a monster of need,
tiny hands grasping,
flabby arms flapping,
begging,
disconsolate,
stewing in hopelessness.

Such desperation
is exhausting,
and it did me no good.

My worst nightmares
have begun to come true
and i cannot rise
to the occasion
higher
than i already stand.

The worst
has begun
coming to pass,
but such losses
dance
with contentment.

The dog’s last breaths
taught me
about gratitude,
about finding
loving kindness
even in agony.

With a teacher like that,
what could i do?

Suddenly,
all my praying stopped.

For if i can find
peace,
calm,
stillness
and joy
coexisting
with this pain,
grief
and failure,
then who am i
to pretend
i know
what i need?

7 may 2016

It has taken days to write this down…

For years, i have struggled with how personal i should allow this blog to get. It is an odd conundrum to have, given my general disposition. In conversation, i have very few boundaries. No personal embarrassment will stop me from making someone laugh.  As a poet, i am a spiritual and emotional exhibitionist. There is very little that i won’t write about, and have a peculiar lack of shame when it comes to flinging my secrets out into the world.  Think of a chimpanzee throwing it’s feces at random passers by, only substitute poems.  In rhyme or blank verse, i will describe any level of transgression or epiphany, love or suffering, without a thought.

If i appall someone with my poetry, after i am done celebrating my aim, i am quick to add: a poem is to a novel what a polaroid picture is to a movie – a tiny snapshot of reality, of Truth (if done well,) but not necessarily something eternal.  Writing can be an exorcism of sorts.  Once the words are down on paper, they do not haunt the heart.  These words may reflect a moment of profound grief or trauma, but that no longer apply to every moment of my existence.  Likewise, much to my shame, that moment of bliss and understanding might have also been swept away with the tide.  So, this temporary nature of the poem has left me feeling like the nakedness of the soul is appropriate.

Only, i have tried to walk a fine line here, in the prose, in this primary blog, between what i want to write about and what i deem appropriate for polite society.

Many people have told me that i already reveal too much and should back off.  Only, this afternoon, while i sit here waiting for glasses, i have no desire to be cagy or polite or wrap a cloak of denial over the situation in which i wallow.  This journey that i will be traveling for the next six months or so will require everything i have – keeping up a facade, or being vague about my problems, will not work.  Or, rather, it will take energy that i do not have to give, so today i will shed my inhibitions and tell you exactly what is going on with me.

Only, now that my defenses lie scattered around me on the floor, i suddenly feel shy. i have noticed that it is cold.  Perhaps i am remembering the loss of yesterday, twenty-four hours martyred to maudlin moaning and cuddling up in bed with animals.

A lot of what plagues my mind i have written about incessantly: a pitiful lack of courage, an over abundance of anxiety bordering on the ridiculous, continuing problems with my health, financial insecurity. These are all still present and strong – although, maybe, i am doing better against the depression/PTSD/anxiety than i thought, because i am still standing. In the parts of this blog focused on my spirituality, i have talked openly about despair and doubt as much as i have communion and joy.   

At least six months go, i reached the level of overwhelm that made coherent thought and action nearly impossible.  Instead of actively swimming through the currents of life, i have been thrashing, choking on the waves and spray, reacting but not able to move in a coordinated and productive manner.  i know this, so i have kept praying and begging and reaching out; my persistence fueled by desperation.  Only, with one tremendous, mind-boggling, life-altering blessing (the discovery that this world is filled with love and kindness) set aside for a moment, the rest of my troubles have continued on undaunted and undiminished.

What has my guts churning today, though, is my health.  i have to get a hysterectomy as my uterus is horribly swollen with tumors (biopsy pending) and even if they are simply fibroids (please! i have been praying ceaselessly on that score) this will be major surgery.  My right leg, because these things happen in groups, has been having problems working.  Indeed, there are times it will not work at all. Thank heavens i had company over Christmas that could move my leg when i was experiencing one of these brown-outs.  Unfortunately, now that company is back home and i am left swatting at my leg in the morning, trying to get it going. Thankfully, my dog, Darwin, seems to have more sense than me and does a laying on of paws to get me started.

At any rate, that too is surgery and my left leg has the same issue but somehow, magically, still works.

The glasses i am waiting for come because my vision has been steadily declining for the past couple of years – while so much of my hair has gone white that i have been turned into a blonde.  My primary concern, though, even before they hysterectomy and the hip surgery and the collapse of my finances (for with these injuries, no wonder my ability to run my small business has been horribly impeded,) is that i am diabetic.  i have to get my blood sugars under control. Three quarters of my problem is that when i am horribly stressed out, my sugars go sky high.  Once the stress abates, A1C gets better. 

But, when will the stress abate?  Sometimes i think that letting my life fall to pieces without a struggle would be less stressful than trying to get myself to change and be strong, fierce and fearless. Surely accepting powerlessness and submitting to the crappy things that have happened like they are some kind of judgment would feel more peaceful than demanding things from life (a living, health) that it seems so unwilling to give.

Yet, of course, here i am, pushing against the wall with all my might and demanding that it magically become a door. One of my friends – for these delightful people have been the awesome blessing that saved my life during the past eight months – keeps syaing that she knows i will be okay because i am the most stubborn cuss she’s met.  Part of me hopes she is right.  However, every time i push forward, doing something that i thought was impossible for me, i feel a quiet wave of pride and a huge inundation of WHAT WAS I THINKING?

#

Twenty four hours have passed since i wrote these words.  Glasses have made my world have sharp, clear edges again.  A seminar about selling your work at trade shows has taught me much.  But mid way through the class, i had an epiphany:

my path must be different than that of my classmates.

Simply put, i do not have the health to do major shows yet (or create the stock i would need) – perhaps in the summer or fall, but even then, by not applying for them now i will not be accepted into them.  Moreover, i am still substantially hampered in what art i can make.  So, i will have to forge my own path – taking advice from everywhere i can, gathering inspiration from the stories of artists who can pay their bills – but finding my own way. 

At least, as my heartbeat quickens with that realization, i can take comfort in the fact that i can finally see clearly again.

8-9 January 2015

roo

sorrow on four paws

a very short story inspired by a dog’s loss

###

i tried to tell her. i did. My whole body was wild with the horror of knowledge. Something was WRONG. Every time she came home, the smell of her mortality was stronger. i tried to piss it out, shit it out, bark at the cruelty of fate until it relented to my will, cry until my tears washed me clean of this dreadful certainty. None of it worked. None of it. She kept moving away from me. i kept asking her for time to run by her side, begged for her to stay with me. My need for her love escaped me in long thin cries of despair.

She did not listen; she left me howling.

Grief beyond all measure poured from my throat until i could no longer make sound. The sunshine cannot reach me anymore. There is no will in my legs to run and jump. Why can’t i remember her face or scent as clearly as i used to? How could it start to fade so fast? i roosearch the house for evidence of her and bury myself in it. i beg the universe for her to walk through the door. Huddled in a ball, i silently bargain: i will never, ever, misbehave again – even if the rules make no sense to me – just to get her back.

Oh, i would love to hear her yell “Bad Dog” at me, just to prove to myself that she is still lives.

But, she is gone. My ears cling to the memory of her voice, willing it to stay. i bury my nose in her clothes, trying to forget what has happened.

So many humans are talking about my person – but none of them matter. i remain utterly alone. None are her. Some try to comfort me, they rub me and talk to me, but i am without solace. i slump on the floor, shuddering with each breath, exhausted by my mourning. There is no joy within me, no energy left to lift my head or wag my tail.

‘If only she had listened to me!’ i would whimper it out again, if i had any strength, ‘if only she had understood!’ In my heart, i just wanted her here, safe, with me. Oh, how i wanted to run beside her my whole life. i did everything i could to keep what i smelled from becoming real. With each cry, i was begging her not to change, not to move away from me, all while knowing that i would accept any transformation over her death.

With everything i had, i tried to let her know, but i failed. She did not hear me.

And, now, i am alone.

i am no longer a dog – good or bad – but devastation and sorrow on four paws.

twenty minutes

raining i just used up all the hot water in the tank doing the dishes and it will take twenty minutes to get some warmth back.  The limitations of my hot-water heater has given me a chance to blog.

Part of the reason that the dishes had stacked up for so long was that my injured hand could not hold the dishes well or without significant pain.  The other reason is that when confronted by the desire to make art and the need to do dishes, the former almost always wins.  At any rate, while i cleaned plate after plate, rejoicing over my left hand’s healing, i started mulling over the other things i have not been doing as i should: blogging, posting on social media, just generally reaching out even to my customers.

Part of it has been a conscious choice as to what kind of art i should make. i am aware that what is welling up inside me contains sorrow and fear.  The decision is whether or not to give those emotions a stronger voice.

Years and years ago, a friend typed in a lot of poetry for me when i was having health issues that made the job impossible.  Those poems contained vast despair, interspersed with moments of bliss.  Watching how she reacted to that collection silenced my pen for a bit, even though she kept thanking me for the rare poems of joy.  Then, a couple of years ago, someone blue hairwas looking at thespirit_goddess paintings to the left and shook his head, saying no one wants to see pain.  By that time, my art had already shifted toward things like the holy spirit to the right.  Despite whatever internal grief i suffered, my art channeled happiness.  So i smiled at my friend’s advice,  because, somehow, i had already taken it.

That is, until this winter.  i cannot count the times i stopped my hands from drawing or painting or sculpting because i sorrowknew the things rumbling about in my mind would produce art like that to the left which flooded out of me six years ago.   Art can be a purging – an exorcism of grief and sorrow.  This helped heal my soul all those years ago.

If i want to be honest about my experience of life, there will always be a bit of art that will evokes the darkness.  Sometimes, even when i give myself leave to create something just for the sake of my sanity, the joy still peaks out.  A drawing of howling despair turns into song. There will also always be joy – peeking through even during the hardest times.

This is not one of the hardest time.  i know that, deep in my soul.  i can go back to poems written years ago and realize how much sunlight has conquered the sorrow.  An indefinable, unconquerable strength has kept me going this winter and for that spark of grace i am wildly grateful.  May it continue to keep me slogging through.

However, i have made a choice, for myself alone.  i don’t think i am going to quiet the art that would come forth, even when i know it might be soaked in blues.  The cost of keeping it bottled up is too high – for it stifles what other art that would come.

 

poetry: Roo

IMG_0035She sobs from loneliness,
her whole world upended
by the absence of the one she loves.
With each whistle, moan and bark,
i realize more fully:
i have been her.
Intelligence does nothing
to mitigate the sorrow
that can cling to solitude.
When the heart is focused,
demanding that one person,
beating in an echoing chamber,
an endless loop of need –
all one can do is howl.

written 1/16/2015

poem: you wanted me alone

The first draft of this was written over a year ago, but how it still applies:

#

He said You wanted me alone.
Childless.
Miserable.

My love for him
flowed deeper than the ocean,
despite the pain of ending,
as he swore that it was impossible
for anyone to love me –
particularly You,
my Lord, my God.

Every single day,
those words float through my mind.
i cross the foot of the stairs
at the peak of which those statements
were first uttered,
and they float back down to me,
echoing ghosts of heartbreak.

No anger accompanies them,
no outrage,
just a quiet wretchedness.
It is hard to challenge
those damnations
while i have been trapped
in this long loneliness.

Every time i have allowed
my heart to rise up in the hope
that love might find me again,
the object of my desire has asked
for my bank account numbers
or hurt me.

Jesus, You have given me words,
You have given me art,
but in the depths of night
when i am alone,
i am aware that the products
of my hands
cannot hug me back.

When he said those things, Christ,
he believed them.
His attitude became proof
that i was utterly unloved.

How much of my begging,
Lord,
has been because of this grief?
Your love had gotten me through
so much trouble and trial
from the earliest days of childhood.

Losing that undid me.

In the years since,
how many times have i come
on bended knee,
begging for you to love me again?

When will this doubt
that i never harbored before
he said those things
ebb away?

When will they stop following me
through my days?

Poem: talking about broken hearts

As we talk about broken hearts,
she manages a feat
no one else has:
to diagnose a reason
for my suffering.

She says
i am without guile.

The problem is my personality –
it intimidates.

She insists
i walk through the world
utterly without camouflage,
my need naked to all –
and that such openness
makes people run away.

Yet, it is also the wellspring
from which art comes.

She knows this
because she suffers
from the same intensity.
It might be why
we do the same work.
Definitely, it is why
she has surrendered
the search
for any love
but that of friendship.

All i know
right now,
for myself,
as her words wash over me,
is that i ooze loneliness.

i would give so much
to find comfort
in the arms of the one
i love –
God, how i mourn his absence –
particularly at this moment
when my purpose,
the meaning
that usually drives
my life,
has been letting me starve.

She sells her art.

A month ago,
that would have seemed
like a challenge,
an encouragement,
confirmation that it is possible,
a message
that i must find a way
to sell my own.

Only drenched in today’s exhaustion,
i cannot stir myself into hope.

Perhaps she is right,
and i am without guile.
For i cannot avoid or deny
my unguarded need
and excruciating grief,
they are etched on my face,
scrawled all over my work,
and shout out their existence
through every movement
of my limbs.

Even my usual habit
of prayer has halted,
for i lack the heart to ask
and receive silence
or condemnation.

If only my exhibitionism
of spirit and emotion
had some benefit –
but this nudity seems gratuitous.
It leaves me so very weary
that i cannot decide where to go –
and now,
i have even
run out of words
for this poem.

2014

poem: like a puppy

Like a puppy,
only not as cute,
i brim with enthusiasm
at the hint of connection.
i become positively ecstatic
at the whiff of kindness.
Tease me with love
and i might grow grateful enough
to lose consciousness.
Which, predictably,
renders me into something
monstrous and unloveable.
i care almost instantly.
i love foolishly and quickly,
without being able to stop.
The emptiness in my life,
filled by friends and family
in those who are normal,
makes every relationship
a blessing –
and no one wants
that kind of pressure.
My thankful happiness
seems suspicious.
i will remember the stories
told by acquaintances,
which has made many
turn away
ashamed and worried
for they don’t remember
ever meeting me.
If they can tolerate my presence
long enough for me
to fall into need,
then they turn away
objecting to the illogic
and imposition
of my grief.
More than once,
i have been gently informed
that the intensity of my energy
repulses.
Apparently, i should remove my soul
and replace it with a dimmer bulb
in order to be loved.
No longer an innocent
or an ingenue,
repetition has taught me well:
i can no longer muster
blind confidence
that this isn’t about me.
The truth appears undeniable –
i am the ugly, unwanted dog
without a home,
relying on the fleeting kindness
of polite strangers
to keep her alive.

sunlight and mood

For two days, I was struggling physically on a level that really demoralizes me.  Once I lose grip on my health, to the point I can’t walk well or function for at least four hours a day (even if those hours are isolated with several hours of less function in between), I start to despair.  I don’t know how else to describe it, I know it isn’t particularly rational, and I fully realize the look is not attractive. Ironically, if you include writing, I can get a lot of work done during those days (the prayer and meditation blog is queued up through July!), but the work is not always what I want to be creating. The two major pieces of prose I’ve wrote (one the day before yesterday, one the day before that) disappointed me, despite being well written.  One centered around feeling invisible and the other on how hard it is to be one of those people that society seems to forget, neither poor enough to get help nor rich enough not to be drowning. Both pieces echoed this sense of frustration, vulnerability and the acute fear that all the terrible things said about me, all the times people have predicted my doom (nearly every artist I know has a chorus of those voices following them around like we are in some Greek tragedy) were true.

So much of my writing – poetry in particular – has shifted to themes that are happier and more centered. Most of the time, what ever spells I spend in darkness have been shorter and caused by something tangible – like being ridiculously unable for two days.

So, yesterday, I was quietly thrilled when I found myself able to matt and frame some paintings and bother one of my favorite students with my jabbering.  Then, I managed to be social at a wine-tasting where I was the featured artist, although I fear some of my anxiety leaked out my lips a bit.  Afterward, I conquered a mountain of dishes (after which I sang a small song to celebrate my victory) and very quickly afterward staggered into bed.  However, the poems I wrote last night were not drenched in sorrow.  Worry, sure.  Pessimism, a bit. Loneliness, oh heck yeah.  But the knife of wretchedness had lifted out of my heart.

10341766_10203024107595134_1258225265593047701_n
what a happy goober.

After nearly twelve hours of sleep, I managed to get out of bed this morning without walking like a hamstrung Quasimodo.  After a couple of hours of poetry and putzing around the house, I took the dog for a quick hike – 50 minutes though the woods – before opening the studio for the day.

There is a miracle that happens in the sunlight, feeling the breeze off the harbor and looking at that dog smile with such joy.  It melts away the stress, even though my situation hasn’t changed.  The act of moving over that uneven ground makes me feel more at home within my body.  Usually prayers and thanksgivings float through me while I walk, but today, I simply enjoyed the quiet melting of those last shreds of despair.  The forest comes back to life – the sight of it filled me with poetry and gave me hope for myself.  After this terrible winter, we all have the hope of rebirth and happiness.

But I have one last observation, that struck me as I got the studio ready to open for business today.  When a student has a sudden run of difficulty with a throwing, when they race to the brink of despair thinking they have forgotten everything and suddenly and profoundly suck, I am always reminding them to check the wheel, check the bat, check the tool they are using.  Sometimes, the cause for their problems is actually external, or at least definable.  I can point to something and say – yes, this, this uneven wheel head is why everything you make is slightly off-center (one of my kick wheels has this issue).  There is no cause for despair or insecurity when the problem is in the environment or the machinery.  It becomes a call to either fix the problem or learn to adapt to new conditions.

In a way, I really have to get myself to look at these spasms of wretchedness the same way.  When my body is broken or overextended, I do not have the resources other people have to just bounce back – it takes time and that takes a toll on my mood.  I do not enjoy pain.  I get tired of weariness very quickly.  It was an exercise in faith this week to let myself be discouraged and down and not fear sparking an ongoing depression – and frankly, if someone were grading the exercise I do not think I got a passing grade.

 

darwin_closeup
seriously, such a happy goober

As I cleaned the wheel off, I realized with a shock, I had a mechanical issue sparking my problems and just like my students I had run to the easy explanations:

I am worthless, I am doomed, I am terrible.  Once the physical issues lifted, even slightly, the despair could melt away in the sunshine.

Which just means, I have to remember what I teach.  And I have to get the dog to look like this more often.