As I slowly emerged from my “dark ages”, poetry was a medium that I used to express much of what was happening in my life. The free-flowing poem below represents a kind of summary of my downward spiral, followed by my first attempt to “come back to life”. It reminds me of how I desperately gasped for air during my near drowning experience at age nine.
In search of life and love I boldly ventured forth,
Or so I thought; I wanted all and wanting took in greed,
Each sensation grasping with both hands
To then remain dissatisfied for wanting more.
This world to me must yield its very soul
Its every palpitating breath,
That I might live each passion to the core
And drink the cup of happiness that I deserved.
Come vaporous vine!
Take me into your sun-drenched arms,
Enfold me in your warm embrace.
What ethereal Utopia is your gift
Of deep oblivion.
No pain can touch me, nor bitterness
Taint my chalice of perfection,
With you beside me as my constant friend.
But what is this that you demand?
You crave attention more than I.
Indeed, not mere attention – this is total slavery!
Where are your magic powers and promised reverie
For those who sip your nectar so divine?
I asked not for this mad confusion
Nor this tormented soul!
Dear God, I feel abandoned and alone.
This kaleidoscope of colors many hued
By children of innocence is perhaps enjoyed,
But my tired eyes and heavy head
Crave not such gaudiness.
Where are my jewels, my crown and scepter gold?
Where is the kingdom that I rule
With all prostrate beneath my very feet?
Why does my head pound to the rhythm
Of a thousand dervish drums from hell?
To me was promised heaven - paradise!
Merciful night comes down upon this nightmare,
But I find not solace in my sleep
As bitter yellow bile rebels within my guts.
Cool hand of death that you were near
To relieve my tortured and tormented soul.
No! No! I do not want to die,
To pass unnoticed into the spirit world.
And yet this is not living –
This agonized confusion in my heart.
Can this be the grandiose person that I was,
Who craved so much for life and living?
Who now grovels at the feet of Bacchus,
Leering god of ultimate rejection.
Dear God where are you in my hour of need?
Dare I call upon you whom I have long ignored?
Your once proud child in new humility
Beseeches your assistance, your support.
I am not strength personified as I believed,
But rather like a motherless new-born babe.
Be my Mother, be my Father too
For this death wish is just another fallacy,
Another road to take, to run, to hide, to flee
From life that I so truly long for.
Lift this veil of visions from my eyes,
And let love flood my soul,
For I would drink no more of Bacchus’ opiate,
But of the cup of life.
And if to gain my freedom I must burn,
Then I am ready to accept the flame
Of your immense and deeply cleansing love.
Knowing that you hold the healing balm
Will give me strength to suffer what I must.
For now I see your hand stretched out toward me
That for so long has waited patiently,
You never did abandon my lost soul,
I chose to wander losing sight of thee.
My life till now has been an emptiness
Of barren spaces void of any truth,
Honest feelings always have escaped me;
Yet no, if truth is what I search, let truth prevail,
‘Twas I escaping everything.
Now I must learn to take my steps again,
To fall, then rise to fall once more
And ever rise again –
But not lose heart.
For you my Father, Mother, and my Friend
Will walk with me if I but meekly ask.
And in your love so infinite and wise
Will I find strength to seek reality.
© 20 September 1980
Too many topics for one writing you say. Today my friends are faced with the heart-breaking decision of “pulling the plug” on their beautiful 11-year old daughter, Sophia. A week ago she was alive with a life full of promises. Today she lies brain dead in a hospital bed and the so-called “magical three days”, when one waits for an inexplicable miracle, are drawing to a close.
I too have a daughter. She was once 11 years old, and that 11-year old is still alive inside of her. So I find myself inexorably drawn to thinking: what if it was me? what if it was my 11-year old Melissa lying there, looking for all the world as though she were sleeping? And my heart breaks for Omar and Monica as they face that terrible moment.
What mother, what father, can turn to the doctor and say “OK, switch off the machine”? What mother , what father, will then not spend a lifetime wondering if things would have been different if they had waited one more day, one more hour, one more minute?
It is in moments like these that I am driven to my knees. I am reminded that the God of my understanding willingly sacrificed his one and only Son to save mankind. (John 3:16) And I have to make that personal and remind myself that He did that to save me, because then it becomes very intimate and very meaningful.
I do not know what path Sophia’s soul and God worked out for her before she came into her human body. And so I pray. I pray that a miracle takes place for Sophia and her parents, and that a healing takes place – in whatever form that may be. Then, in humility, I have to add on, “Thy will be done.”
For those of you out there who pray, please add your prayers to mine. The power of prayer is formidable. The family has also requested special intercessory prayers to Blessed Kateri (the first American Indian woman to be Beatified in 1980). Was it not just in my last posting that I used American Indian writings for my Shared Wisdom topic? A sign, a small hope – perhaps.
There was a time in my life when, if I ever thought about it at all, gratitude was the stuff of saints and martyrs. Don’t get me wrong. I said my “thank you’s” as I was taught, but the underlying reason was usually selfish. I didn’t want to be considered bad mannered; if I said thank you for this (whatever gift/favor), then I might get more. You get the picture.
As I eventually, and very slowly, moved toward a semblance of maturity in my life (picture after age thirty five!!), gratitude began to take on a life of its own for me. Actually it became a way of life for me. I owe my very life and breathe in this present moment to a second chance at life, and for this I am most grateful. I don’t mean that I said “thank you” and moved on. That wouldn’t even begin to cut the cake.
I start my every day with a word of gratitude on my lips and in my heart. Somehow this puts me into a state of humility. Not the groveling-on-my-hands-and-knees, what-can-I-do-for-you kind of humility which is really not humility at all but a form of self-humiliation. No, I refer to the humility that helps me realize that I’m not the center of the universe, that people, places and things do not revolve around me nor are they at my beck and call. The kind of humility that helps me to say things like “I don’t know”, “I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer to that”, “Please can you help/show/teach me”.
I try to show my gratitude for all the blessings that I have in my life by giving back when and where I can. This doesn’t mean that I donate money left, right and center, though I can give some and I do when it’s possible. But I can volunteer in many ways: at my church, at the Food Pantry, in Detox Centers, with Community Hospice. And what about being a truly genuine, good friend? These are just a few possibilities for living in gratitude; there are many other ways.
Most of all I try to live in a state of love and compassion. The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. I have no idea what is happening in the life of each person I see on the street. (Nobody had a clue about the demons I was fighting, they just saw a some what insane, self centered person who bulldozed her way through life creating havoc.) This does not mean that people should not be held accountable for bad behavior, but it does mean that I need to show compassion and understanding rather than being critical and judgmental.
And you know something? I sleep the better for this. I rarely find myself living in resentment or anger. Gone are the days when I wallow in self-pity or live in the land of “what if…..”. And for all this I am truly grateful.