Friday, December 31, 2010

A Tisket, a Tasket, We All Fall Down!

A tisket, a tasket, we all fall down…

This seemed to be the mantra going through my head when I took my young son skating for the first time last week. You see, although I was once pretty graceful on wheels, it has been nearly two decades since I strapped any to my feet. I could only cross my fingers and hope it would be just like riding a bike. And that if I did fall, it wouldn’t be too bad.

The fear of falling…kids don’t even have this, really. They climb to the top of trees, jump out of swings, hang by one arm from the monkey bars. When they do fall, they typically bounce right back up like it never even happened. I remember skating as a child, how the fear of falling never even entered my mind as I whirled around the rinks. And yet now it is all I can think about as I strap my foot into the wheeled shoe and begin a slow, clunky ‘walk’ to the rink floor, my son leaving me in the dust, propelling himself forward like a rocket, falling and getting back up maybe a dozen times in the process. He hits the rink full speed ahead, despite the fact he’s never been on skates before today, while I step slowly out onto the floor, holding the wall, feeling pretty good about the fact that I’ve managed to stay upright for 5 consecutive minutes on the skates.

The thing about skating, however, is that the only way to really do it, the only way to really enjoy it, is to lose completely that fear of falling that makes you hug the wall or move at a turtle’s pace along the rails. The only way to feel the rush of air against your face, to feel the gliding motions, the graceful movements, is to take the risk that yes, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that you…might…fall.

We’re all afraid of falling. It’s embarrassing, it hurts, and sometimes, it breaks something in us. This fear keeps us clunking along on the sidelines, wanting to join in the skating, but hugging the wall instead. It is, after all, wise to be cautious. No one wants to be embarrassed, hurt, or broken. And even though we’d recover from all of these things, our minds wrap themselves up in how horrible it would be to lose our balance. Fear plants itself firmly in our psyche, and eventually, we don’t even take the chance that maybe, just maybe, we won’t fall down.

But falling down and getting up again are as much a part of life as they are of skating. We all fall, somehow or another. We all trust, and sometimes, we have that trust shattered. We all take gambles that sometimes don’t pay off. We’ve all, at some point, been gliding along confidently, feeling on top of the world, when suddenly our front foot goes in one direction, and the back foot goes another, and we only have a second or two to process what is happening before the world turns upside down…and there we are, flat on our backs. Fallen.

I envy the way children bounce back up from a fall like it never even happened. Adults linger in their falls. We stay down for a long, long time, often only rising back up when someone has come along to help us. But the thing is, no matter how long we lie there, eventually we do rise back up. As Robert Frost once said, ‘This is the thing about life…it goes on.’
Before confronting any new situation, I often stop and ask myself, what is the worst that could happen? And if the worst happens, can I survive it? The answer is usually yes. It might be embarrassing. It might hurt. But more often than not, we’ll survive the worst if it does happen.

What is the worst thing that could happen if I let go of my fear and actually began to skate with my son? That I’d fall. That it would hurt. Maybe I’d break a wrist or an arm. Would I survive it? Of course. And so I did let go of that wall, and I skated for hours without falling. But I was only able to skate after accepting the risk that the worst could happen, that yes, I could fall.

Writing poetry is like this. Putting words down onto paper can be such a liberating experience that it feels like letting go of the wall and pushing yourself out into the rink, especially if you choose to share what you write with others. Everything in life is a risk, after all. But when writing poetry, what is the worst that can happen, really? That someone may have a different opinion of your poems than you do? I think we can all survive that. Think instead about the best thing that could happen - that writing can bring peace, clarity and a sense of purpose to your life. That even if you write only for yourself, if can become a way of healing, of empowerment, of release. It can become a path to joy. So why hold back?

Happy Writing!

Poem for the New Year

The promised snow
falls now

I see it in the glow
of lights. It
almost rushes
from the sky
to the ground
melting immediately.

I have felt myself falling
these past few days
as a dream dies inside of me.

I cast it out
and like the snow
it rushes to the ground
but it doesn’t melt,
oh no…

It rises up
coiled like a copperhead
and strikes,
knocking me down.

I lie there for a long, long time
My tears melting into the ground.
I wish I could melt into it, too.

But I don’t.
Instead, I rise
and brush the snow off my coat.

I go inside, where it is warm
I leave the dream outside.
on the cold ground
it slowly freezes.
Fitting, I suppose
since everything else is frozen
in that far away place
where the dream began.

But I’ve been struck
by copperheads
And I know
that being knocked down is
not the worst thing that can happen
to a soul.

Freezing, I think
is a far more terrible

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Letting of 2010...

Tom Hanks, or should I say, Forrest Gump, coined one of the most popular catch phrases of the 90s when he sat down on a park bench in Savannah and slowly droned out to the lady beside him, “Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.” People loved this, because we can all relate so easily to it. Life is unpredictable, in ways that are sometimes good, and other times, devastating. But while getting the yummy cream-filled chocolate is always wonderful, one has not truly lived until they’ve reached into the box and gotten the icky hard jelly thing, too. It’s a yin and a yang, a balance of sorts, but one we usually would just as soon do without.

I come closer to thinking that life is like a Chronicles of Narnia Movie. You’re just sitting around, doing the same old thing, when suddenly you open a wardrobe, expecting nothing out of the ordinary, and find yourself in a place you never even dreamed could exist. You get caught up in an adventure that’s so amazing, so magical, that you can’t even believe it is happening to you.

And then, wham, suddenly it’s all over. You’re right back where you were before, like the door had never been opened at all, wondering what, if any of it, was even real.

Love can be this way. To love another person fully and completely can be an amazing, magical adventure that you can’t even believe is happening to you. When you are loved in return, it is like standing in the sunlight. You have this other being whose soul connects directly to yours; who cares about you just as much as you care about them; who would move heaven and earth just to spend a moment with you. Nothing on earth is better.

But life is as unpredictable as reaching into a box of chocolates. You can be standing in the sunlight one moment, so warm and happy that you think you just might burst, and then, in the blink of an eye, a cloud passes over, and everything changes. You can’t see the sun at all anymore, and the world is suddenly a very cold place. You’re left alone to fight the chill, and you feel so lost that all you can do is stand before the wardrobe door, opening and closing it, hoping against hope for some sign of light…but days pass, and still all you see inside are coats and shadows. And your heart breaks over and over again, like delicate glass being shattered upon stone. Just as there is no feeling on earth greater than having love, there is equally no feeling on earth worse than losing it.

So you do the only thing you can… you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and you stop opening the door, because you know now there isn’t going to be anything on the other side. And it takes a tremendous will to do this, more strength than you have ever had to call upon yourself to have, because there’s nothing you want more than to keep looking for some sign of hope. To keep believing that the next time you open the door, you’ll be back to that magical place, back to the love, back to the sun shining on your face. But there is a part of you inside that knows you deserve much more than being left alone to wait and wonder. You know you don’t deserve the coldness that you’re being dealt. And this knowledge steels you, gives you strength to let go.

Letting go is excruciating. It’s like a birthing process, or a rebirthing process, I should say. There are tears and pain, yes, but in the end, you find your own sun, which isn’t dependent upon the affections of another person. You find that you can be your own source of light, and that no one can keep you in a dark, cold place unless you allow it.

Life is like a box of chocolates, and often we find ourselves holding the icky jelly one while every one else seems to be enjoying the good stuff. But this is all part of the journey of being human. We can build walls around our hearts that are impenetrable, yes, and that will keep us from hurting…but it will also keep us from living fully and completely. It will keep out the magic that makes life beautiful. And it will keep us from believing in, or achieving, the extraordinary lives that we are meant to have.

When we find ourselves back in that same place we were before our wonderful adventure, it’s quite an awful feeling. It doesn’t hold the same appeal as it did before, and it could never compare to where we’ve been. And so we make the obvious choice. We move forward, away from both places. That is the only way.

Don’t try to go back to where you were, and for Goodness sake, don’t stand in front of the wardrobe door forever, waiting on someone else to decide that you are or aren’t worth the effort. Embrace a new path. Embrace the knowledge that you already have, that anything truly is possible. You’ve known this all along. If someone else does not believe, if they can easily cast you aside because they are afraid or unwilling to put forth what it takes to have an amazing, magical adventure, then it is them, not you, who has slammed shut the wardrobe door. But they are really only shutting themselves out of Narnia. You’ve never stopped believing, which means, in time, you will find yourself in the midst of magic again.

Extraordinary things only happen to extraordinary people, and the extraordinary can’t exist without the belief first that it should. Most people don’t believe they deserve the extraordinary, and that is why most people lead typical, regular lives, dreaming of a Narnian adventure, but in the end, lacking the guts to actually pass through the wardrobe door when it opens. But magic is real. The extraordinary is possible. And the power to create it is here, among us, within us. It exists in the sense that we either believe in it…or we don’t.

The year’s end is a symbolic, powerful time for letting go of hurt, for beginning again, for following new paths, for dreaming and believing that yes, anything is possible. And writing is a powerful tool for capturing a little magic with words, for in the end, we create what is possible with first our thoughts, then our words, and then our actions.

As one year comes to a close and another begins, don’t mourn for what you’ve lost. Celebrate what you still have. Celebrate it with a poem, a painting, a journal entry, a song or a ceremony if you wish. But celebrate it all the same. There are other wardrobes, other adventures waiting, possibly even greater magic than what you’ve already known.
So as 2010 comes to a close, let go of those who so easily have let go of you, and you will find your own sunshine. Let 2011 be the best year you’ve created yet, and celebrate, celebrate, celebrate, because you are worth it. And what you will come to realize, in the end, is that the loss isn’t yours at all. Because it isn’t you who is closing the door on what is possible. Your doors are just beginning to open, because you still believe in magic. :-)