I put the kibosh on video games for the weekend and the kids were pissed. They were so pissed that they were hell-bent on being miserable. They were so hell-bent on being miserable, they almost succeeded. But they didn’t, because life is awesome and full of wonder. Even when you’re fourteen and no one understands you. Even when you’re eight and it seems like your mom is hardly ever around and when she is she’s obsessed with vegetable eating. The lesson that I keep having to teach them (and myself) is that the decision to be miserable and the effort it takes to uphold that decision will almost always cost you more than it costs anyone else. And there’s enough in the world designed to make you miserable, you don’t have to actively engineer misery (I say this, but believe me, I do plenty of searching out misery myself). The difficult, necessary thing is to reach–for miracles, for love, for laughter and forgiveness. I work hard to remind myself to look through kaleidoscopes, to marvel at ordinary magic, to believe in possibilities, to dream and trust my dreams and be amazed by my own mind. To want what’s good and believe I can have it.
The picture above is an evolved piece of artwork at Goddard College. One person whose name will not be mentioned, wrote Seema wouldn’t wanna be ya. Another kind soul added the “I heart.” I wrote that pictogram of how I’d spell my name if I were a little less literate (C+a drawing of a Ma). And the wise woman poet Shomriel Sherman (click on the link and sign up and read some of her wisdom) posed with it. The thing I love best about being a poet is that other poets send me poems (also that I get to write staggered sentences when I’m too full of emotion to focus on grammar). Shomriel sent me this poem, The Thing Is by Ellen Bass, which came just as I needed it, just as I was ready to succumb to the grief. Poets know.* I have shared this poem with lots of people since, and it keeps renewing me. So I share it with you, and I invite you to write one entitled “The Thing Is” about the thing you do to part the curtain of grief and let the light through, no matter how many times you’re kicked in the (literal or metaphorical) dick.
The Thing Is
by Ellen Bass
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
he doesn’t look miserable at all, does he?
*My belief that poets know can get dangerous, because then I believe that I know something, but actually I don’t always. Sometimes what I want gets confused with what I know. Maybe I should say OTHER poets know to be more accurate.