Thoughts: Madness and Mending

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This morning I got a notification from WordPress. Evidently, I’ve had this blog running for six years. I had another blog, on another platform, for a few years before that. All in all, I think I have been at this for nearly ten years.

Pretty much, the format hasn’t changed. The preponderance of it is poetry. An occasional bit of prose rambling. And photographs, mostly mine. Most of it has been written in diners and coffee shops. When I lived in Virginia, it was Mill Mountain Coffee in Daleville. For most of my time in Vermont, it has been at Pawlet Station (AKA my favorite diner) as it went through a succession of five owners. Since I got married a year or so ago, I’ve had breakfast and writing time a couple of days a week at Nick’s, in downtown Athol.

It was my therapist who got me started blogging. I had spent much of my life writing poetry, but in my first marriage, a number of things conspired to suck up my life and time and the thing that got lost was my creative spirit. Somewhere in the mix of marriage, kids, housework, church, work and the panoply of things that came my way, creativity got pushed aside. I bought into the lie that taking time to write or draw or whatever was selfish. I had all these responsibilities. They needed to come first.

My therapist, God bless her, helped me understand the role that creativity played in my life, and how pushing it back for all these other things had damaged me. She set me back on the path to writing again, but it came in fits and starts. Part of that was just being rusty. Part of it was that false guilt that creativity, because it felt so good, was a selfish pleasure.

It wasn’t of course. It was medicine. It was healing. It was renewing. It helped me figure things out.

My therapist knew what I didn’t. (Don’t they always?). She knew that I was at my base a responsible guy, and if I felt responsible to readers, even one or two, I would do it more. Nine years in, she was proved right. Readers came. One, two. A dozen. Now, on the various platforms I publish my writing on, I have nearly 9,000 readers. Not bestseller numbers, but still, for a guy living a quiet life in the Southwest corner of Vermont, pretty amazing.

The format has never changed. And that defies the cardinal rule of marketing – that you change things around to keep people interested. I don’t do that.

I don’t do that because the purpose has never changed. I write because writing is medicine. It is healing. It helps me figure things out. Other than an occasional small book, I am not selling anything.

At sixty-two, and five years of therapy, you’d think I’d have it all figured out. But we are complex beasts we humans. Like onions as the cliche goes, with layer after layer to peel back. We are creatures of triggers and trauma and strange strengths and stranger weaknesses. Add to that the fact that life and our lives are always changing, always adding new layers to the onion, and I am coming to the conclusion that we never figure it all out. We’re like a garden, changing with the season, dying back in some seasons, growing anew in others, rich and lush in still others.

I am in a rich and lush period just now. Freshly married to a wonderful woman who loves the way I always felt love was supposed to be, but never quite was, she is a constant revelation. I have good work, an odd patchwork of technical, personal and spiritual work that pays the bills and is endlessly interesting. My kids, who once did not like me much, who now love me deeply, and are doing well as they launch into life. I still have issues, depression, doubt, internal battles, but all in all, this is a rich season. I am in the summer of my life at an age where many people are heading into late fall.

Writing about joy, I have learned, is harder than writing about pain. Pain and struggle are still so second nature that when they return, it is like being with an old friend. Joy is a new friend, and the words and conversations with myself still come with fits and starts. I have a new respect for writers that wrote so elegantly of love – Shakespeare, Donne, cummings (Especially cummings!). I am still finding my vocabulary.

It will come. And life will change. And there will be dark times and there will be glorious times. And there will be dark times again. That’s how it works, this life we lead. Seasons. Cycles. A mountain journey with peaks and valleys. A seashore with storms and serenity.

I am really glad that so many of you find things that touch you in my words. I am honored that you choose to spend a few minutes each day sharing my journey. WHen I began, I truly doubted that readers would find me and would find things that resonated with them. Many of you write me or leave comments and tell me that this poem or that rambling essay touched you, and what you don’t realize is that while you are thanking me, I am even more grateful for you. You gave my major tool for my own sanity: meaning. You made me responsible, and without you, I likely would have lapsed into the lie that creativity did not matter.

I know where that lie led me, a decade and more ago. I never want to go back again. I’m afraid of going back. I survived once. I am not sure I would survive such a black place again. And you, dear, dear readers, have been a big part of my healing, growth and sanity.

Bless you,

Tom

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