I write here often of my journey. It has been a slog of a journey, as it is for most people who battle mental/emotional issues. There is nothing romantic in the work. It’s just work. It’s not pretty. It’s not the stuff of movies or make-believe. It’s just work.
Still I write about it. Why?
Part of it is because it is what I know. That’s the classic advice to writers: “Write what you know.”. It’s my journey, my truth, my struggle and my victory. It has been with me for over a decade. It’s intimate. As much as I love the poets like T.S. Eliot who could stream epic poems of intellectual perfection, I can’t seem to do that. If I haven’t felt it, I can’t write it. I used to see that as a flaw in my ability as a writer, but I have come to see it differently. Dang that classic advice. It seems to be true.
Part of it has been a expunging of demons. At least that is how it began. After a decade and a half of not writing, part of my therapy after my divorce was to begin writing again. My therapist felt that I had let a lot of the things that feed me and kept me in good emotional help go, and part of my path back would be to return some of those things to my life. One of those was poetry.
Those first poems were as rusty as you might imagine. Many were about gardens. Untended gardens. Gardens killed by blight. Gardens that whithered and died. They were, of course, a metaphor for a life come undone. A marriage come undone. A spirit unraveled. I poured out a combination of sadness and loss and anger and loathing into small snippets of verse. And they were indeed healing. (or at least part of the healing.)
Since then my writing has continued. The truth is, I don’t have a ton of demons any more. I have accepted my humaness and weaknesses. I have made peace with my failures. I have re-introduced myself to my own value, my successes. I have done the work of restoration, a common theme in my poems, and though the work is never done, I am in a good place. At peace. Surrounded by joy. Een my depression is a different animal, one that mostly, I have managed to keep at bay, like a lion tamer with a whip and a chair.
So why do I still write?
Part of it is a self monitoring. A reminder that there is always work to be done. That I can’t turn my back on the lion for a minute. I went through a long part of my life where my emotions were stifled and I could not even name them. So this, the writing, is a watching, a naming, a vigilance. It is like standing guard in the night, a wordy watching.
I could do all this in a journal. So why bother posting them? Well it certainly is not to get rich and famous. There aren’t many rich and famous poets. We’re the last sideshow in literature and writing, the one at the back corner of the last lane in the circus, dark, and mostly neglected. I’m blessed with a few thousand readers, some of whom read me here, some of whom read me in other places I post my poems. But that’s hardly New York Times best selling material. Don’t expect me on Oprah any time soon.
It was my therapist who suggested I post a blog. It would, she said, put a sense of responsibility on me to do the work, and she knew I was a responsible kind of person. And so I did and she was, of course, right. I’ve blogged these things now for a decade or so. And along the way, I discovered something.
My poems reached others.
That was a surprise. You see, when we are wallowing in our own stuff, there is a tendency to think we are soooooo unique. That our issues and challenges and problems are ours alone. We often become isolated because we feel overwhelmed in that aloneness. We become overwhelmed in facing those things alone. (Who wouldn’t?). We, sometimes, can feel shame. Sometimes because manye we should, but far more often because society imposes a false shame on our struggle.
And what I learned is that at times, my poems or ramblings touched people. It reminded them that they were not alone. More important it reminded them that there was a way out. A way to a life with less burden, less struggle, more joy. If a patented fallen, broken, ordinary soul like me can dig out, maybe they can too. And that’s the truth of it. We can dig out. There is a way to better. Almost always.
In my church, I often preach out God as a “God of second chances.” That’s grace and I believe in it deeply. I believe it is the nature of God, of our universe to allow for a rebirth, a recreation, a second and third and tenth chance if needed. I have lived it. And I have learned this: We don’t do it alone. So if my poems and prayers help anyone, it’s worth putting myself out there and taking the occasional piece of nastiness.
I’ve been alone. And I know: Isolation is the enemy.
So I write. And I urge you to write. Or talk about your struggle. A few people may be put off. But far more with be sympathetic, or even empathetic, because they have been there. Or they are there. And suddenly you have a new ally, then two, then ten, then a tribe. A tribe of the broken, of the fragile, of the struggling is a mighty thing indeed. Your kind words have helped me heal. And perhaps one or two of mine have helped one or two of you.
Speak out. Share. Stand proud. Know this, there is always a way out, a way up. and it comes from walking hand in hand up the stairs.
Be well. Travel wisely,