Archive for August, 2020

Letter F

August 31, 2020

F- is for Focus. For me focusing is painful when I’m depressed. Focusing takes my attention off of fears and makes me feel vulnerable. It turns me inside out.  I am exposed. I am alone. Focusing outside myself is exhausting. I cannot see the world clearly when depressed.

F is also for fragile. I am fragile when depressed. There is a rawness in my being that pervades my mind. I am completely at the mercy of love.

E

August 25, 2020

E- is for energy.  Andrew Solomon writes “The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality.” Energy leaves you when you are depressed. It is a betrayal, as if the source that created you abandoned you. Lack of energy becomes a crisis because it activates doubt that you exist at all, that there is nothing redeeming about you and that maintaining a body and mind is useless. It is like a valve is shut off and the only way back to the source is to eliminate my need for energy.

When I am depressed energy comes back very slowly. Like air-drying after a swim, my body wet for a long time and eventually become dry. The mystery of how my energy returns is as confounding as how it leaves.  I would need an electron microscope to find the germ of change.

I wrote about a time when I was completely drained of energy and felt I could not go on. It is very confusing to be alive and have no sense of purpose. Under these circumstances it is a struggle to find any words to explain how I feel. The closest thing I can compare it to is falling down a steep flight of stairs.

Crucifixion

When I woke this morning

I could not move

When I turned the key

Nothing happened

Absolutely nothing

Not even a click was heard.

I was surprised I could wake

without the use of my body.

What have I done?

My body is paralyzed in bed;

Stopped by some counter motion.

Could I have fallen

Down the stairs?

I am bruised and broken.

I think I fell

Down the stairs.

This has happened before

I turned the key

There was a faint click

I slowly, cautiously shifted gears

Holding my breath.

I wondered

When the ignition took time to turn

Was this how

Christ felt when crucified?

His hands and feet nailed down?

He spoke like the last turn of an engine

Feeling the click of something still alive and said

“Forgive them for they know not what they do”?

I do not know what I have done

I must have fallen

Down the stairs

The stairs that lead to the beach

Taken over by raspberry branches

To where rancid wine touched my lips

And I am crowned Queen of Sorrows

Destined to die

Sooner than later.

Where people laugh and say give her a choice

 In how she carries the cross

She will stumble either way.

In any case

letting go is not an option.

The cross is my bones

They are broken from the fall

and cannot be moved.

They can only be washed ashore

As curved and twisted driftwood

Amid baby shells

Complete and bleached by the sun.

Damage Control

August 16, 2020

D – is for damage. Damage is done to relationships when depression enters the picture. Damage is done to trust that has been established with oneself and others. Depression feels like a turning in on oneself, you cannot trust yourself and others stop trusting you. Thinking is skewed and therefore, cannot be available in ways others have come to expect. Sometimes when I am depressed I cannot see my effect on others or I see it and feel helpless to do anything about it.

When I am stuck between self-absorption and guilt, I see forgiveness as a welcome mediator. Forgiveness is the missing ingredient. Just as bread cannot rise without yeast, relationships cannot be healed without forgiveness.  Sometimes saying “I’m sorry” to myself encompasses everything. To first whisper to the sick child inside of me “I’m sorry you are sick. I’m sorry you are alone. I am sorry you are scared.” And to listen to others and recognize that they too are hurting from the absence of my presence physically and emotionally and to say, “I’m sorry, it’s not your fault.” I’m sorry can be a prayer for healing. It can be the start of healing for my beloved family and friends.

Feeling Rebellious

August 14, 2020
File:Emil Wolff-Eros-Mutter Erde fec.jpg

Good Friday to you! I am not it the mood to share a letter today and it is my website so you get a rambling on Emily Dickenson!

In recent days I have been dreaming about Emily Dickenson and I think of her in my meditations. I wrote a poem honoring her a while back and I feel that my intuition is begging me to share it. In a curious coincidence Billy Collins, read his poem Taking Off Emily Dickenson’s Clothes on his podcast a few days ago. The poem is one of my favorites, but It seems to have triggered some activists as another powerful male objectifying a person as a body to be used for sexual gain. O.K. well, possibly there is an element to that but that is really not the point. I think the poem is about eros, the power of love and sex, and that is what makes this poem dangerous. People are scared to death of love and sex because it cannot be controlled. In this time of pandemic people are greedy for control and strike out against anything in the way.  I find the poem heady, powerful and at the same time humble. I think Billy Collins writes of his own subjectification not that of women in general. He becomes her servant in the erotic fantasy with Ms. Dickenson, he becomes her maid so to speak by taking off her clothes. He is making feeling the subject and the feeling is that of love of grace and beauty. He mentions a swan, the symbol of purity, devotion, and partnership. He swept away by love it is just hard to see in a world that doesn’t value love. The world is starting to get hip to equality and as a feminist I am encouraged by this, but love is the higher value and tolerance must be given to those that attempt to love wildly.

Here my own attempt to recognize Ms. Dickenson’s writing and my own desires:

A Poem For Someone Else and From Someone Else

Emily Dickenson wrote for herself I’m guessing 

A private conversation

Inner voice attuned to experience

Forgetting or maybe uncaring what the poetry is

What the gift will be

One with urgency of understanding

Alone with herself

Walking in the world with confidence.

Being guided by inner music.

Seeing the forms behind the illusion

And giving gratitude

Falling to her knees in wonder

I have an urge

To write you a poem

To announce my axis of love’s reception

To be the voice of witness

To allow reality to flow between us

To map our meeting and see the play of God in three distinct acts

An ancient need for meaning and control

Taking deeply flawed and confused individuals and giving them a good ending

A story to hold on to

Stepping into light

Unconcerned with the shadows

Desperate to create meaning

An unconscious wish creates an opening

A way home

To try again

And be better.                                                                

Letter C

August 7, 2020

C – C is for control. Having a breakdown is all about control. Loss of what I normally feel I am able to control, and control being exerted on my world by others can be paralyzing. Control is a word closely related to meaning. I feel in control when I feel knowledgeable, when things seem to be what they are. When I feel connected to Reality I feel in control. Life becomes consensual when I understand what is happening.  Conversely it is hard for me to see meaning when I feel out of control. This is where the work of returning to one’s soul begins. The soul has to be recognized in order to feel completely alive and in control of one’s life. The soul connects us to other people and the world and is where power lives. When life feels out of control I ask my soul for guidance and meaning arises. This asking is prayer. A prayer to slow down and catch my breath. To dwell in the present.

Catching My Breath

August 6, 2020

The behemoth medical machine spit me out and I am just returning to myself. Radiology is no joke. I managed to sit still while poked, injected, scanned, and assaulted with ungodly noise. The headphones at max volume playing Opera music was drowned out by the violent disruption of the space around and inside of my body. A soprano belting out an aria that can be seen on a richter scale could not hold a candle to the power of the MRI machine. The staff looked the other way when I took off my Covid mask, a nurse said “it is hard enough to breathe in there with out a mask” It was a kindness that I appreciated but made me question myself and wonder if it was a safe thing to do. Twenty minutes is a long time to be under assault and a day later I am still exhausted. Here is an except from my poem Coming into Prayer

Turning toward the darkness

Walking though my body,

Completely alone, singled out

I found myself

Coming into prayer.

Not through the door of an imposing cathedral,

Not on my knees at my bedside,

But through a softening

Given by time

A lens to focus my breath

Prayer is not a universal language like music or beauty,

Prayer welcomes the unknown

Prayer is the call to listen

Prayer disarms the mind

Prayer creates form from loss

It is the labor of the soul turning inside out.

It is the

Seed sprouting

Bud opening

Fish splashing

Bird singing

Tree swaying

Wonder

Where the visible is given to the darkness,

The hidden and held lost in light.

Hide N’ Seek

August 4, 2020

I’m going in for a breast MRI and CT scan of my lungs today. It is part of regular screening post cancer and precaution for my higher than normal risk for lung cancer. It feels like a game hide n’ seek. When I go in to start the game of seeing if cancer is there, the eyes of my heart close and a graceful presence covers me and I wait, this is when the doctors and nurses start looking. I let them finish the game. If cancer is hiding I leave it to them to experience the finding and I find my surprise when I leave the hospital the eyes of my heart squinting in the bright light of my life and all is as I left it. The amazing fact that I am here living this ordinary life and the graceful presence spreads like yellow paint on wet paper lifting up the horizon.

A Postiive Diagnosis

August 2, 2020

Do you know of Tig Notaro? I first saw Tig Notaro in a recording of her 2012 show “Live”, in which she announces she has breast cancer. I too had breast cancer and felt immediately drawn in. I recently watched her Netflix movie about her life and how she used her cancer diagnosis as an opportunity to become better, a better comedian, better at relationships and eventually better from cancer. Her documentary shows she was not new to loss and has endured more than most. In “Live” she used her powers of observation to take cancer in stride. It was not her first confrontation with death and she shows her well earned bravery and confidence from her past trials. Tig Natoro artistic skill put cancer in its place and allowed her to shine.

I did not stand in front of a group of strangers when I shared my diagnosis but I did start writing. Like Tig, I exploited cancer. I used it for my writing. It was just another opportunity to shine. I started writing in earnest when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As I spent a year and a half as a full time cancer patient I realized I had already been fighting a bigger fight than cancer. I was a fourteen year survivor of depression and anxiety. Cancer was a condition that lived in my body. Depression was a state that at times took over my life and lived me. When depressed I felt the pain most of the time but could not see it. The cancer taking over my chest caused no symptoms but could be seen with machines and the loss easily seen in the pound of flesh it took and felt in the physical pain of its eradication.

With cancer all I really could rely on was my soul. It was also the only part of me that could not be taken away. My soul was where I had to build my home, my place of retreat, that only I could see. Like a child building castles in the sand the architecture had to come from within. A moat was essential in this new landscape and I started right away carving mine with words, words and images from poets whose castles managed to withstand the rising tide. I would collect the sand in the shower after a hard day of work digging. I wrote my poem Circles from the dilating effect fear has on the round muscles of my body. I have given birth twice, I know that pain would transform me and make space in my heart for God’s love to become visible. With cancer I did not know if I was to birth my own death or my soul’s reiteration. I am grateful for my soul’s reiteration through writing and I am grateful to have friends that care to read about it.

Here is Circles

Circles

In blissful nights and dark days I wander. 

My world turned upside down, rhythmically, contracting, a familiar returning,

A smaller circle occurring.

A sacred circle becoming narrow, closer in, a time of passing through, being born again.

The dark star, deep inside,

Singular?

Plural?  

The ego questions.

The circle getting smaller.   The mark that will be placed on my breast, a reminder what is to be cut away, the circle a little smaller.

But the bright pink flower, lying on the snow covered ground,

A reminder of God’s need for sacrifice,

A decision made to let my breast,

Singular?

Plural? 

No matter.

Be taken and given as sacrifice.

I walk in a world relentless with its beauty.

Radiating circles, smaller circles than before, but radiating,

 A light showing a new path, a light to be leaned into while the sacrifice is taking place.

A circle of friends grabbing hands saying prayers, asking the hard questions, Compassionately letting go, not letting anything that is essential pass.

Making way,

Giving ground,

Finding each other in the process.

Radiating.