Fragile

Posts have gotten behind. Wanting yet not wanting to be said, things I think and say to myself. Here inside my room, they are safe. But outside in the world, hopes and fears become more real.

I still think about uncertainty. Around me and in the news. Up close and farther away. The shifts in attention, lens contracting, opening, closing, its focus shifting between my life and world.

Racism. Covid. Politics. Beliefs. Trust. Lack of trust. Distancing. Not distancing. Numbers. Decisions. Fear. Uncertainty. Anger.

Exasperation. I hear it in the people around me. Those overfilling carts, taking more than they need, some out of fear and some greed. Those who will post it for sale online at greater cost to those who couldn’t get it in the rush, those stuck in low pay or waiting for a monthly cheque. Selfishness and fear. I feel it in the tension of shoppers distancing, not distancing. Not sure what to do or where to look. Some little faces, tense behind their masks. And I think of my little ones, now grown. Our lives our hopes. Past, present, future.

A customer comes through buying a coat. He’s working here today and didn’t bring one. He scans the coat as he talks, then gestures towards the nail salon.

When did the real estate leave? I shrug. He tells me he used to live here.

I’m not sure. I only lived here a few years.

Oh, where did you live before?

He turns as I tell him. And gives a nod.

Oh, Acton. Did you live there when the KKK sign was on side of the highway?

OMG yes. I told people there was a sign there, but they didn’t believe me.

No. It’s true. It was there. My friend lived nearby. I saw it often when I visited.

I’m not sure how to feel. A short, quick conversation in the rush of day. It rattled me. Rattled some memories and my sense of truth. I shook my head as he left. Disbelief. I’m thrown a distance, a former place.

I think, or want to think, I live in a good place, a good country, but every day I see or learn things that question it. I try to stand tall, believe in hope, smile and treat everyone with respect. I lived through abuse and like to think it’s not common. There are kind people, generous people. But I’ve also heard horrible things said by shoppers going through my work area. Some just generally bad, others more ugly, targeting people; family, friends, strangers. Some wanting me to agree with their caustic beliefs and behaviours. I won’t. And I cringe at how little impact my determination towards good has on them. It shakes my faith in people. It shakes my faith in myself. I think of some little faces, unsure whether to smile at me, and I wonder if it’s a natural shyness or the colour of my skin.

Memories kicked loose skitter through my thoughts. There were skinheads at my son’s school. His justice raged against their presence. I was shocked when he told me, shared some of the words and attitudes he ran into there. We lived in a tiny town. Seven churches. Good people. I couldn’t understand the dichotomy, the smiles and kindnesses, yet ugliness interwoven. It shook my faith. It shook his faith too. I watched the grief and anger go through him every time injustice appeared. Watched his heart break.

Our hearts broke so often through the years. Gentle justice is not an easy place. Home was hard enough. The world is a weight that needs many more hearts and much love.

Perception. I feel naive. There are bad things everywhere. Racism, hatred, abuse hurts everyone. Even where we think we are sheltered, there is no shelter. These things shake the ground under our feet. Put us off balance, impact our actions. Seeing and doing nothing dulls us like the frog in a pot, the end comes but all we see is the illusion.

At times things seem calm, the news is busy with other things. I wish that was an indication of change. I’ve prayed for change longer than a decade or maybe two. On a personal level, for our family to move beyond the abuse we faced. On a community level, for equality to be given a fair chance. For attitudes to shift. For strength to fight for it. To stand firm. I wanted and feared the process.

Change feels so fragile. My efforts like wisps. They blow with every wind. Dust kicked up in their place. Please G-d send some love on us. Hope for a new day. At times it’s wanting. I know you’ve heard it too many times, but believe me, we are so fragile and hope is getting sparce. Fill us again.

Uncertainty

Certainty. Words. Ideas. I’m always curious. Tilt at will. I love etymoligy.com, the story of words, of their history. But sometimes what I seek is less clear, a bit uncertain. Chasing it, I get stuck.

Day trips ideas this summer. I feel resistant. In the midst of Covid and the amount of self isolating I do, coming home after the many unknowns of work, I’m just not sure I want to take on those places. Knowing has never felt so exhausting.

For me, that’s a strange place. I spent 30 years researching, knowing: deafness, autism, surgeries. A constant flow of decisions to be made for my son. I went at them with every ounce of energy I had. I learned a new language (ASL), made many unexpected connections (hospitals, therapists, agencies), drove to a different town for a preschool geared to both Deaf and hearing, then moved to another community when he entered kindergarten in one of the provincial schools for the Deaf.

Exhausting in the moment, these things all upped my energy and activated my curiosity and love of puzzles. I threw myself into believing he would catch hold of the things I was teaching and run with them. There were unknowns. Uncertainty was just part of the journey.

Lately, I watch others struggle with uncertainty. It feels heavy. An unseen weight pushing in so we cannot breathe. Blocking our way so we cannot move or get around it. Our sense of time has tipped, an unknown pattern whose end we can’t predict. Days and weeks drag. There is no normal, just the stretched out bits taking their run at us. Statistics bombard. No matter how we graph it, the ends have their way.

I guess I’m left with this, I’ve been through uncertainty before and I’ll do it again. Uncertainty is an ongoing journey. I may not have every resource yet, but when I needed them for my son, friends, family and my own curiosity found a way.

Certainty. Uncertainty.

I choose to believe, stubbornly if necessary, that what I need for this round will find a way.

Faith

Asked, “what is faith?” I .. hesitate. /A tiny voice / alive in me, raises itself / just enough to whisper, /”faith is life.” // Curious, I lean in to see, and /earn a smile. /This tiny bud beams at me. There /beneath its childlike form, crayon in hand, /a drawing, incomplete /but shining.

So I’m playing with the idea of pauses, line breaks, my relation to the words written and reflecting on them.

I wrote these before the shutdown …. before …. well, before.

Faith has been on my mind frequently the past few years. Divorce, breaking a life, learning to open, look inside. Not wanting to see. Some places are dark, a little bruised, torn, struggling to heal. Some places still unexplored. It’s hard to venture into the unknown. Trust. Especially hard to trust myself.

I made a mistake, entered into a relationship that wasn’t one. I am the one who stayed and stayed, who had to move away, shift, push my mind, my heart and my body off the known edge. I am the one.

Those are hard words to say. Words I once knew as insult or assault, now given some time and space, a little faith allowed some elbow room. These same words ‘the one’ become freedom.

I can let go of the accusations  Told there’s always ‘the one’. Oh yes, always the one who …. fill in any sin, error, wrong that could be dredged up.  An odd turn of phrase yet clear judgement and penalty. Faith. It was often the source or reason for anger turned against me, for judgement, for penalty. Faith. Having it too often required me to forgive,and  forgive again. To be the one who lived faith, who walked it out regardless any truth in the actions being forgiven.

Still. Faith hopes. It’s hard to kill hope. Faith comes with every new day, a light in our darkness. I think it’s stubborn, like me. Faith insists on living, even in the darkness, even in disaster, even in hatred and disgust, demeaning moments that try to beat me down. I may pause, let tears come. But like the image, though tiny in form, faith stubbornly sees colour and light; draws hope where there is none.

Faith. Is willing to be the one.

Faith.

Ides of March … where will you take me?

The world is rushing by this year, my year of anticipation … good things to come. Growth. Art. Trusting in self expression. I haven’t ignored those things. I did follow through on my goal of submitting some pieces to a mental health Art Gala. But, then the world came crashing down and the builders, the inventors, the optimists and engineers, in all walks of life, are putting it back together. Meanwhile, those of us willing to venture on in trades deemed ‘essential’ try to hold it all together.

In the wild this looks like chaos. Pirates and schemers, then fools and fearing, take centre stage, briefly I hope, while the brave and desperate struggle on bearing the load. Love, grace, kindness are qualities of life in these times. There are so many working to bring hope.

I’m not sure where I fit. My job is front line, monitoring and managing retail lines, encouraging and frustrating shoppers in turn. Some need the encouragement, others want to take more than their share. I get both sides of the feedback, not always in polite turns. But I come from difficult times, lived in abuse quite a while, so it’s not all unfamiliar or as shocking as it could be. Still there are days …. I sing or I cry. Both are gifts to myself. Expressions of dignity saying I’m here, I’m alive. I made it through all the tough years and I’ll make it through this. Hope is life. It’s the one true thing. I’ve learned to listen, to be open, and in my darkest moments, if I pause and look up, there is always someone willing to share some hope or some laughter. A reason to smile.

I have quirky humour, it helps. Not sure why, but ‘Ides of March’ came to mind writing this. I looked it up – that and the date.  March 15th … Shakespeare’s reminder, a bad day for Caesar, and one that caught my quirk on the Lenten calendar. Key quotes for March 15th this Lenten year:

The Google note said – https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts  John 4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” It caught my eye and curiosity. It fits my day and it’s demands. So I looked. Read that, and a second, Exodus 17:2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

Oh dear … water, water, where’s the water?  Again, I have to smile. I’m so sorry Moses. Today, I know how you feel.

 

 

Thoughts on Poetry

Some days I release my thoughts in poetry, sometimes just poetic thoughts. My sister told me once I think in syncopation. It may be true. I like the offbeat places in life and play with it at times.

The piece below, written as we inched into the New Year, is like that and suited my mood.

I get told how young I look and act, but time passes, things change. Some days, I worry about the future. We age, life fades, fears arise. Other days determined, I announce I’m 20 still and all life’s possibilities are mine to own. For now, poetic words can have their day. Let’s see what spring will bring my way.

***

Christmas, tinsel coming down, wreathes and ornaments packed away. The busyness behind us now. Glittery moments come and gone. Welcome at first, the season has lost its shine.

Like a little angel, I wobble and wait, halo askew. I know I will be boxed up too, packed away, and left to hope on another year to shine again. The day may come you tire of me, my glory lost. I dread that day.

Each year I cringe a little more, lest you hesitate, your hand withdraw. Excitement comes, you reach for me. It brightens as I’m set in place. Again a crown upon your tree.

Nanowrimo

white and green wooden house miniature

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month – a 50,000 word run at completing a novel in one month. Last year I participated, even though I don’t write novels, and keep mostly to very short poetry and prose pieces that I’m still learning to identify … are they essays, short story, micro story, random thoughts? Happily designated as ‘my little pieces’, they are learning to creep out into the broader world.

Doing Nanowrimo both years surprised me. 2018, I tried a novel, moved my target three times, then quit 2,000 words short of my final goal of 25, 000. Typing hurt too much. Injuries old and new get in the way. It was hard acknowledging I had to choose between my goal and my health. I’m learning it’s okay to adjust goals. It’s important to guard my health. I have written poetry and other pieces using less than 100 words. With the lofty goal of 8,000 for my first Nanowrimo goal, I surprised myself by achieving it early in the month, so increased it to 15,000, and upon reaching that again upped it to 25,000. Without the pain, I could have reached it. My health was worth more, and that was hard to acknowledge.

2019, I set new goals, sent poems and short pieces out several places. I was adamant there would be no Nanowrimo for me this year. I don’t do long writing. But, true to form, I surprised myself by beginning a memoir in the summer. Prompted by friends saying write my journey, put my words on the page. September and October, I wrote and shared. I read what I had to several writing groups who encouraged me to continue.

Then, it happened. A writer friend prodded me into joining the local Nano group.

You’re writing anyway, why not keep writing but join … for the fun, for the challenge, for encouragement.

Yes. Why not? I might add a few hundred or even a few thousand words to what I had, but I would not push myself. I didn’t push, but I did write. I wrote a lot … near 30,000 words to add to what I’d done. I’m sitting on 50,000 editable words and more to come. I had no idea there would be so many in so few months.

Doing this memoir pulled up stress from the past, but it’s healing and a challenge, and I like challenges. I like numbers. Watching them grow. I’m a good saver, enjoy the accumulation of things. Nanowrimo and watching the word count took me back to number drawings we did as kids … connected the dots … each one numbered for us to follow and in the end, an image, the surprise (which really wasn’t).

Part way through Nanowrimo, I realized I was letting the image come, seeing my life, letting the story appear. It’s not 100% yet. It will have more revisions and stages of growth. But I’m not fighting it as much, I’m learning to let the story appear, let the memoir teach me, say what it was and what it will become, who I was and who I will become.

Why am I writing? It may be as simple as that – learning to find myself in the story.

Memory. Memoir. It’s an interesting journey.

Memoir

I began a journey in memoir this summer. Three months in feels much longer and a lot harder than I’m prepared for every day.

Putting words to page isn’t hard. At present, I have 27,000 words which may realistically be around 20,000 when I weed out repeats, notes to self, and edit what I keep. For someone whose natural pace is 500 to 1,000 words, that is amazing. I practice telling myself that and leave room for the book to tell me its plan.

At the same time, I’m reading memoirs and a book by Mary Karr on writing it.

I spoke to someone recently whose family just released a joint memoir that based itself around journal entries. I could do it too; journaled for years. Something else is the stuck point.

Friends

There are good people in this world. I’m lucky to know some good ones. They challenge me. They encourage me. One told me I was like a poster her daughter had that said something like, “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.”

I thought I knew what she meant, but years later I’m just starting to understand about the song and what it means.

Writing Time

Being a writer means a lot of alone time. Being alone, I have a lot to give. Except I don’t really, because I fill my time with two jobs. Neither is full time, not even together, but somehow they own seven days each week. Still I write. Weave words in and around other things.

I fill my time with volunteering; in mental health, a good idea. I fill it with music, singing and occasionally guitar when I bother to practice. Weaving around these, I wrote a few songs and edited some old ones this year. I’m good at editing. It’s kind of like real life, a lot of adding too much in then cutting things out. Yeah. I know that place.

One odd thing about writing that hits my particular funny bone is that it’s possible to enjoy writing about being sad. I’m not sure how I feel about that fact. It reminds me too much of times I was accused of taking that truth a little too literally.

You enjoy being miserable.

No. I don’t. I enjoy the things and people that make me happy. I have many of those in my life lately and I appreciate them. Friends are there when I need them. There’s much to enjoy in life.

Yes, I feel the extremes deeply. I write about them, talk about it and share them. It doesn’t mean I enjoy feeling bad. I am willing to own my feelings, and let them exist inside the places I love writing. I expect doing that has saved me a time or two when grief, fear or depression raise their heads and turn their hungry eyes my way.

Being alone, being a writer, knowing how to use my words and editing skills well in dark moments … that has its finer points.

There is value in writing time.