Chuck Palahniuk says that “The writer isn’t afraid to tell an awful truth. The writer might not be smarter than us but the writer is braver and more honest.” My truth, my awful truth, and nothing but the awful truth is that I have a propensity, or, perhaps, a proclivity for being a fuck-up. Throughout my life I have failed more than I have ever succeeded and I can only hope that my honest admission of my awfulnesss makes me brave.
Life often feels like a vast and ever-widening collection of moments that I cannot change; a collection of profound instances in which I should have known better, an amassed assortment of words and deeds that I have either done or said that can never be taken back, undone, or unsaid. And yet, when I am at my most uncertain and unsure, I am proud of to my children, I am proud to their father, and I am proud to be a father.
Karen Rinaldo says that “on the other side of frustration and discouragement [there] is tenacity and hope”. I know that this is true because I know that on the other side of every devastating obstacle and lonely heartbreak they are there. Together they are my North star, ever guiding me towards home. They are constellations bursting through the black of the bleakest nights with the fierce tenaciousness of hope.
I know that there is some light left in this world because my kids are in it. I know that there was once some light in me because I still see it in them. I may not know who, or what I am, but I know that I am their father, and that is more than enough…
A couple weeks ago I posted an audio version of poem I wrote called “Abide”. Someone of you seemed to like it. I really enjoy spoken word poetry and listening to poetry readings, so I thought I’d try another. Hope you like it!
I dig my heels deep and hard into the pulse and pace of a pulmonary valve bursting wide I was born with the restless heart rate of a runner I was born running This pavement hears my pleas It bears the full weight of all my angst and agony without relenting It reaches up and pulls me into peace An embrace as solid as the concrete that calls me home to someplace unknown I was born running I dig my heels hard and deep into the pulse that runs in search of poetry and my pace quickens into a prayer
I can be a lot. Perhaps, I crave a kind of simple living because I’ve subconsciously convinced myself that if I can just minimize the things I possess then maybe I can minimize the things that possess me. Yet, I’ve found that no matter how bare my cupboard is made to be, internally I’m still a cluster-fuck of complexity and disarray that not even Marie Kondo can tidy up and clear away.
I harbor a quiet intensity. I can have an overwhelmingly large and looming energy. It be more than some can handle, and more than most would want to. I can be isolated, solemn, severe, distant, and closed-off. I’m slow to warm and difficult to connect with. I’m ferociously passionate in my involvement with the things I care about, and I throw myself fully and fervently into them. And in most of my relationships I have either been too much or not enough.
I’m brutally aware of my foibles and I continue to do the work of trying to smooth-out, or at least dull-down, the serrated edges of myself. Yes, I can be better. Yes, I can do better. But, my efforts to improve will also require a degree of acceptance. There are parts of myself in need of repair, but some of these places of damage and discontent are also places of depth and divinity. There are shattered places in who I am that, in the light of awareness and acceptance, are also the consecrated ground of hallowed shrines. In these places the shards of past failures become holy objects, the remnants of who I have been are sacred relics. As Cheryl Strayed explains, this is “the temple I built in my obliterated place.”
The solemnity of my cold and quiet distance may create the appearance of someone disassociative, but come closer and you’ll discover that this analytical silence provides me with a keen ability to listen, closely and deeply. My brokenness may mean that my heart is cracked , but that also means that is is wide and ever-open. The weight of my concern is heavy and burdensome indeed, but within the burden is the breadth and depth of an expanding empathy. The pitch of the black that envelops me is uncomfortable and consuming. There are few who are willing to peer into the darkness with an un-averted gaze. Many recoil from the mystery and ambiguity of the dark, but, as John O’ Donohue says, “There is an inner depth and texture to the darkness that we never notice until we have to negotiate the absence of light.” O’ Donohue writes that “Something within us knows the darkness more deeply than it knows the light.” I’m beginning to understand that my darkness is not a curse. The black bile coursing through my veins is neither a disease, nor a sickness requiring a cure, it is my greatest strength. this darkness is my gift, my gift to the world.
For some, and in some ways, I will always be too much. For other people, and in other places, i will simply never be enough. This kind of acceptance takes time. It requires frailty and fragility. I take deep breaths that test the capacity of my lungs. I breathe out long and hard, making a wish that the sheer force of the exhalation will blow out the candles of my burning worries and fears. This kind of acceptance is often awkward and clumsy, but it helps me to connect with what Neil Gaiman might call a “crooked hopefulness, a “crooked hopefulness” that knows that the crooked place in me naturally bend toward mercy and compassion.
He told me that my persistent creativity was inspiring.
I don’t know if it’s a matter of persistence or inspiration so much as it is a matter of desperation and survival.
I make things because I must.
I make things because if I stop moving and if I stop making things I’ll die.
I make things because I cannot find hope, and making things is the means by which I admit that I cannot find it.
I make things in the abundant lack of hope because if I cannot find hope perhaps I can make it. And if I can make hope then perhaps I can enough to give to others, and perhaps I can even make enough to have a little left over for myself.
Perhaps hope is something that has always been made.
Perhaps whenever we find hope it is because it was first made by a maker of things, who in the sheer agony of her hopelessness and despair managed to make some hope. And rather than keep it for herself, she chose instead to hide it in the world, in the hopes that perhaps, in case of emergency, the hands of those who are not as skilled or adept at making hope would find it and then they would have it.
Perhaps makers have always first and foremost been makers of hope.
I don’t know for sure, but I hope so, and so I make things….
Last week I wrote and posted a poem inspired by a friend’s sermon. I thought it might be fun or at least interesting to record a video of the poem being read as a spoken word piece. My initial intention was just to post the video on my social media accounts, but then I thought it couldn’t hurt to make the audio available as a kind of podcast episode. So here it is, hope you like it.
If you enjoyed this poem, podcast, thing, consider supporting my work by Buying Me a Coffee.
Keep showing up, Keep doing the work, FAIL BOLDLY, and let’s make something meaningful.
Abide Abide in the dark my darling, abide. For just a while longer now, abide. Though it is bleak I beg of you, peace, be still, abide There is a beauty that will beckon you to reach, But for now you must abide. Soon you will breach the blackness and you will begin to blossom, But only if you first abide.
Abide when it is hard dear one, abide. The winter is harsh, but it is relenting All I ask is that you abide. You will find warmth in the waiting, I promise If you are but willing to abide. Spring is nearing , I can feel it, Not much longer now, abide. You are scared, and small, and lonely But I am with you always Together we can abide
In the previous podcast episode I talked about a book I had been sent to review called Learning to Be by Juanita Campbell Rasmus. I’m still reading my way through the book, and struggling to do so honestly. But, I wanted to share a few more thoughts that have occurred to me during the process of working on it.
If you’d like to read the transcript of the episode you can find it here.
I’ve been working on a review for a book called Learning to Be. I’ve posted a posted a blog and a podcast with some of my initial thoughts and impressions, as well as some of my reservations around doing book reviews as a whole.
I don’t take a traditional or straight ahead approach to doing book reviews. I don’t quietly read a book, hidden away from the sight of the public eye, and then emerge with a single cohesive statement of my overall thoughts on the book. Instead, I read deeply and meticulously, and I share my thoughts of and on reading the book as I am in the active process of reading the book. I was discussing this with someone on twitter, and they told me that, although they were scholastically qualified to offer book reviews, they too were apprehensive about doing so. They said it was because they “read too immersively” and that because of this they would only be able to offer their “experience” of the book.
But, I don’t see that as a problem or a deficiency. In fact, something about that feels exactly right to me. I think that books are intended to be read immersively. We should be immersed in the process of reading. We should find ourselves immersively enveloped within the experience of the worlds and stories contained within books. Reading is an experience. Books are and should be experienced, and experiences are best when they are shared.
I have been trying to immersive self in Learning to Be, but so far I’m not particularly impressed with the experience of the book. Its an easy read, but it feels a little flat and one-dimensional, its not captivating, and I think it fails to deliver the emotional weight of its proposed subject matter. It’s been a struggle to stick with reading it. Friends of mine, noticing the strain, have suggested that perhaps I should just let this one go, that perhaps it’s time to put it down. There are those who will accurately advise that its best practice not to continue reading a book that you find boring. I’m inclined to agree, after all life is simply to short to read shitty books But, for better or worse, I can’t help but think that if the author took the time to write it, and I took the time to start it, then I should take the time to finish it. The writer pushed through to the end, then maybe I should as well.
I don’t like to give up on books. I always hold out hope for books because I know that sometimes it doesn’t take much for things to change. Sometimes it doesn’t take much for you and I to be changed. Sometimes it’s just one page, just one paragraph, just one sentence, just one word, that turns everything around. Sometimes I will trudge my way through a book I’m not enjoying because there might be some redeeming moment that somehow not only redeems the book, but in someway also redeems me as well. And sometimes redemption comes in the simple understanding that the depths of our pain, our plight, and our predicament is something deeply known and understood by another. Sometimes the most invigorating experience is when we see that an experience that we thought was so specific to ourselves is an experience also shared by someone else.
With that being said, I have come across a few passages in Learning to Be that stirred-up a feeling of something familiar. Juanita Campbell Rasmus writes that “Perhaps some of us are poorly charged for the tasks of life awaiting us.”
I’m well acquainted with the sense of entering the world already partially depleted. It’s as if part way through my charging cycle someone pulled the plug and threw me into a painstaking barrage of tasks and traumas that further exhaust my already exhausted amounts of aliveness. Ill-equipped and ill-prepared I stagger through the daily onslaught of obstacles and obligations. Born with nothing in reserve, insufficient from the start, the fumes of my deficient vibrancy strain to keep the needle above “E”.
Maybe you know that feeling too. Maybe, like me, you’re feeling that way even now. And maybe, right now, as you’re reading this you feel a spark, a spark that speaks to and, perhaps even, for the voice of the quiet tired that bears its leaden weight down into the marrow of your bones. That spark is evidence of an unknown an inexplicable energy, the energy that comes from not being alone, a vitality that arrives in the presence and proximity of kindred fellowship.
I hear you. I see you. I can feel your weary angst and your worn down frustrations. I can feel it because it so closely resembles my own. I can’t promise you that it gets better, or easier. I can’t assure you that you will be rejuvenated or revitalized, or that you will someday find rest, but I can tell you that you are not alone; you have never been nor will you ever be.
I’ve made two previous attempts at a book review. I think I faltered in both attempts because I’m not sure that I ever offered a real “review” of either book. I shared some thoughts. I pointed out a few things I liked about each of the books, and highlighted some things that I didn’t, but nothing that I feel qualifies as an explicit review. I think what I actually did was share my experience of reading the book as I was reading it. At the time that seemed like a defect in my approach, a glitch in my process, it maybe it’s not a fault at all. Maybe it’s really a feature.
I received another book to review from Speakeasy called Learning to Be: Finding Your Center After the Bottom Falls Out by Juanita Campbell Rasmus. I won’t lie, so far, I’m unimpressed. I’m a few chapters in and I have been largely unmoved. But, I’m refraining from falling into the trap of frivolously referring to the book as “bad” because who knows what part of myself I’ll meet along the way of reading it. I suppose we’ll find out together.