Category: anxiety

Survivor’s Guilt

Pain seeks its own level,
you tell me as we look out

over the ruined city, eerily
beautiful in the moonlight.

I can hear the screaming
from here, or so I imagine.

You hold my face in your hands,
and I feel your breath as you

whisper, You did not cause this.
Far below, in the rubble, a hand

moves once and then stills forever.

Some Thoughts (and a poem)

As some of you know, my family and I experienced a house fire last June. We lost almost the entire second floor of our house, and while we were all okay (and out of town when it happened), we also lost our bearded dragon Oscar and our gecko Merlin. 

The event has been hard for all of us, some more than others. As we move from temporary house to temporary house, and as work on our house slowly gets underway, I find myself ungrounded and questioning a number of things. I suppose that’s all understandable. I remain steadfast in my sobriety, if nothing else. Writing has been elusive for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is that I usually don’t have anything to say. Or when I do have something to say, I have no desire to share it. This is perfectly fine; it’s not like the masses are teeming to read my words. But perhaps there is something to be said for sharing my work. A friend of mine told me not terribly long ago that given the state of our country and world, putting art into the world is more important than ever. I don’t necessarily feel that way, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. As another friend said, feelings aren’t truth.

For now–at least, for today– I choose to believe my words matter. Perhaps they matter to one person only. That’s okay.

Enough navel-gazing. Here’s a poem.

Wary

I hate the way you look at me
like I did something awful,
as if I murdered your father
while he watched the sun set,
counting the moments until
the light passed and he resumed
his skulking and sniffing, nosing
out prey as he roamed the rooms
of the duplex where you grew up
and grew wary of everyone—
especially men—and where you
vowed never to be ensnared by a look,
a word, a promise, or a threat…
you, swimming forever in a sea
of dark compromises while the sun
remains hidden as long as it can.

The Pretend River Flatters Me, Plots My Demise

I’m deeply distrustful, and often terrified of, water.

The Pretend River Flatters Me, Plots My Demise

“Did you think of me as someone handsome?”
I asked, “someone capable, strong, with vibrant eyes,
quick, sure smiles, and hardy handshakes?”

“I certainly do,” Old Man River said and winked,
its banks rife with flowers and redolent with miracles,
its rocks glittering under a made-for-TV sunset.

“I competed in the Depressive Olympics,” I said, “and I medaled
in Free-Floating Anxiety and Abandonment Issues.
When they played the national dirge, I hid.”

“That’s the saddest thing I’ve heard,” Old Man River said.
and I know from sad. People dump their tears in me.
I’m more salt than freshwater at this point, did you know that?

“I often wring myself out like a murderer who regrets killing,”
I told Old Man River (which was masquerading…it was actually
just a creek with a over-sized ego and a penchant for flooding).

“You’re a golden man, and I’m deeply in love with you,”
the pretend river sang, but I didn’t believe one gurgling word,
because water lies, and it waits for the right moment to drown us.

Tale of the Sad Girl and the Sad Boy

As some of you know, I have clinical depression. I treat it with medication and go to therapy, but there’s no magic pill, just as there are no magic words that will ever completely banish my depression. I manage it, and some days are better than others. Today’s not a great day.

Writing helps. This poem showed up and reminded me that I need people in my life, though my instinct is to withdraw and isolate.

Tale of the Sad Girl and the Sad Boy

I’m so sad, she said.
Me too, he replied. Let’s be sad together.
No, that’s a bad idea.
Why is that a bad idea?
Two sad people make exponentially more
sadness…it isn’t just taking your sadness
and mine and combining them–it multiplies and multiples
until you stop counting the tears and start measuring
sadness in lifetimes, entire generations lost
to the darkness with no hope of it ever lifting.

Oh, he said.

Yeah, she said.

And so they parted, with regrets,
but knowing they’d probably made the right decision.

 

(image credit)

I Seem to be Taking a Break

A break from creative writing, at least, and I’m good with that. It all started a few weeks ago when I received the weekly poetry market update newsletter from Duotrope. I scanned the list half-heartedly. The idea of going through poems to see which ones would be a good fit for a particular market made me tired. When I sat down to write, nothing came. I shrugged and moved onto other things.

I’ve been shrugging and moving on since then, and I’m not worried about it. I’ve spent many years in anxious turmoil over my writing, pressing myself beyond healthy limits to produce. When I turned thirty and hadn’t published anything, I went into a tailspin of depression. Ditto that for when I turned forty. Then I got sober, went into therapy, and discovered an effective combo of meds with the help of a wonderful psychiatrist. These days, if I skip a day or two of writing, that’s just the way it goes. I’m on the hunt for a full-time job, I’m raising two young children with my wife, and I have a lovely coterie of animals I care for. I have a full life. And I’m sober, to boot.

I’ve been thanking God lately, in particular, for the ability to let a particular story line go. I don’t mean fiction; I mean the story line of my life that dictates that I have to a Writer. The capital letter is important. I’m already a writer and always will be, but I’m also other things. Robert the Writer, though, is hyper-focused on getting published to the exclusion of other things. Rober the Writer won’t rest until he’s exhausted himself mentally and spiritually, racing to beat the clock, up against self-imposed deadlines. Also, Robert the Writer is a selfish bastard. I have no more use for him, so I’m letting that story line go (for more info on story lines and attachment, check out this article by Pema Chodron).

I couldn’t have been this kind to myself without getting sober, and I also imagine that I couldn’t have done it (sober or not) in my thirties due to a stunning lack of emotional maturity. Not that I’m a paragon of emotional maturity these days, but I’m a hell of a lot easier on myself than I used to be. I accept and deal with my anxiety which springs from a variety of sources, but I no longer give myself panic attacks for missing non-existant milestones in my life. I don’t have a book deal at 43? Fine. I only publish poetry on web-based journals? Cool. I can look at other aspects of my life and celebrate them and not dwell on things I thought I needed.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking of myself as more than just a writer. Currently, I prefer the term “creative.” I’m a creative. I write poems, stories, and songs. I draw cartoons. No matter where my life takes me, I’ll always find ways to express creativity. Writing this blog is another way.

So I’m going to take a break from creative writing because the still, small voice inside me says it’s time to. I spent many years ignoring that voice and drowing it with alcohol. These days, I do my best to listen to it.

A Little Close to Home

The best writing surprises the writer, or so I believe. As I’ve undoubtedly said before, I’m often surprised, shaking my head after a writing session and saying to myself, “Well, there’s something going on here, but I’ll be damned if I know what it is.” I’m comfortable with ambiguity in my work, if not in my everyday life. With this poem, though, I recognized the point. I knew it was about me.

I became uncomfortable as the words flowed out, and the discomfort continued as I redrafted and tinkered with it. The poem is certainly hyperbole, but it contains enough truth about me to make me sigh. I’m not a very social person, and lately I seem to have withdrawn even more. I’m trying to rectify the situation, but not as hard as I could. Such is my life at this point.

The Recluse

The fact that I found none of this
peculiar (the horse smell, the dark
magic of the mantle clock, the eye
that glittered murder from the socket
of my dead boyhood friend, the pain)
told me I was either in a dream or
something had fundamentally shifted,
an alien landscape had grown inside
me, a filter had dropped into my brain
that processed everything bad as good.

I determined I wasn’t dreaming by the
sheer consistency of items and events
that stretched through the day and into
the night…dreams went quickly sideways,
and this all had a bizarre, black logic,
including the girl who approached me
hesitantly and asked, “Are you the recluse?”

“I am the one who has been foretold to you,”
I decided to say, not caring how I sounded,
not caring that the girl dissolved into tears
and ran through the empty streets, shouting
out to any who would listen, “He has come,
he has come, prepare the way of the recluse!”

I merged with the shadows behind a house
that used to belong to my grandmother before
she and her second husband killed themselves.
I didn’t know who lived in it now, but I determined
that I wouldn’t visit the new owner–or visit anyone.
I couldn’t. I had a prophecy to fulfill, after all.