“How can I stand before you in silent symbols with open palms?” ― Cameron Conaway, Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet
One of the things I love about my job is having the space and encouragement to write the occasional blog post. At Experience Life, we often share our personal, real-life experiences (which often inform article ideas) to help our readers create and live their most satisfying lives. That involves being willing to explore some dark places so you can be more aware and conscious in your every day life.
I’ve never shied away from exploring my “dark” spaces. Last month, I sorted through boxes in my storage unit in Utah trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of after a year. It was literally a “dark” place as the light bulb above my unit was burned out. As is often the case when you dig through the past, I unearthed some pleasant and not-so-pleasant memories.
For example, I found a photograph of the step-cousin that sexually abused me. I felt many things at that moment. Sadness for the loss of innocence experienced by my eight-year-old self. Pride, that at 39, I finally feel I can remember that experience without reliving it.
Later in a different box, I found a poem I had written about a time he had abused me on Thanksgiving. I finally realized why it is not one of my favorite holidays. But, this year, I intend to reclaim it as a time of sharing food, thanks and love with my family and friends.
I found other poems in the box as well. I’ve been carrying them with me over the past few weeks along with some new ones I’ve written. I keep reading them and seeing a timeline of my life laid out in the carefully chosen words on each page. A capsule of me then and now. Sometimes it seems like so much and so little has changed.
Last weekend, I sat on a bed in a room in a cute little bed and breakfast in Embarrass, MN with my fantastic girlfriend reviewing the poems:
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Reading some poems I’ve written. I feel ready to do something with them,” I responded.
She nodded a silent affirmation.
“I’d like it if you’d read them some time. I like them, but they never seem good enough,” I said.
“Are you sure that’s true or are you just being hard on yourself?” she asked.
“It’s hard for me to tell the difference sometimes,” I answered.
She then offered some poignant advice. Share them with a lot of people from all walks of life and ask them to give you their thoughts. Of course, she’s right. That’s exactly why I’ve been carrying them around with me for the past few weeks.
I realize I shouldn’t be afraid to share this group of poems, because I’ve been sharing poems for years. But, I didn’t fully realize just how often I’ve done so until recently. Poems are the way that I share things best. They’re my no-holds-barred innermost thoughts and feelings. They are the space where I work things out. They are where I allow myself to be “not fine.”
Within the past year, I’ve gotten several poems back from my friend Jane that I gave her over the years. And, a few months back, my friend Vince sent me several poetry books I had made over a decade ago that he held on to. I didn’t have copies of them anymore. I still remember the day I got them in the mail. The kindness he extended to me by sending them back made me cry.
I put the books aside for a few weeks. I was waiting until I felt the time was right to delve into them again. One day, I was feeling really sad and alone and couldn’t pinpoint why. It was nearing midnight. I couldn’t sleep.
I pulled one of the books off of my nightstand and opened it randomly. It was a poem I had written the day that my mom died. I read it and felt the same feelings of loss, abandonment, guilt and sadness I felt the day I wrote it. But, I felt them differently. Then, I realized that it was October 23rd, 2011: 14 years to the date that my mother passed away.
I didn’t know what to do, but I remembered the promise I had made to myself a few months earlier: to do things differently than I had been. So, I took a picture of the poem and posted it on Facebook.
In about two minutes, I had several supportive comments on the poem, many thanks for sharing as well as reminders about how much I was loved. My sharing allowed me to feel how many wonderful people I have in my life. And, my act of sharing helped me realize that I’m not the eight-year-old scared and suffering in silence anymore or the 25-year-old searching to understand the meaning of life and death.
It’s true that people respect it when you have the courage to share. Maybe they even get inspired to share something about themselves with you. Even though I struggle with doing so, I vow to do more sharing in 2012 and beyond. It can be scary, but once you give voice to something beyond fear, you get somewhere amazing.
Here’s to sharing!
is a triumphant
bathing the day’s
ribbons of light.
Putting us on notice
that nothing lasts
and that if we grasp
all we’re left with