I now have my hard drive, from my old computer, transferred into this new computer. Have the poetry manuscript I was working on before my life exploded and I moved into these new digs. Have been working on it and it is coming together nicely. Also working on the templates, and reading when I need a break.
Today, I pulled up yet another file from that old hard drive and read something I had written a year ago last August. Whew! There is nothing like being slapped in the face with your own words. A bit like the ice-bucket challenge, I am assuming. It certainly cleared my head and reminded me that I am not alone in any of my endeavors. The Universe is right here with me.
I’m going to copy and paste the letter I wrote back then. I’m sure I am not the only one who has ever encountered that place I was in. It’s a bit long, so you might need a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice) to get through it.
August 14, 2014
Okay, so here I am, stuck again. Just wasted a couple of hours avoiding what I have managed to avoid for weeks now. Getting back to work on the manuscript. Why the hell am I doing that? I flirt with all the ideas but nothing gets me past or beyond my own emotional/mental handicap. I drift away, even though the commitment is stronger than ever because I know that if I don’t follow through this time, there probably won’t be a next time. I’m just too old not to be aware of that. What the hell am I so damned scared about?
1. I am afraid of the disappointment. What if no one reads it, except a few die hard friends who can’t say no?
2. Who will I piss off because I am being as honest as I know how to be? Will this finally close the door on my nominal family membership? I have been quasi shut down ever since Mom died because of what happened afterward. Will I shut down completely this time?
3. Who really gives a shit about this, other than me?
4. Do I even know what a good poem is? I watched that black woman yesterday, reading her “Period Poem” and cringed at how far away from that reality I am. She actually used the phrase “motherf#cker” a couple of times and a few others. Was it a good poem? Yes, in many ways it was, but I thought she weakened it with some of that verbiage. I know there are some who would say that might be the only way to get the full short span of attention of those she is actually addressing (using their own colorful lingo), but doesn’t she weaken and lessen the impact of her own person and stance by placing herself on that lower rung of whatever food chain these imbeciles live at? Her use of vulgarity might get their attention for a moment, but is that all she wishes to accomplish? Why demean herself, when all she might accomplish is to be laughed at, or worse, create an enemy out of someone who probably carries a loaded weapon? And this isn’t helping me get where I want to be, which is working steadily at creating my own book of poetry.
5. My poetry, for better or worse, is my poetry. Only I can tell this story, sing these songs, make these particular poems. The first time Mom read my poetry, she told me that maybe when I got good at this stuff, I could write about something else, other than me. Never happened and it never will. Does that mean that I’ll never be good at this? Who the hell knows?
6. The letter poem I wrote to Dad, the one he never spoke to me about. Put it away in a drawer and never said a word. How do I deal with that reality? Did I hurt him with my memories? Certainly didn’t mean to…chose the funnier ones for just that reason. But, he’s dead for over thirty years now, and I will never know. Never. I really needed him to say, “Thanks Punkin.” But he didn’t and I will never know what that silence means to him, or to me.
But, I have to remember that we might be even on that one. He slapped my face once. I deliberately lied to him, knowing full well that he knew I was lying, and he, who was never angry with me, slapped my mouth hard for doing so. I went to my room, crawled into bed and curled up in a fetal position. Twenty minutes later, he stood behind me and apologized. And that was when I never said a word, didn’t acknowledge him or his apology with so much as a nod of my head. And have always regretted that moment of teen-aged angst and pride. Silly and stupid. But does that makes us even, or just plain human beings?
7. The manuscript was going along just fine, until I hit the poems about Dad’s death. That’s when it all got hinky and I started drifting ever so slowly away. First of all, the emotional level. That wasn’t hard to deal with. I know my father loved me, he told me that when he was dying. It was all the other bullshit that surrounded that experience. My siblings’ need to make sure I didn’t make a scene or somehow act inappropriately. I was a full-grown forty year old female with four children of my own, and yet, both my brother and older sister had to waste time making sure they curtailed what I might say or do. But, there were balances to all of that. The phone call to the funeral home, during the wake. Asking specifically for me. A cousin crying because he wouldn’t be able to make it. Younger sister calling out my name when Dad finally breathed his last and then phoning me two days later to say she hadn’t slept because she was so afraid that Dad might be angry with her. And my Mother, hugging me when I left and saying very clearly that she didn’t know what they’d have done without me there to be his nurse and to support all of them. And all of the shared memories and stories I was told about my Dad by long ago neighborhood friends who came to show their respect.
8. Going home and back to school. That first class and Dr. S’s harangue aimed directly at me and whatever poetry I might have written during that time span. The utter silence in that room. The man’s hateful words and his need to abuse me verbally. But, I survived and grew through the process. Came to know and respect my true mentor and relished his support and encouragement. But it cost me those poems (years later, I believed I had burned them in a bonfire). They are the place I am stuck in, questioning my skills and abilities, and all the knowledge I have gained throughout these many years.
9. Have found myself waiting for some sort of sign, some way through this mess. Some way around the depression that is sure to follow if I don’t act soon. And it came, yesterday. A phone call from an old and dear friend whom I haven’t spoken to in far too long. Told her just a bit of what has been going on and she stopped me cold with my own words. She reminded me of something I had taught her how to do many, many years ago. How to enclose those negative voices that come to plague any forward movement. I have refined that a bit since then, using words to fight words.
The dictionary definition for the word sentimental has four defining steps, all of which pertain to the use of sentiment, or an appeal to tender or romantic feelings. I have no problem with that. I’m writing poetry and that is what much of poetry is about: appealing to the senses and feelings of those who read it. Distilling that sentiment so that others might learn or grow from what they understand of the moments I distill in my poems
What I found as an antonym was far more direct. The only word that was offered as an opposite was the word dispassionate. Lacking passion and perhaps feeling and sentiment. Poetry is distilled passion. A blending of metaphor, simile, sensuous imagery and much more, allowed to set over time to create a certain level of potency: a sharper awareness, a combination of learned knowledge that is heightened with experience. I certainly have all of that and more. I have always said that the poems on my blog are rough drafts.
It is time to write a new letter to my father.
This is where my self-talk ended. I was amazed and had forgotten all about this little missive, yet now know that the Universe stepped in and worked it all out.
- My former spouse passed away and because I never remarried, I received death benefits from Social Security. It doubled my monthly income. Still within the top tier of the poverty level, but at least some amount of breathing space.
- My computer got hit and I lost the computer, the outside modem, my printer and scanner, but did recover the hard drive.
- I began the moving process from a one-bedroom to a two bedroom apartment. That allowed me to have the home-office I have dreamed of for years.
- In the course of packing up all those files from two huge filing cabinets, I found those poems I had written about my father’s dying and thought I had consigned to that long ago bonfire. These were the originals with notes.
- Have written a new and better version of that letter to my father, and when I read it, I can see him grinning and nodding.
- My manuscript was in three parts and I am now halfway through the second section and know exactly where it is going and how to complete it.
- Can only express my gratitude to the Universe by completing what I started all those months ago.
This resonates with me so much, Elizabeth, especially the dragging of my heels towards finishing the edit of my compendium of poems. Reading this spurs me forward. This weekend I will stay home and devote my time to continuing. It will be such relief when it is done. I have been inspired by you, these past months, moving steadily through your move, and continuing to work. I agree, we dont have much more time to waste, we must produce now, while we can. I was most struck by your father’s silence on receiving your poem. My family is that way – they simply do not know what to do with or how to respond to my writing – they act like it is am embarrassing aberration they wish would go away. Sigh. Thank God for online. It sustains us.
Thank you so much Sherry. You were in my thoughts as I wrote this earlier this morning. You and several others, lol. I was shocked when I found that old letter to myself and the way all my concerns were addressed and answered. We do need to be reminded, on occasion, that what we do has purpose and direction. That it matters. Perhaps my Dad was embarrassed, I don’t know. I’d rather think he might have been really surprised by the wealth of memories and the details after all those years. The new letter takes a prominent place within the manuscript and I’m loving what is happening.