Poem: Unholy Ropes

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Unholy Ropes

The ropes are rolled loosely in the corner.
Binding things, shrugged off late in life, often
replaced by more in some terrible cycle
of bondage.

Most were not your own. You surrendered to them
one by one, too often for the best of intentions,
not even aware of the sacrifice until
your eyes grew dim from lack of air,

your heart bound by unholy ropes
as the best of you slowly withered away.

But you did not die.
You teetered on the precipice of heaven and hell
like a drunken acrobat, dancing precipitously
as the crowd watched, unsure of what they were seeing.

You found your way
to solid ground and your roots dug down,
hungry, ravenous for the faith so lost in the morass
of failure, exhaustion, and malleability.

You found your way, and one by one,
thread by thread, cut yourself free, growing stronger
with each thin string sliced away, faster and faster,
until, beserker-like you could cut through the thickest bonds

like butter.
You became something you never sought
but always believed you were.
Strong.

The ropes are rolled loosely in the corner.
You keep them there, frayed and sliced,
reminders of how easily we become captives,
and the hard work of breaking free.

About this poem

I keep a lot of momentoes around my house and particularly around my desk. Not all of them are of good times. There’s a reason for that.

The picture was taken in Mystic Village, CT.

Tom

Poem: Temporary Casualties

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Temporary Casualties 

I am dragging this morning. There is no poetry in me.
The words in me are discordant,
bully words,
the words of people who loved me intermittently,
intimate allies one minute,
aware of each weak point in body and soul,
intimate enemies the next, just as
aware of each weak point in body and soul.

That’s what I know. Bullies have a particular power.
They know best, just where to place the knife,
and they know they do not have to twist the blade.
They know
I will do it for them.

“Talk to me like you love me.” I once told one
of these off and on lovers.

It is confusing, love with a bully.
And in the end, they leave you,
their voices become yours.
You become them, far better
at evisceration than they ever were,
far more persistent.

At sixty-two, I know them well.
I listen to them,
just long enough
to separate out the voices,
to know which are yours,
and which belong to the devils
who wish so fervently to become demons
and possess us.

It’s not going to happen.
(not a poetic phrase is it? It sounds
more like a bad adventure movie, still)
They have had their moment.
But it is past.
Like a Celtic army, they can scream and paint themselves
with false righteousness before the charge.

I am no longer unarmed.
My mildness is no longer weakness.
It has been built of wounds and wisdom.
I have survived and I know the difference
between the devil’s insidious song
and my own.
Let them charge with their painted faces and spears.
I will laugh as I pull the trigger
and begin my day,
each word I do not feel is a roman discipline.
I write them and watch the lies fall,
temporary casualties.

Better them than me.
I stretch.
I push aside the cat at the foot of the bed.
I get up.
There is a life to lead.
Until tomorrow’s battle,
I am safe.

About this poem.

Another dark morning conquered. This is what I do. Every day. I left out the victory dance, but my kids call it dad dancing and it’s not a pretty sight.

Laughing with joy.

Tom

Thoughts: Knocking Down the Wall

The Wall

It is seven twenty-five as I start writing this. I am sitting at my local diner, a cup of coffee set off to the left of my laptop. I am off to a late start.

It was the wall again. Waking up and it’s there. My daily dose of depression.

I wonder at it sometimes. Each day I beat it back. I am quite skilled, well medicated, well armed. I have a routine that works. Mostly, I am a happy little warrior, dealing with the day to day stuff of life with one hand, while with the other slashing away at my enemy.

I almost always win, and there is a lot of satisfaction in that, because I know how easy it is to lose, how easy it is to let my guard down, to surrender. For all the equipping, all the prayer, all the diligence, it’s still work, and a lot of people give in.

I don’t blame them.  At times I envy them. I get tired of the battle. That whole “just let it win” thing? Very attractive at times. I wasn’t born a warrior. I was born a poet. But I’ve become one.

Mostly because I am greedy.

I am greedy for life. I am greedy for joy. I want to feel fully, to rejoice with all that I am. To feel love and passion. To experience pride of work well done and battles won. To savor a good cup of coffee and deep conversation. To lose myself in the colors of nature and the colors of fine art.

I had all those things once, and lost them, a variety of factors beating them out of me for decades until finally, I was a shell. The depression had won. I was just another set of bones on Ezekiel’s valley. (See Ezekiel 37:1-14).

Most of us stay dead. A few of us don’t.

I didn’t. My path back is well documented, both here in my blog and in my book, Dancing with Depression. It’s old news to regular readers.

I wish my path back could be something heroic. That there was virtue and purpose in it. That it could be the stuff of movies. Mostly though, it’s because I was hard headed and greedy.

Hard headed, because as I finally got the help I needed and began learning the things that had torn me down, I got mad. I still get mad when I think of them. All sorts of contributing factors: people, circumstances, fate, my own body’s betrayal.

Something in me, an innate hard-headedness, got mad. Got angry. Stayed angry. You have to understand that I am not generally an angry person, so this was new to me. I didn’t know what to do with it. But angry I was. Angry I still am.

How dare they tear away at my essence like that? How dare they rip away at my joy? What right did they have to steal my energy, my drive, my purpose? The more I understood, the angrier I got.

Mostly, in today’s world, we think anger is a bad thing. And Lord knows, it can be. But, properly managed, harnessed, brought under our control, anger can be a magnificent tool. It has a power we lack in our day to day life, and brought to bear on problems and issues and even depression, it can help us overcome all odds. Because things tend to wilt under the barrage of anger.

Even Depression.

Depression sometimes makes people angry. If you have lived with a person suffering with depression, you might have experienced it. It’s an anger born of frustration, but often it is turned on the people around us, or worse, turned inward on ourselves.

But it can also be turned on depression itself. It can be weaponized and fuel our fight. It can be our secret weapon. It can give us a power to defeat something larger than ourselves.  You’ve seen those silly internet videos of the tiny cat terrifying the giant dog or even a bear?  It’s like that.

If we can learn to turn our anger against depression itself, we have a powerful weapon. I use it almost every day. I used it this morning, when I woke up and wanted to stay in bed, not in a healthy “isn’t this cozy” kind of way but in a “I wanna give up.” kind of way.

And I got pissed.

Please note the curse word. I am not a curser. People who know me well know this. So when I break bad and use a “bad” word, people know I mean business.

I got pissed. I threw the covers off with passion. I jumped out of bed and said, “Take that!”. I put on my clothes with purpose. I strode downstairs with a “Don’t mess with me” attitude. My cat ran ahead of me, wondering what had gotten into me.

And so did the depression. Like the coward it is. The wall fell down at my fury. It sounds silly, but as I rounded the corner into my office, I wanted to raise my arms in victory and shout a battle cry.  But that would have been silly. All I had done is get up.

But that’s not all I had done, is it? You who fight this battle know. You who intimately know others fighting this battle also know. I had won a great victory. I had fought for something I treasure – the joy of living life, the ability to savor everything and everyone around me, the ability to live life and do work just like everyone else.

And that my friends, is worth unleashing the beast for.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

PS – I had a reader ask me to write something about anger and depression. I have no idea what they expected. This is my personal experience, no more. But perhaps it will help someone. If not, it felt good writing it, like kicking the rubble from the wall after knocking it down. Like knowing I have a secret that will let others knock down their own walls. My contribution to the war.

 

Poem: Depression

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Depression

Even the things that are false,
the lies that loom so large
and color your world
in shades of grey and black
are false,

mere art
created to make you feel small,
a beautiful lie
that needs your collusion
or it all burns away
like morning fog.

About this poem

Insidious. Your own mind lying to you. Until you learn to fight the lies with truth (and a bit of medication). It’s a long journey that never ends. But oh, to know what is beautiful and real, and what is not – it’s a wonderful thing.

Tom