I’m looking for warmth just as much as the next stupid bitch.
I just realized that since I’ve been on antidepressants, I haven’t cried. Not at all since the initial adjustment period. I’ve felt foreboding and anxiety though. But never despair. Never sorrow.
I have this feeling that I am always about to find out I have an incurable, fatal disease.
Psychiatric medication is a crap-shoot, they say. I’ve found one that I think works for me though, and the dosage seems to finally be right. I am falling in love with life again. For the first time in well over a year, I wake up in the morning, happy, ready to get out of bed. I walk down the street, elated, a smile on my face for no reason at all. I treat people, even people who annoy the hell out of me, with grace. I forgot what it feels like not to suffer. Even my body has stopped aching, along with my soul, for the most part. No, it is not perfect. It makes me sick to my stomach at times, gives me headaches. It will probably eliminate my sex drive, though I don’t really think that’s a bad thing, since I have no desire to seek out sex at this point anyway. But overall, I am glad.
There are a lot of negative attitudes toward medication and a lot of talk about its excessive prescription, but I don’t think we should discount the fact that for some, it helps in a very real way. Would I rather be the real, unadulterated me, suffering, hurting, grasping at the unraveling threads of my life for years, feeling all that raw emotion, the highest highs and the lowest lows, or would I rather have the muted peace, certainty, and reliability about who I will be today? I’m not sure yet. Will I miss the mania? I know I will. Will I miss the depression? Yes, strangely I will, because it is what I know. It is what has inspired so much of what has come out of me, so much of my creative work. It was a part of me. Am I afraid I will lose my passion? Yes. I really am. But right now it is worth it to me, and I am at peace.
Sometimes I run across the pavement for no other reason than the fact that walking leisurely or contemplatively is so slow. Sometimes the pace of my step is incapable of keeping pace with these thoughts. I call them these thoughts, rather than my thoughts, because I do not know if they are mine or not. When that happens, I run. I run and the words run. The poetry runs through my head and it is exciting, and I run to a pen, and I sit to write, but then it is gone.
blip blip blip
boom ba doom ba doom
keep in touch you paper doll
blip blip blip
boom ba doom ba doom
there’s a vilanelle in her panties
it fits perfectly all the way across
blip blip blip
I had the great privilege of hearing Mary Oliver read for nearly an hour at Marquette University this evening. The night began with some live musicians playing a processional and then a series of highly formal introductions and lots of pomp and circumstance. There was even a prayer. It reminded me a bit of chapel from my religious school days, but the true spiritual experience of the evening was in Mary Oliver’s words.
Mary Oliver was one of the first poets I ever fell in love with. Her poem, “The Journey” changed my life. When I was going through the darkest part of my life to date, I read it every single day, with a drama and intensity that I could only muster up in the safety of solitude, and it helped give me the strength to walk away from all of the poison and to start off anew. Sometimes I still go back to it now, when I am doubting myself or facing difficulties in life. So it was hard for me to try to come up with something to say to this amazing woman whose words have meant so much to me. After the reading, I simply asked her to sign my ticket, and I told her, “I don’t own any of your books, but your poems have had a great impact on my life. Thank you for that.” And then she smiled, and thanked me, and I left.
As Oliver began to read, the energy of the room shifted away from church-like stiffness and into a meditative space. She read a lot of work from her newest book, most of which I had not heard before, but it resonated with me just as strong as some of her older works, and in classic form, she wrote a lot about nature, animals, simplicity, beauty. She also read us a few poems that are not yet published, poems she wrote for an upcoming collection. She read some humorous poems about her dog Percy, and poems that reflect upon creatures in nature. She seems to especially love birds. I could hear in her voice and through her words how much love she has for all lives, how close her power of observation is, how humble she is, and how she believes in the wisdom of nature.
I noticed that her newer work is less critical than some of the older work. In the older work, she directly comments on the acts of buying and selling and on material culture a lot more. It isn’t that her newer work has lost any level of depth, it’s just that it seems that it is more about observing and taking in, seeing, feeling, tasting, experiencing. There is less judgement, less epiphany.
Oliver’s demeanor was calm, controlled, yet light. I could feel the goodness and the gentleness radiate from her, yet she also has wit and a self-depreciating sense of humor. This reading transported me and moved me similar to the way that I might have felt after experiencing an epic musical work. My mind has been heavy and burdened recently and Oliver’s words helped center me and return a sense of clarity to my soul.
An English teacher from Marquette who helped introduce Oliver said that she has the rare quality of being a poet that “people, not just English majors, actually read and love”. Oliver responded to this by saying that she does think of her audience, and that she wants all people to be able to understand what it is that she has to say, that she wants the meaning of her poems to be very clear. She purposefully uses simple language and metaphors that are clear.
Oliver had many insightful things to say during a Q&A following the reading. She talked about her writing process, how she sees herself within the American tradition of poetry and what it means to be a poet, to be a writer. You just do it. You get up every day, and you do it. You always carry a notebook and a pen, for when the ideas come, you live simply. She just had a lot of insightful wisdom to share. You think about your audience, what kind of writer you want to be, who you want to write for and why.
Having faced a lot of trials and challenges, especially in the recent past involving a close family member, this reading meant a lot to me, it encouraged and healed me. Below I will post Wild Geese, one of my favorites of Oliver’s poetry. Her reading of it caused me to cathartically and quietly weep.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.
– Mary Oliver
Why do I pour my
dirty heart out to bagmen
and night-time strangers?
Pounding on the roof,
cats scratching metal, howling.
I want to sleep in.
Sometimes I wonder,
am I meant to be alone?
It’s not a bad thing.
Beating death metal
shrieking angry drums curdles
my soul against him.
lover comes off,
like you rubbed out
from the gyrating,
jiggling with stop –stop –stop
shimmy jungle shake,
shake it, turn