Poem: Better than Coffee

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This morning, I have too much going on in my head.

I am a calmer, simpler person than most. That’s what people tell me. And it is something I work at. I am more effective when my mind is calm. I am a better person when my mind is calm.

It takes work. Strong emotions overwhelm me. That can be paralyzing. A lot of people are good at putting their various emotions in boxes and only opening the one they need to deal with at the time. Others are like a juggler, able to constantly add and subtract an array of plates, bowling pins, balls and anything else you throw at them, and keep them in the air with aplomb.

I admire those people. I used to be one.

But I became so good at putting things in boxes that I lost my ability to feel properly. There was always a box to put things in. In time my life was all boxes, with very little emotion. Safe. Neat. But not very human. And not very healthy for me, or the people in my life.

Finding a place between the two extremes has been a long journey, and rarely an easy one. I don’t think I will ever get past the place where too much overwhelms me. But I have also come to a place where that’s OK. It’s part of being human.

I am in one of those places this morning. I am full of joy, and sadness and anger and a mix of emotions that were never meant to be so strong all at once. It will take me a while to sort myself out.

But sort myself out, I will. That’s part of what my writing is about. Sorting out. Letting the whirlwind die down. Letting the silt settle.

My ex-wife used to say I was a hermit. And there is some truth to that. I am an introvert’s introvert. But I also know isolation is the enemy. People, in small doses, are healthy for me. I love going out with our friends, having dinner with others, talking to strangers. So I refuse to be a hermit.

If I were a real hermit, I’d likely hunker down with my collection of boxes and stuff everything in them. I’d be a hoarder of emotions, piling them up, but not actually living with any of them. I did that for a while after my divorce. I can tell you, it is not a healthy thing, even if it feels safe.

So I go out. I don’t do my writing at home, but I go out. I sit in diners. I write in coffee shops between appointments with clients. I talk to strangers. I remind myself that life is not about looking out of windows, but going outside.

And I write. I don’t actually accomplish much in my writing. Those of you who read me regularly know I have a dozen or so themes that show up again and again. Those are the themes that have driven and still drive my life.

No, I don’t come to huge, wonderful and wise conclusions or solutions when I write. I just let the simple act of writing calm me down. It’s part of my zen.

I had breakfast with a dear friend of mine, Jeff Anderson, yesterday. Jeff, among his other many talents, repairs and makes guitars and other musical instruments. He was eloquent in talking about the zen he felt when he works with the wood to fashions a part of a guitar.

I get it. Writing does that for me. Life is a complicated mess sometimes. Even when it is good (and all in all, my life is very, very good right now.). It is like counting to ten, or a hundred, or whatever it takes to calm myself down. That’ is what the writing does for me.

I got out this morning. I wrote this. I wrote a bad poem that won’t show up here unless I can fix it (I have a collection of 90 some odd bad poems that sometimes I go fix.). I had a good talk with the cook at my favorite diner. A new friend wandered in just to say “hi.” and we talked for about 20 minutes.  I am at peace. Ready to face the world. Or rather, to face the world sanely.

There’s a difference.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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