Stuck in the past, I go from happy to sad and back again in a flash. I feel too much, much too fast. I have poems to write, but not enough rhyme.
Frost is on my mind. There are two trains at my station, but only one for me to ride. It’s been a long millisecond. When will I get on with my life?
“For me, I will always have an empty, perfectly non-functional and therefore free space where I can express my thoughts. Once the machine has exhausted all of its functions, I slip into what is left, without trying to judge or condemn it.”
—Jean Baudrillard, The Agony of Power
Freedom today means the freedom to buy whatever my little heart desires. In a single click sometimes. The freedom to rate products anywhere from one star to five. To become a smart shopper with purchasing power, a temporarily satisfied, repeat customer.
True freedom—the freedom I treasure—is the freedom to sit alone with my thoughts. To unplug the power cords running up and down my spine. The freedom to write in invisible ink things like “screens are draining the light from our eyes.”
Thoughts are nothing new. Almost everyone has them. I want deep thoughts. Nuanced thoughts. Impossible thoughts bigger than a breadbox. Secret thoughts no database holds.
I want a face my phone won’t recognize. To hide the light behind my eyes. I want intimate encounters with brilliant minds. Books on capes. Odes to meadows, row boats, weather balloons. I want to write things like “contemplation is an endangered thesis.”
Below is the inspiration for my latest poem, “The Moon Is a Wild Creature.” It’s a passage by Hayden Carruth from Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays.
Hat tip to Jacqueline Winter Thomas and her Tumblr page, heteroglossia, where I found Carruth, sad in the Universe.
“I had always been aware that the Universe is sad; everything in it, animate or inanimate, the wild creatures, the stones, the stars, was enveloped in the great sadness, pervaded by it. Existence had no use. It was without end or reason. The most beautiful things in it, a flower or a song, as well as the most compelling, a desire or a thought, were pointless. So great a sorrow. And I knew that the only rest from my anxiety—for I had been trembling even in infancy—lay in acknowledging and absorbing this sadness.”
However strong we claim to be, we’re all vulnerable. Disappointment, tragedy, and sorrow spare no soul. Healing begins when we’re gentle with each other and kind towards ourselves.
In Power of Gentleness Anne Dufourmantelle writes, “Being gentle with objects and beings means understanding them in their insufficiency, their precariousness, their immaturity, their stupidity. It means not wanting to add to suffering, to exclusion, to cruelty and inventing space for a sensitive humanity, for a relation to the other that accepts his weakness or how he could disappoint us” (15).
I admire Dufourmantelle’s wisdom and appreciate the poetry within her prose. Her call for a sensitive humanity has inspired me to articulate my thoughtful approach to life and writing.
As a vulnerable artist, I affirm the power of humility, acknowledge my limitations, and admit to feeling sad, lonely, and afraid. I recognize that everyone suffers in their own way, and in my words and through my actions, I show people compassion and encourage them to do the same.
Not everyone will get the message, but I’ll pursue my (com)passion anyway because I can’t do otherwise. I can’t be otherwise.
In Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living, Anne Dufourmantelle tells depressed people looking for a quick fix that “medication only patches up the desire to live, or the heartache, or the professional failure, or the feeling of inadequacy; for nothing can sew up such a wound. Nothing except creation, what reopens the wound elsewhere and differently, but on less shifting ground” (86).
Three months ago, I published my third book, once again creating and re-creating myself through words. In the introduction I recall the pain of childhood traumas, (re)opening—in the pages of my book—old wounds that refuse to close for good.
Confessional writing is cathartic, but sharing my story reminds me how vulnerable I am, how lonely I still feel. I crave connection but worry that people outside my family won’t understand my depression. After years of living in protect mode, letting my guard down takes time.
Aware that trauma survivors—especially those abused as children—deal with trust issues, Dufourmantelle offers encouragement and hope. “When we are seized,” she writes, “by the feeling that nobody will ever come to us, that this solitude will not loosen its grip on us, ever, we must still find the strength to extend our arms, to kiss, to love” (98).
People live with pain in different ways. Some become artists. I am one of them. My books are an extension of me, a reaching out, a kiss. My writing is an expression of loneliness that challenges but never defeats loneliness.
See a previous version of this post here
In Words Fail: Theology, Poetry, and the Challenge of Representation, Colby Dickinson argues that language allows us to speak about a thing, but language never leads us to “the ‘thing itself’—the as such-ness of a thing beyond its linguistically codified and intelligible form” (43). We are left with imperfect representations of things that fail us.
Earlier in his book Dickinson asks this profound question: “How indeed, we might add, would one begin to live as if they knew an intimacy forever beyond our ability to represent it (as in cases involving death) and yet find themselves living in a flesh, with its age and its sorrow, that is, at times, simply all too present?” (25).
Would I live my life differently if I knew for certain that a Great Beyond exists beyond words, beyond my life? Could I ever visit, ahead of time, an afterlife awaiting me before I die?
The ultimate illusion, a depth-defying feat: to take a leave of presence, disappear to a traceless place beyond representation, then re-present myself as myself right before my varied eyes.
Anne Dufourmantelle, in Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living, reminds depressed patients looking for a quick fix that “medication only patches up the desire to live, or the heartache, or the professional failure, or the feeling of inadequacy; for nothing can sew up such a wound. Nothing except creation, what reopens the wound elsewhere and differently, but on less shifting ground” (86).
Two months ago, I published my third book, once again creating and re-creating myself through words. Writing it gave me pleasure, but it was a lonely endeavor. I write best when nobody’s around, but I don’t write for myself alone. Depressed or not, we all crave connection.
“When we are seized,” Dufourmantelle says, “by the feeling that nobody will ever come to us, that this solitude will not loosen its grip on us, ever, we must still find the strength to extend our arms, to kiss, to love. To say it, to start again, to hear the whisper of that wild voice that calls you from well before your beginnings” (98).
My books are an extension of me, a reaching out, a kiss. A wound reopened elsewhere, my writing is an expression of loneliness that challenges but never defeats loneliness.