Thursday, December 22, 2016

feathered

feathered wings
downy and doubting
lay folded
lay forgetful of flight
in the grey-skied day
seeking hallowed sounds
watching fallen leaves wind-bound
for yesterday's tomorrow.

the weak heartbeats are kindred
to half-tied strings
which are trying and not trying
to hold on
in the tune to a recurring song
of holding breath
of holding in a second wind
for some future moment.

the dance of dusty shadows
swaying with the dreams forgot
conversing in a voice scratching for sound
in the rhythm of movement grown still
all while asking:
where is the scale for "too late"?
& how long can we dwell
in the land of hesitation?

the heart is a haunted neighborhood
a ghost town
with everything in a state of last-minute
with everything too fair and too fine
like a snow flake that melts within seconds
like feathered wings
downy and doubting
laying folded & forgetful of flight.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

mottled

i’ve been thinking too much.

i’ve been thinking
i’d like to take a break from myself
or maybe just breakup
so i can break through
to get through.

so…
can i bother you for a ride?
i promise just to sit inside…
i just don’t to have to decide
anything anymore.

the thing is - i’ve found myself
so deep in a daydream
i’m little tempted by reality.
but it’s just my imagination
running away with me…
it’s just really
really
got a hold on me.

having reached my tethered end
having just learned to reach
i realize i now have to teach
myself how to fully breathe.
it’s hard to believe
difficult to conceive
how i can feel both running empty
and over-flowing
can i be both?

how is it possible to be both better & worse
at being what i am?
i feel regularly blown asunder
and i’m starting to wonder
what it is all for?
why is this pattern stuck
in a repetitious encore?
the chorus being a heart unsettled
a heart unknown to itself
its beating pattern irregular & lost.
perhaps this is just the necessary cost
of finding myself awake.

perhaps i just need to bleed,
in order to more clearly read
the map i’m following.
because this road less traveled
is still a traveled road
but one without easy orientation
giving a vertigo of blessed desperation.

i’ll admit –
it’s a little bit fun
to be out on the run
from my fears and doubts.
one whispers and the other shouts
but both cause me to take flight.
so maybe
just maybe
life is a long night
of a delightfully haunting daydream.

my lungs can’t take in
quite enough air
but maybe that means
i’m nearly there.
i’ve come so far
but also feel so far away.
and already nostalgic
for tomorrow’s yesterday

i know the truth is out there
but i’m afraid to find it too
…aren’t you?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

anemone


a tide pool is an ocean from a sea-anemone view


as a child, i loved going to the tide pools. my favorite part was finding a sea anemone.  i marveled at its many arms, reaching out eagerly but leisurely in all directions.  it seemed hungry to grasp at many somethings, but sought after things in a contemplative manner.

i could never keep myself from sticking my finger in the water, to join it in its slow motion dance. the sea anemone, however, was never keen to accept me as a dance partner however. when poked or prodded the sea anemone pulls all its arms into itself, closes itself off to the world.

perhaps this was for self-preservation. 

turns out its many arms are both a means of reaching out for what it wants and defending itself against what it fears.  the arms are armed with venom-filled cells capable of paralyzing prey and predator alike.  (fortunately, humans are immune to most sea anemone venom.)

but, the sea anemone can’t stay closed forever.  it slowly, almost with trepidation, risks to open up again.  it reaches out an arm or two to test the waters before blossoming in full.  and i gleefully waited to watch it re-bloom time and time again. 

i didn’t think much then about how taxing all this must be for the sea anemone.  i didn’t ponder at what stamina is required to reach out with hope and then close up in protection and then to risk to open again to reach out anew.

i wonder about this now because i’ve lately thought about how taxing it can be to open and close oneself up.  we each are eagerly, even hungrily, reaching out for nourishment in this world.  we find nourishment in life dreams, creative passions, and most of all in people we love.  this is our marvelous, eager dance – the reaching out in many such directions, much like the sea anemone. 

but all the reaching comes with risk.  the risk is this: to reach for is to find.  you find goals, passions, and people you love.  that love turns those things into a need for sustenance.  however, sometimes, if not most times, those things can’t all be grasped at once.

the reality of this comes like my finger reaching into the water: a foreign, hazily defined force touching into our life. we’re not so sure whether it is something to open up toward or something to close down against.  untrusting, and anticipating pain, we close in ourselves.  we pull in all our arms.  it is not a choice, really, it is instinctual.

perhaps this is for self-preservation. 

this is a necessary and heavy part of existence.  we sometimes must pull inwards and away from the nourishment that we long for.  maybe it is because we have to reach back towards ourselves.  maybe it is to prepare for the reaching out in next, uncertain, but unstoppable tide.  maybe we just have to rest awhile, get used to being a bit nutrient deficient, so that we can better treasure the things that nourish us.  maybe we just need a bit of time in the dark to see all things around us in a new and dazzling light when we bloom again. 

honestly – i am jealous of the sea anemone.  because he has many arms to reach out into many directions at once and i only have two.  i have so many places i want to keep an arm reaching out towards, so may people there i want to hold on to.  and sometimes the reality of not being able to have my arms in two vastly different seas at once is so disheartening, that exhaustion sets in, and i have to collapse the arms inward like the sea anemone.

according to the oxford english dictionary, anemone means “daughter of the wind.”  what a lovely and  tragic image.  the wind often flows in predictable patterns, returning regularly to favorite haunts, sauntering through and lingering there.  revisiting the same tree canopies, same grasslands, same mountain passes.  but the wind is, usually, in constant movement. it never lingers quite long enough to call one place home.  instead, it gets to live a bit of life in many places, and stays connected to the nooks it loves most - even if those favorite nooks are distant from each other, and even if the wind can only be a visitor to any of them.

in any case, the gumption of the sea anemone is worthy of admiration. it acknowledges its need to  close down out of a need for occassional conservation, but it never fails to bloom anew, arms eager to embrace what the tide brings.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

roots



 
here is the root of the root 
and the bud of the bud 
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; 
which grows
higher than the soul can hope 
or mind can hide
(e.e. cummings)

while at the dentist this week, i got x-rays of my mouth.  and while looking at the milky image of my teeth composed against the midnight black, i was distracted by the roots.


i was stunned by just how deep the roots are.  when you look at your teeth in the mirror you see so much less than what they actually are, you see just a fraction of them, only the part that is exposed to the world, roughed up daily by the friction of food, polished twice a day by a brush and minty paste.  i thought i knew my teeth – i guess not.


and because you have plenty of time to be in your head at the dentist, and are often thirsty for distraction as you lay flat, mouth wide, jaw numb, examining the texture of ceiling panels in the examination room  - i got to thinking more about roots in general.


the classic metaphor of something only fractionally seen is an iceberg.  approximately 7/8 of the iceberg’s mass is under water.  in other words, the “root” is majority of the creature.  in other words, what most of us know and recognize as an “iceberg” from images, is only a portion of the profile.  the term iceberg is from the dutch for “ice mountain” – but this is a mountain inverted, and usually hidden under the surface of the sea.  the iceberg’s roots are 7/8 of its being, and this majority is rendered essentially invisible. 


i got to thinking how incredible and incredibly sad it would be if 7/8 of ourselves was below the surface, rendered essentially invisible.  and then i got to thinking that perhaps this is just so, no “if” about it.  how much of ourselves to we show to others, truly? how much of ourselves to we show to ourselves?


tree roots are equally thought-provoking and equally unseen.  the giant sequoia, the world’s largest tree by volume, has an extensive root system.  the tiny, thread-like tendrils spread out from the tree up to 200 feet.  this root system is only 12 to 14 feet under the soil, but maintains the equilibrium of a tree that is almost 300 feet tall and nearly 2 million pounds at maturity. 


that got me to thinking about how wide spread our roots sometimes can be. do shallow, extensive roots provide us greater personal equilibrium over a deep, confined tap root?  if you ever see a portion of a giant sequoia uprooted (or image search it) – it is beautiful.  although the sight signifies the demise of a woodland leviathan, the web that was hidden under the soil is mystifying to behold.  it is a moment to take pause and consider the mystifying beauty of the hidden roots in each of us, should we ever chance to be uprooted.  maybe we should chance…


because trees are my deal – i also got to thinking about the quaking aspen (their leaves “quake” a captivating dance in the breeze).  when you behold an aspen “grove,” chances are you are actually seeing one “clone” tree.  aspens regenerate vegetatively via shoots that arise along lateral roots.  each tree in the clone shares identical characteristics and shares the same root structure.  best of all – each tree in the clone will shift into fall colors and into winter sparseness at the same time.  magic. 


this got me to thinking of the common roots we share with those closest to our hearts – how we often mimic characteristics in each other, phase in and out of life chapters at the same time.  and when you find you are a bit out of sync with the rest of the trees in your clone – their leaves have turned to golden yellow and yours still a spring green – it leaves you with a bit of an identity crisis.  these trees are your tribe, so why are you not the same shade?  although an individual aspen tree can’t reach out its own roots elsewhere and survive, can’t leave the clone and later return to it, that is sometimes what is required of us.  you still share the same leaf shape and bark as the rest, you are still a tribe member in that regard.  although a bit unnerving, your contrasting hue allows you to properly appreciate the beauty of their golden yellows, as they all shift together.  maybe the beauty increases at a distance, as you stand apart.  maybe that is the only way to really see the beauty at all. maybe this is a gift they give you without knowing.


as i said – there is a bit too much time to get pensive during dental work, and especially when mesmerized by an x-ray of the roots of your teeth.  you realize there are parts of yourself you don’t know at all, haven’t made the effort to see.  and, if that is true of yourself, the person’s who’s head, heart, and body you live in every moment of everyday – this must be even more true for those you know “well” and those you hardly know.


the take away for me with the captivating idea of roots is to develop eyes to see and a heart of longing to know the roots that lay hidden in me.


and, in you.

 
references:





Saturday, April 9, 2016

unhinged


strangely drawn
to the way of tripping hazards.
to reminders of the breakable.
to remind that you should risk to break.

but make no mistake:
even caught up in this dream
you know it is all irreplaceable.
all of it.

the uncomfortable truth is:
your hands just can’t hold
all that you want to cradle at once
(and your heart can’t either.)

and this creates a fever,
forces you into the dance we each learn alone,
with both feet half lame,
bruised and aching.

you feel your heart breaking.
but this is a sort of self-preservation
and a realization that maybe it is easier
to, sometimes, proactively forget.

you say you’re “just not ready yet”
but welcome to Hesitation
population: Too Many to Count
where Time is never Time enough.

and this is undeniably tough:
to uproot your heart
so you can catch a glimpse of an origin
(since you have a blindness for endpoints.)

as you come unhinged at the joints
you wonder: “maybe i’m just better on paper?
better at living, breathing, and speaking through paper?”
(safe and sound, and sound asleep).

this foreshadowing of hindsight has drawn you in deep
into the burdensome realization that:
to deny yourself the difficult
is often to deny the chance to share your worth.

this is a sort of rebirth:
to open up every uncomfortable place inside yourself
to set free the bird caged within
before its wings atrophy beyond repair.

and this is laying your heart bare
as you’re getting old, and want something to lean on.
but - (maybe) - it is this constant leaning forward
that keeps us constantly young.

and this is the song that’s being sung:
to store up Light,
like it’s going out of style
to recall to regular memory
all that makes life worthwhile.

Monday, March 28, 2016

iris

today i got a good look (a new look?) at my iris. 



it is not so much that i’ve never looked at my eye color before. it's rather that i don’t think i’ve seen my eye color rightly before, seen it as fully exposed in blatant honesty as displayed in the direct glare of the sun.

on my license it says they are “blue” 
which is not false, 
but it's not quite true. 

with the sun shining directly on them, my eye color is revealed to actually be the green of my mom dropped into the blue of my dad.  the green dispersed itself within the blue, until the rim, leaving a bold blue border that is all my dad. but this border would be nothing notable if it weren't for the green from my mom which transformed the central color.  

but, that color in the middle is neither green nor blue.  
that color is something all my own.

i thought about how perfect a metaphor this is of who i am, of who we all are really - a mixture of our parents. maybe one parent is more at the core of our wiring, and the other is what defines our edges, but whatever it is - we are defined by parts of each. 

but then there are these components of ourselves that don’t come from either parent. and we stand mystified when we analyze ourselves at arm's length, wondering where those things we see in ourselves but can't see in either parent came from.

it got me to thinking of how we each are the summation of an inheritance of pieces of others.

we are made up of pieces donated, given, and taken from family, friends, coworkers, enemies, even complete strangers we meet for only a moment and never see again.  

we are also mixtures of the snippets of movies, books, art, and music we love best.  the creative works of others become part of what we work out in ourselves. 

experiences and landscapes become part of us too.  the things we do and the places we go give us pieces of themselves to digest into our bones. we are made different by them because they require us to carry something different than we arrived with when we travel on from them.

and so we are a mosaic of all these pieces - other people, other things, other places.  and it is all these bits of others that creates the unique finger print that is me.
that is you. 

this is a mosaic that is changing all the time. growing and shrinking. adding a greater variety of colored glass and stripping down to just a few hues.  sometimes we take in large, smooth-edged pieces. sometimes it is a scattering of jagged small pieces, barely noticeable, as invisible as a grain of sand.  

sometimes this adding or removing of pieces hurts quite a lot. sometimes it is almost unbearable, impossible to survive.

and to think about this even further - you give away parts of yourself to others all the time, and these parts become part of them.  conversations you share, memories lived together, the 1000 non-notable moments you don’t realize someone else has internalized, that you don't realize you treasure.  

all of that is the postal service by which you send some scrap of parchment with part of you along with another as they journey on in life, and that is a thread they weave into the tapestry that is their own self.  neither of you realize you’ve become part of each other. 

but you do.


i am not sure what i'm getting at with this, 
after all many have wrote of such things before, 
but today i got a good look at my iris, 
and thought 
(perhaps) 
we should risk looking directly at the sun a bit more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

paresthesia

paresthesia (noun) - a sensation of tingling, pricking, or burning of a person's skin...the most common type is the "pins and needles" sensation or of a limb "falling asleep."

a book by rebecca solnit mentioned an art experiment (for lack of a better term) by artist ana teresa fernandez in which she cast herself in a pair of high heeled shoes made of ice and stood in a gutter of an inner-city street until they melted and freed her bare feet. i was mostly struck by what solnit went on to say in brief analysis of this:

"when your feet or hands go numb with cold, they don't feel at all after a while. it's when they warm again that the pain begins, just as a limb hurts not when the blood flow ceases and it goes to sleep but when it wakes up."

i haven't lived life long enough to know if this happens more than once in a lifetime, but i feel we each hit at least one moment where we find ourselves suddenly awake.  it might be that we were once awake and have fallen asleep, but it might more likely be that we were never quite awake in this way ever before.

it is not a jolt awake like a kick from subconscious, but it seems quite sudden when we finally articulate it to ourselves.   i think it happens kind of like this ice experiment - slowly and not all at once.  so imperceptibly that pain arrives before we knows what is happening.  i don't think we know that we have grown numb to ourselves, our voice, our heart beat, i don't think we are aware that blood has ceased to flow to the heart of who we are, who God calls us to be.

but when blood does begin to flow to that, when we begin to warm to that, pain arrives before any recognition of what is happening does.  hurt's arrival is confusing - a heavy, unasked for gift. a gift that is not seen as such for some time (perhaps even some years) after its initial perception.  as i watched the time lapse video of this art experiment, even in its few minutes summation, i felt fidgety and uncomfortable - i wanted it to be over for her, wanted to fast forward to the end to get it over for myself as the viewer.

waking up out of numbness feels so the same - we want to get it over with. however, with the "pins and needles" that arrives when blood returns to a numb and sleeping limb, we fidget, stamp our foot, and maybe even run to get the blood rapidly flowing back into, make the pain stop.

funny that this is exactly what we don't do when awaking to ourselves.  

when coming out of a figurative numbness in life we recognize pain, but we try to heal that pain with paralysis, we address "pins and needles" of our soul by standing still. we are frightened by it so we try to keep movement away from the issue, try to disguise it, stifle it, drown it back into a numb state.  we don't give a name to it, perhaps don't even talk about it to others because we are so confused by what it might be.  since it is not a "i'm fine" type of response to the "how are you?" question we pleasantly all give each other - we pretend it is nothing, and call it "fine" to try to break the spinal chord of whatever beastly creature it must be.

what if we fed it instead? gave it a life blood, treating it as a vampire that might just make us...well...undead?  the "pins and needles" pain of finding ourselves drawn deeper into ourselves could become something to rush circulation to, a hurt to run quickly on and away with in a form of embrace which would bring us to a more authentic version of ourselves.

waking up is disorienting and undeniably painful. and as solnit says "not everyone has the will or the warmth" to get beyond paresthesia - but i think you do.

(and maybe i do too.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

imagine

it was nothing like what i imagined
or
i would have never imagined
or
it was better than i could have imagined

but, very rarely (perhaps never)

it was exactly as i had imagined

if you do hear the last, or if you have ever said it, think of the story or memory it is attached to...do you remember it well? remember fondly? do you retell that story often?  it doesn't do for much of a memorable share, because it isn't very relatable.  somehow, the expected doesn't become a central thread to the fabric of our lives.

i truly cannot think of a time where something has ever been "exactly as i imagined." and that is saying something, because i imagine a lot.  as one addicted to planning, i am wired to imagine...i imagine a plan A, B, C...and then a D, E and F (just in case). i always imagine the worst case scenario. that way (i tell myself) if the worst happens - great, i expected it. if it doesn't - great, i'm delightfully disappointed.  i imagine the far away future. i imagine the typical day future.  i imagine the next minute future.  (a bit manic, i know) but the point being, none of these futures are ever exactly as i imagine.

sometimes i wonder (and i'm sure you do too) why doesn't God just give us all the clear blueprints of what is to come?  why doesn't He permit things to more often end up just as we had imagined? why can't He just reveal the good and the bad of the future so i can expect it all and be prepared?  wouldn't that make so much of life easier?

there is a danger to 'easier.'

if i'm being honest with myself - i am grateful that i never imagine the future perfectly, and that God doesn't reveal it to me either.  if the future is worse than i had imagined, i'm glad i didn't know in the end. i'm chronically anxious (it is something i have to acknowledge out-loud regularly so as to no let it defeat me in daily life).  so if i knew this Worse Future was coming, what good does that do me? it'll cost me minutes, days, weeks, or perhaps years of extra worry all for things i had little if any power to change.  even more to the point - these are things we shouldn't try to change anyways. the wrong turns, burns, and hard lessons we learn are important parts of who we are - to avoid such things because we knew they were coming wouldn't be much of a life, and it would leave us being something less than ourselves.

if the future is to be better than i imagine, to have anticipated the greater good before would result in less rather than greater joy, would result in less rather than greater gratitude and praise for the blessing.  there are few greater joys than encountering a day, moment, or exchange that was "better than i imagined."  when something as simple as a movie, meal, or book "exceeds expectations" we talk about it for days after, if not forever after, to everyone we meet.  to be taken off guard in this way is intoxicating. to realize things can be better than what we had planned on takes our breath away.  what a gift it is to be wonder-struck.

what is the point of imagining at all you say?  if we are so rarely correct in our foresight? anticipation and contemplation have great value still, i believe. there is a richness gained in the awaiting.  we are losing that precious gift that is wondering, with information at our fingertips everywhere we are thanks to the internet.  we are forgetting the beauty found in uncertainty in our over-connected world.  so maybe imagining, even knowing we will never imagine exactly right, is a means of holding on to the dying art of curiosity.

and if we are being honest with ourselves, there is an exhilaration that comes with the unexpected. like a roller coaster - sudden (but safe) drops from a height, sudden (but safe) turns on a dime.  we feel slightly sick, and temporarily disoriented, but even in the dizziness at the end of the ride, we are breathless with thrill. we are re-awoken. we are hungry for living - even if a bit terrified.

i'm glad to imagine, but equally glad that almost nothing is ever quite as i imagined in the end.  

we all need regular doses of astonishment.

i will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; i will counsel you with my eye upon you.
-Psalm 32:8

Monday, March 7, 2016

dropping

 
rainy day writing.

rainy days, days suggestion of rain, days just following a rain are the best for writing.

today, it was raining.

so, i write.

about half way through my run this morning (rain jacket zipped, hood up) i realized i wasn't quite certain it was raining anymore.  i actually had to lift my face directly to sky, creating a horizontal platform for rain drops, to determine if the rain was in fact dropping anymore. it was not.  i had been so shielded up, assuming that the drops were coming down as steady as before, that i had no idea they had stopped.

"better safe than sorry."

but
actually
maybe not.

maybe we are better off being sorry sometimes instead of safe.

the fact is, i wasn't sorry at all at not being safe in this case.  yes - there was a distinct likelihood that the deluge would begin again at any moment, but with the jacket slightly unzipped and hood off - what a symphony of fantastic sensations.  the mist that was still coming down was so refreshing as it dusted my neck, and the chilled breeze felt like a literal 'breath of fresh air' - like air i'd never tasted before, so sweet i wanted to drink it in deep into my lungs, hold it, and savor it there quietly lest anyone notice i'd found something good and try to take it back.

and the wind made a great mess out of my female mullet (due to the trials and travails of "growing out a pixie cut").  i forgot how marvelous the movement of wind-tousled hair is.  i'm not one for dancing, but i am keen for my hair to dance in the wind.  being overly-safe, with protective measures in place quite often keeps us from such simple gifts.

and because everything becomes a metaphor for me, i was led to further ponderings while running.

sometimes, you just have to face the storm. no...it is more like, you have to seek the storm out, reach to embrace it, lift your face up to it, run straight into it.

i think it might be healthy, and in many cases vital that we let down the hood or even leave the jacket at home and fully seek the storm with no self-provided protections.  later in this run in particular, the rain did (as expected) begin again.  and it made up for lost time, seemed to be trying to make up for the past few years of drought perhaps.  rain drops turned into hail shards - biting at my exposed hands. then thunder and lighting began, followed by a thick winds, buffeting the trees, and sometimes threatening to buffet me.  i laughed almost deliriously at the wonder of the chaos...any driver that passed by must have though i lost my mind.

maybe i did.

sometimes i wish i would.

my mind tends to build up walls and armor as a means of self-fashioned protection, in order "safe" and not "sorry."  i think today i realized how so much of my life has been lived as a means to avoid storms, but now a bit of losing my mind is showing me what storms have to offer - simple gifts that can't be grasped unless i risk a little (if not a lot) vulnerability.  a bit of losing my mind leads me to weaken my walls a bit, to let the gift of the wind in.

stuck on that slight revelation of having run for so long protecting myself against rain that was no longer dropping, i began to wonder:  how often do i do that in other areas of my life? how often do i put on armor and built up walls, barriers against dangers that exist only in my assumptions?  how often do i allow myself to lift my face straight up to get a better taste of the storm?

my mom used to sing this song to me when it was little, and it resurrected itself in my mind today while overthinking all this, because overthinking might just be what i do best:

when you walk through a storm
hold your head up high
and don't be afraid of the dark
at the end of the storm
there's a golden sky
and the sweet silver song of a lark
-"you'll never walk alone"

i fear the storms in my life. i have feared them. i do fear them.  i fear them even when they don't yet have a sketch of a plot. even when i don't have a whisper of them yet. i know they hover there, somewhere in the sky, collecting moisture, just waiting to pour down.

but here in this song, we are encouraged to do what i'd done earlier - hold our heads up high in the storm. it doesn't tell us to avoid the storm, to seek shelter, to wear every measure of water proof clothing we are able to clean and gather. it just says to walk, hold your head high, and don't be afraid.

i'm tired of afraid. i'm tired of safe. but afraid and safe is what i know. so safe and afraid is who i am - or is it?

why am i writing all this? (i'm asking myself, really). i mean who really cares what i thought about on a run in the rain, myself included?

i guess today i'm just trying to be sorry rather than safe.

i am trying to not be so safe in what i write that i end up being sorry that i hardly write anything at all.





Tuesday, January 5, 2016

just

would my doubt kindly
sing me to sleep?
it's all just as well
all just
just

if only i'd quite forget
that i don't know where i'm going.
if only i'd quite forget
and fall to sleep
and have my questions resolve themselves
subconsciously,
swept away by morning light.

sometimes i feel i'm swinging on a pendulum
waiting to jump off at the vertex to the left
or the one to the right
waiting for the appropriate height
but maybe it's the center i'm supposed to jump off at
am i missing the center of it?

and i realized today
it was silly to avoid puddles.
i realized that i should run through them,
go out of my way for them actually,
because what is the point
of trying to keep your feet dry
when you're running in a downpour?

i'm doubtful even then
wondering if my already drenched skin
has had enough
and wondering if
if it is all just as well
if it is all just
just

Friday, January 1, 2016

scars

I've always intrigued by bodily scars.  Like tattoos, there is always a story there.  Unlike tattoos, there is more than just a story there.  Because, every scar carries with it pain and change, and stands as evidence of errors made or risks taken.

Scars are individual topographies of memory, imprison and immutable on your skin, so a memory that is (at least in part) tangible, visible, within your grasp.  You can trace your finger tips over this kind of memory.  Scars make up the kind of memory map that can't ever be folded up and shelved away, a kind of memory map that is (quite literally) part of how you see yourself, a portion of your reflection.  You can never be separate from this map.

I have always been proud of my bodily scars, which I affectionately call "battle wounds."  To me, they are proof to myself that I was gutsy (or klutzy), but capable of healing despite my disbelief.  It shows me that I didn't just sit on the sidelines, but at least tried to join the game, run in the race, and even it was just I tripped over my own feet and made an utter fool of myself, at least it shows me I'm capable of more than just sitting down and watching everyone else live.  I was living, even if I made a mess of it.

Emotional scars are really just the same thing.  I think we waste a lot of time looking at our wounds and the scars they leave behind and think of them as these parasitic presences, feeding off our Present and Future, something to be mourned and regretted, something that proves us flawed and broken.  I think we look at our scarred and broken places and think of them as things that keep us from living, when in truth they are what propel us to live.  I think we so often look at scars and think that they alienate us from others, are things we should hide and be ashamed of, things we need to explain away and apologize for, when they might just actually be the things that bind us to each other more than anything else.

I do often find myself looking at the scars on my heart & in my mind, the scars pervading my porcelain sense of self-worth, and thinking of the scar as something I wish was gone and away.  I see the scar as a crack in my weak presence (or evidence of my weakness), and impossibly wishing myself to be impossibly flawless.  How boring that would be. How bland a life it would be if we were scar free, without any sort of wound or struggling.  Even though I think I want that, in my heart of hearts, I know that would be truly hollow way to live.

Before the scar is formed, in the open-wound stage, it is hard to think this way.  With a bodily wound, your skin is stretching to zip and seal itself back up.  Your flexibility in that area is compromised, and you are oh-too-aware of the fact that you were hurt, and not quite whole now.  And you will not ever be the same - that is the truth of it.  Our body is incredible that it can fix itself up, but it cannot erase the wound entirely.  I think this one of the genius elements of the way the human body is created, that scars remain, because the scars we have from former wounds stand as reminders when we're healing from a new, and present wound that we will in fact heal.  It builds up a sense of faith in our becoming.

With a emotional wound, maybe it is our heart and spirit that is stretching to zip and seal itself back up.  It will almost always take longer than the skin to fix itself, and hence our flexibility in our thoughts and in the way we love may take quite a bit longer to revive itself back to functionality.  And, as with the skin, you will not ever be the same.  But, again, the scars stand as reminders that our heart will heal, and so will our mind, but we are changed by that which caused us pain. And change gets a bad rap, but it isn't always a "bad" thing, in fact most times, although we don't like it much, it isn't a "bad" thing at all.

If nothing else, a scar reminds you that you can bleed (literally and figuratively).  I often drift into some sort of numb, neutral autopilot in life, so grooved into routine and my "to do" lists that I am not really feeling anything at all.  Sometimes it is accidental that I fall into this, but sometimes it is subliminally intentional - a sort of self preservation.  It is easier to be in robotic numbness than it is to face the various questions and fears clawing at my insides.  So bleeding every once in a while is the only way to shake me out of this, to remind me to live, to remind me to live the questions.  Wounds shake you back into wakefulness and thankfulness, and the scar stays behind to remind you of a time when life hurt more, but also of how the pain does recede in time.

One of my best-known bodily scars, is this little triangle shape on my knee that I got when I was about seven years old.  As it healed up I was told several times by adults that "we should have put a butterfly stitch on that...it's going to scar for sure."  That was the first moment I remember thinking that "scars are bad," "scars are to be regretted," "scars should be avoided."  And it wasn't until recently that I have stopped seeing scars in this negative light.

The story behind this scar is that it was obtained in for "unnecessary" reasons.  I was just running around a corner on my elementary school campus, for no reason other than it felt good to run and to be eager to be going somewhere, and not thinking too much about what might be around the corner.  What was around the corner was a patch of gravel, which I slipped and fell in.  I took the impact on my knee, and started bleeding immediately.  So, the wound has no glamorous or heroic story, it was more a tale of klutziness, but when I look at the scar I think "there was a time when I wasn't so fearful of what might be around the corner."  I look at this scar and long to grow back into that state of dauntlessness (or ignorance) - where I run around the corner without fearing about what might be m

I think that if you aren't getting a scar every once in a while (bodily or otherwise), you aren't quite doing it right.  It does not do to do the safe and easy all the time, and scars stand as the decor to your life fabric that make your life uniquely yours.  So, I hope you make mistakes this year, I hope you get wounded and have some scars to decor your life, and remind you that you are risking to live.

As Rilke says, "live the questions" and I think he'd agree to extend this to say "live your scars" too.