Archive for March, 2015
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
– from “Eagle Poem,” by Joy Harjo
Broken or not?
At snack time or lunch, that was a favorite game of my daughters. One would hold up an apple slice or a Ritz cracker or shiny orange Clementine and demand of the other, “Broken or not?”
They were both pretty masterful at holding a broken cracker or piece of fruit in such a way as to camouflage its fault lines. They loved to trick each other, and trick me, too. It was so hard to tell.
Because you cannot always tell if something—or someone—is whole by merely looking, can you?
I remember in the weeks after my father died suddenly, back when I was eighteen. I’d put on lots of mascara every morning, so that I wouldn’t cry, because if I did, it would give me raccoon eyes. I didn’t want any one to know how badly I was hurting. I didn’t know what to do with it, the pain. If I started crying, I might never stop; how embarrassing that would be. No one ever taught me anything but to pretend to be okay, to deny my real feelings. It ran in the family. Schooled from birth, like Tiger Woods was with golf, I was an ace.
My dad pretended he was okay right up until he died from it. Oh, it was a heart attack that killed him, but my personal theory is that sometimes illnesses spring from—or are worsened by— the grinding stress of hiding feelings. And we are trained to hide them, for fear of being labeled ‘broken.’ Our culture demands us to be perfect parents, perfect children, perfect wives, perfect workers. To be magically ‘perfectly adjusted’ without working through grief and trauma.
I used to sometimes reflexively use the phrase, “practice makes perfect,” with my girls, mostly right about when they were supposed to do math homework or play piano or violin. They would always shoot back, “But Mom, you always say that nobody’s perfect!” And I would smile and say, of course, that’s true.
Because I’d say that, too, all the time—like when I’d drop an egg on newly mopped floor, or especially if one of them did.
Of the two old sayings, only “nobody’s perfect” rings true.
The most together-looking people can be the most broken inside. You never really know, unless you get to know someone, unless you earn their trust and confidence, and even then—they have to be open enough or broken enough to expose their hidden wounds.
Which for some people is painfully hard, or even maybe impossible without help and work.
I think the true answer to the broken or not question—as it applies to humans, not fruit or crackers— is that we’re all broken at some point, and not all breaks heal completely. Some wounds ache forever. Being gentle with each other is always a good practice. Because more of us are broken, than not.
Sinking into my gut like
a spire into a low sky
it walks with me, or used to—
maybe that’s why I learned to
walk so fast, shins burning hot
uphill, it always beat me…
until I learned not to hear.
Another 7×7 poem (seven lines, seven syllables per line.) This one inspired by endings—of seasons, of eras.
Sometimes we hold on too hard;
cling to what should be released—
old, winter-worn, transparent
from time and weather, rattled,
beaten, tattered— it’s hard to
let the familiar fall
away, let new growth emerge
Note: Marcescence is a botanical term that refers to trees that retain withered leaves over the winter. Beeches and some oaks are among the trees that cling to old dead leaves. Though there are several theories, there doesn’t seem to be agreement on why this happens. One school of thought is that beeches and other marcescent trees are still evolving from evergreen to deciduous, caught forever betwixt and between. (I’ve felt that way sometimes, too.)
I haven’t had time to write this week, but I walked in the (last?) snow of the season.
The sky was flat and bright, like an impossibly bright light table. I forgot my sunglasses and found myself squinting. There was a hush, so quiet, it seemed like a Sunday morning.
But the birds were singing like it is spring already, and soon it will be.