Friday, May 27, 2011

emily strong, or I write myself down

"We'd never know how high we are 'till we are called to rise; and then, if we are true to plan, our statures touch the sky." ~ Emily Dickinson 

"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.  We seek out problems because we need their gifts."  ~ Richard Bach 

(This is basically a journal entry, unedited.  I may pull it, but I cannot bring myself to edit it.)

I’m acting like a jilted lover
Jesus, I can’t believe this.
I just want love and . . .
it’s not available to me.
I thought I got it.
Last night, I got it.
I went through my story
and it made sense.
But today I can’t do it.
I want love, goddamit.
I don’t want to be alone.
I don’t want to be precious Emily Dickinson.
I want someone to hold my hand
to hold me
to kiss me.

I don’t get it.
I didn’t do anything wrong.
Why is everything wrong?
I can’t do this anymore.

Everything is a fucking process.
I’m so tired.  It has been so long.
It takes so long.

So I made it up.
I made the whole goddamn
thing up.
I wanted love so badly
that I just pretended and made up scenarios
and then they came true,
sort of.
But it wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t right.
I don’t get to have what I want
and I’m so goddamned hurt.
I hate it.
I hate it.
I hate being like this.
I hate myself for being like this.
I don’t know what to do.
And fucking love songs.
I can’t even listen.
I feel so cheated.
Somebody tell me.

Today I banged my fists against the wall and said,

“It does NOT get better!”

Where is this “better”?

I worked so fucking hard on this
relationship.  And now it’s shit.
This was what I wanted and I can’t have it.
because it only appeared to be what I wanted.
It was only part of a very complex mosaic.
The most efficacious way for me to change my life,
my path.
To fall in love with someone while in another relationship—one that seemed all right, but wasn’t.  To fall for someone with whom I seemed so perfectly matched, but who had this HUGE flaw that would always keep us apart.  One who I felt, for once I had an honest and open connection to, who ironically couldn’t be honest with me, because he couldn’t be honest with himself.  Bullshit, universe.  I see part of it, in retrospect, only.  The beautiful plan of having to break up a relationship that wasn’t good enough, by dangling one that seemed better, but always just out of reach, because I needed to be broken down enough to turn to my mother and cry to her as I hadn’t in decades, or maybe ever, so that she could tell me, at last, that she had loved me, forever.  So that I could hold her hand while she was dying, without any other clouding my view of her sparkling blue eyes.  All that had to happen.
And I wanted it to.  I wanted change.  I asked for it.
I didn’t know for what I hungered, exactly, but what I had wasn’t enough.  My life was too small.
I didn’t know I wanted something spiritual until an alcoholic asked me what I thought about God.  And then the Twelve Steps and meditation.  I was envious.  I wanted somewhere to go that would accept me no matter what.  Someplace at which I just had to show up as myself.
And soon-to-be previous boyfriend didn’t offer that.
Suddenly after meeting an alcoholic, I found myself surrounded by a cadre of affected folks.  Those who had been married to an alcoholic, were in a relationship, were trying to get out of a relationship with, or were in recovery.  A support system sprung up for me.  I slowly began to see how my life really was, how I was building resentment towards soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, how he didn’t and couldn’t meet my needs.  The alcoholic friend in recovery started up a chorus of “Go to Al-Anon.  Go to Al-Anon.”  I did not want to.  I don’t think anybody wants to go to Al-Anon, until they get there.  My first visit was eye opening.  Although I had been resisting for a long time, as soon as I stepped through the doors . . . .

The first thing that happens at a meeting is the reading out loud of the Twelve Steps.  Step One (We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.) which I had previously thought to be so impossible, suddenly made sense.
I was there because my life had become unmanageable.  I was powerless.  I needed help.
Boom.  I knew why I was there.  By the grace of God, I had met and fell in love with an alcoholic and that had led me to this spiritual program, which opened up more in my mind and life—the change for which I had asked.  Of course, that realization didn’t happen all at once, but I was on the path.  Through Al-Alon, I met a yoga instructor and started a regular practice.  Through yoga I learned a formal practice of meditation.  Weekly interaction with supportive strangers in Al-Anon gave me the courage to join other groups and show up as myself.  Most recently, I went through the twelve-week course of The Artist’s Way with four other creatives—what a gift!  I found out that I have an interest in watercolors.  I’m not just a writer.  How cool.  I can make art and have fun!  Art feeds my soul.  
OK, universe, I get it.  Kind of.
Just not very graciously at the moment.



  1. Well, you blow down the shade of Emily with right improper incompactness. My earlier comment about you reminding me of Dickenson had nothing to do with her solitude and everything to do with a heart wide open to nature. Maybe that's a lot safer than a heart wide open to other. But I get it. Writing could never suffice for me. Its Art AND Heart or nothing, endless empty bottles. As a 12-stepper myself, I know that surrender is the only escape and that spiritual growth is the only path, one that will forever be difficult but not suck. This is the most vulnerable writing I've seen from you, and who knows how long you'll keep it up, but keep it up somewhere. And know you're on a guided path that leads into the most beautiful constructions of all: this moment where everything, as Emily discovered, is perfect. You've nailed yourself here, now all you can do is live forward. The rest is revision. Hugs. - Brendan

  2. Hahaha! Thank you.
    I wanted to post this because it showed me how I could write myself down from blind-pissed-off-ness to calm(er) acceptance and a little more understanding.
    The solitude is what it is. After 50 years, I'm relearning how to live and that seems necessarily to be a solo--a wren on a branch, a lark on a fence post.

  3. I came over from your comment at Rilke, quoting the Bach there. Yeah, there is a gift waiting. But I think it's OK not to see it as a gift quite yet, just believe it's coming, next. There's something about the uplooking, keeping open above, that helps. Why above, I wonder? I feel this essentially in this writing from you today, that it is uplooking and open above. Because of how it ends, from where it started. I actually think saying fuck, and writing it, is awfully, awefully gracious. So much grace to write the word, to yell it. It's a prayer, I think! It's a downward prayer, but it's a prayer. Maybe into the center of something, yourself maybe. Everything really is perfect inside.

    I know, blah blah blah. You know it all, don't you? I know you do, because you said it all right here.

    My brother is an alcoholic. His 25-year-old daughter is an alcoholic who put me through hell last year while she begged to come stay with me so I could help her dry out. I didn't happen to know she had a bottle hidden in her suitcase. Well I learned a few things. After I was ripped to shreds.

    One of the biggest things I learned was to say Yes, but I was still screaming No. I am finding out that both exist simultaneously.

    Do you know Ellen Bass's poem? I don't mean by sharing it that I am reducing anything you're experiencing. I just want to give you this as an embrace, as a yes to all you feel, and tears that you feel it.

    The Thing Is

    to love life, to love it even
    when you have no stomach for it
    and everything you've held dear
    crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
    your throat filled with the silt of it.
    When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
    thickening the air, heavy as water
    more fit for gills than lungs;
    when grief weights you like your own flesh
    only more of it, an obesity of grief,
    you think, How can a body withstand this?

    Then you hold life like a face
    between your palms, a plain face,
    no charming smile, no violet eyes,
    and you say, yes, I will take you
    I will love you, again.

  4. Well, its interesting to see everything that's there in the Flower's Shadow. How did Robert Frost put it? A lover's quarrel with the world. Enjoy the watercolors; I send the blessing of my element. - Brendan

  5. Thank you, Ruth!
    A prayer. Well, good, that gives comfort.
    Yes, I've read the Bass poem before, but it fits most graciously in this space.

  6. Ah! Sometimes the Universe needs a good cursing, straight out and with no words minced. Heck, you, us, we have a right to be happy, yes? Why is that so hard? Do we have high expectations? Big dreams?
    The cure for all this is not to dream less, but to become what we wish from others/lovers/friends.

  7. jane, i understand this absolutely. i have, in quite detailed fact, lived this.

    The most efficacious way for me to change my life,
    my path.
    To fall in love with someone while in another relationship

    what i am trying to understand now are all of the ripples, some of the main ones being that i was absolutely unaware of my motivations at the time. and so to trust myself becomes a careful negotiation. i don't. and thereby i know myself all the more better. isn't that strange?

    and the art. that is what it was all about. not art itself per se, but yes, art itself! art in the seeing and art in the living. and then art on the page, if that is where it chooses to live. but for god's sake, art!

    i hear you, jane, speak directly into my ear. and so i wonder how many of us are on the same path? how many of us feel so alone and at times ashamed? invisible. even to ourselves. and then, how many of us are blessed with the tumult that shakes us from our tired perches. thank god for tumult. thank god for change. or i'd have gone quietly to my grave.

    brave and beautiful. thank you for this.


  8. Thanks for the reminder, Rosaria, to become ourselves what we wish for from others. I will make that my grounding for today.

  9. Erin. Yes.
    From the not-knowing to a greater awareness. I didn't know! Not as an excuse, but as a revelation. And now I know more, a little. Do I trust myself? I'm wobbly, no doubt. And I pony-circle ride it again and again. The heartbreak is my own heart which I'm slowly opening.

  10. "blessed with the tumult that shakes us from our tired perches" Thank you for that, Erin.