Hello there! Today has been another “one of those days.” Seems like lately every week has at least a couple of “those days.” I originally decided to take a rain check from Blogtober today to focus on some much-needed self care. But then, as I was reading through some old poems I wrote wayyyyyyy back, I decided I’d go ahead and blog afterall. This post is more of an informal, personal share, but hey! Those have their place on AWBK too.
So as I said, I got in the mood to read some poetry. And I found some of my old poems. You know how it’s a thing to write a letter to your younger self? Well, these poems were like reading a letter to my older self! I’m enjoying how my reflective, although angst-ridden, teenage brain came up with some beautiful little nuggets that still hold true. So I thought I’d share a poem or two with you.
This first one I wrote during a semester away at boarding school as I was digging my way out of the first major episode of depression I’d ever experienced. It’s called…
My Fair Daisy
(I know, kind of cheesy. But I never claimed to be Robert Frost. Although… I might just include something of his here too… because I love his poetry so much.)
Why, my daisy,
Do your petals droop?
Fading, falling to the ground?
And why, my daisy,
Do you bow down to the wind
When gusts growl and roar with rage?
Your beautiful tall stem,
So proud and bold
Is now humble, withering weak
Please, my daisy
Don’t give up just yet!
Less stormy days will come.
Take hope, my Daisy!
Raise your stem high
And lift your petals in defiance
To those grumpy gray clouds!
Drink in the rain of these snarling storms
And grow stout and strong
So when happier days come again
You may reflect the sun
In your brilliant, yellow petals
And ease the gloom of stormy days
In someone else’s heart.
Today the message really hit me – It’s important to remember that hard times don’t last forever, and when they’re over, you’ll be stronger and more empowered to help someone else who’s struggling. Thanks, 16-year-old Kristina, for the timely reminder.
This next poem goes right along with the theme of self care…
The literal interpretation is a depiction of this storage space under the stairs at my Grandmother’s house. The storage space under the stairs is a metaphor for that “junk box” in our brains where we file away everything we don’t want to deal with or think about. So on a deeper level, it’s about the experience of reaching into your mind and trying to understand yourself; trying to unearth those conflicts that have been haphazardly buried in the effort to “keep calm and carry on”… and the fear of what you might encounter…
In a house I know well
Hides a big, black hole
Under in-ways and out-ways,
Ascension-ways and dissention-ways,
Big, black and abyssal as the unknown soul
It serves as a storage space
So many things go in
But rarely do things come out, and
Often curiosity begs me, become a scout
Until I spot a devil, sleeping in his den!
So why all the melancholy and rumination?
I think this comes back to a general battle with Saudades. That one Portuguese word that… well… kind of defines my life as an expat. Saudades describes a feeling of grief – loss, remembrance of good times, things, people, and longing. It’s essence is a very sweet, affectionate melancholy. But sometimes, on bad days, Saudade takes a turn for something more intense and consuming. Something darker. Because, let’s face it, loss is difficult. And where there is loss, there is grief. And sometimes grieving is messy. In the end, we come back around to Saudades, but we’re all allowed to have those days when things get dark and ugly. And it’s important not to wad those emotions up into a suitcase and chuck it in the den! So this next poem is about my battle with depression and grief, written in one of those times when I was afraid I’d be stuck in that dark place forever. (Pain has a way of making time slow down and stop.) At the end, I warn myself not to get too cozy. Because, at the end of the day, I want to be free and live with a heart full of gratitude, with Saudades.
This was inspired by one of Robert Frost’s poems, which I will include after this, along with another little reflection.
I fancy myself as one who knows darkness.
Not that darkness is something wonderful to know,
In fact, it comes like a thief in the night and steals.
But the thief lives in my soul, and the door it busts down
To ruin my life every night —
They say I am a survivor
That every night I live through the darkness
Is another feather in my cap.
And to be a survivor must mean that you possess commendable strength.
They say I am a fighter
And that it will only get better
And that I will only get stronger
When, in my reality—what is real and true to me –
I am not a survivor
I am a victim.
I am not strong
I am sick.
I am not a fighter
I am a coward.
But there is something I can take from the darkness,
That it cannot take from me –
One thing that it, in fact, gives me –
I can be confident that I am the most human human anyone ever knew.
I have known dignity as well as dilapidation,
I long for bondage as well as emancipation.
In my own, I don’t know which I want more.
To others, I don’t want anything.
I say, “I am who I am.”
I tell them I fancy myself as one who knows darkness,
And play it up
As if every night that almost kills me is another joke
Another feather in my helmet
But as long as I let darkness bust down the door,
I will do more than know darkness
I will be darkness.
To conclude, I’ll share a few more thoughts on grief, written a year or two ago…
Grief… this burden of sadness carried because of the loss of something or someone. It is a defining reality of the human experience. It is an unavoidable and transformational part of spiritual development.
We ask God to take our hard hearts and soften them up, according to His promise, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart,” (Ezekiel 36:26). And this is great until you have to confront the reality that our minds do not function in a selectively responsive way. This means that, when you ask for a soft heart you better be prepared to experience not only the vibrant joy, peace, and all those other desired positive emotions, but also profound, crushing sadness, pain… grief.
The more responsive our hearts become, the more authentically we experience ALL emotions. Grief included.
But this is how it’s supposed to be. Grief is the siren that tells us we lost something important. If your heart is so numb and hard that you never experience grief, how can you ever realize what you lost? And if you never recognize what you lost, how can you ever find the fulfillment for the residual longing – that “black hole” of the soul?
Grief helps us understand what is most important. It keeps us gentle, compassionate, and serving. And contrary to some opinions on grief, I believe it is a connector and unifier, not an isolator. As much as we allow ourselves to experience grief and understand it intimately, we can recognize the same pain in another person’s life. We realize we are never alone in our darkest seasons. God asks us to carry each other’s burdens, to cry when the other cries, to laugh when the other laughs. When we reach out in compassion to another person, we often encounter the balm for our own emptiness. Grief ultimately makes us better people.
So be courageous and get acquainted with grief. It is a most painful but rewarding pursuit.
“I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.”
– Robert Frost