You and I have floated here on the stream that springs from the fount…Rabindranath Tagore
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever
Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours
And the songs of every poet past and forever
I got married this last year, right at the end, with the upsurge of COVID19. It was one of the most precious, yet stressful experiences of my life. One of those experiences that steadily strips more and more of the flesh from your dreams until only bare bones are left behind. And you learn, bravely, to be incredibly grateful for the bones.
That isn’t the story I’m here to tell you though.
You see, my husband always wanted me to write poetry for him. I came to the relationship with a trove of tattered compositions from my past. Poetry, it seems, has burst forth from me most often when my heart is splintering. I seldom compose when things are well. Not that I don’t want to. Of course I want to. But it just doesn’t always come. Nevertheless, I determined to write a poem for him for our wedding.
And I tried. I tried to bring the wealth of my heart into words and rhythm, but nothing really came. Then suddenly one morning, as I lay musing among my blankets, the familiar rush of inspiration flooded over me. It wasn’t a new theme entirely. Incredibly, it was the reincarnation of two old pieces that I’d written in anguish over love’s train wreck in the past. But this time the themes found new climax. This time the story wasn’t ending. Like a butterfly emerging from it’s chrysalis, a new thing was born. And it was beautiful.
I was an island
Out of time
Encased in matter
In the essence of my consciousness
Beyond mere flesh and bone
I was an island
And my shoreline towered sheer above the sea
Love built a harbor
And a bridge to me
Through pain that only I could see
Up to my island
You are of earth and blood dear friend
I am the sea and sky
Two worlds within a universe
One spirit and one light
How in this vast expanding dark
Did you and I collide
With stars and dust and fire burst
You beautiful surprise
You are the rugged pinnacle
To which come all my loves
My canyon deep with mystery
My treasure in the rough
So now let earth and sky be one
The universe aligns
Awaken every wish I held
Behind my dreaming eyes
For forces far beyond our mind
United long ago
To cause our paths to intersect
To cause our hearts to hope
So lay your earth and blood to rest
Between my arms of flesh
And hold onto this memory
The dawn of happiness
We go today without regret
Abandoning our scars
To sail along the Milky Way
And dance among the stars
My husband and I both come from trauma. It’s not an easy path we trek, and it never has been. We work really hard at doing life. We work really hard at being happy. Yet it turns out I’m not very good at being happy. In fact I’m so bad at being happy that I actually find myself feeling guilty if I finally grasp it and then see other people still suffering. It takes a lot of resolve to say, “they deserve happiness, and I deserve happiness too. It is not my job to bear the suffering of the whole world.”
It takes a lot of resolve to not give up on the idea that life can even be abundant for me.
Marriage can be beautiful, but marriage isn’t magic; and I knew that, but I think that a lot of people don’t. When you get married you don’t suddenly arrive. We are still waist deep in the process of abandoning our scars, and sometimes it feels like the wounds are just too deep to heal.
As we step out on the Milky Way, debris keeps coming at us. The world spins in chaos and into our faces the asteroids streak. It seems that life keeps us unanchored; endlessly tossing between nightmares and dreams.
Half of the time, to be honest, it feels like the whole universe is moving out of rhythm. Like I’ve been flung from the arms of my galaxy—lost in the icy black emptiness—alone.
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.”
It’s easy for people like me to only show up in public with the victory march and motivational speech. We feel like it’s our responsibility to be strong for everyone else.
Robin Williams famously said, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy…” That is often true.
In my own journey through trauma, anxiety, sleep disorder, depression and congenital heart defect—in searching (sometimes frantically) for answers and healing, I have learned something. It’s something I strive to believe, and to keep on believing:
We can learn to be happy.
Sometimes happiness blooms spontaneously like fragrant flowers from the grateful ground. Sometimes happiness is purely a choice. And sometimes we simply need someone to sit beside us in the darkness, to see the load we’re carrying and be kind enough not to add to it. But whatever the season we find ourselves in, we can learn to be happy.
We can learn to be happy by challenging our dysfunctional thinking patterns and habits. We can learn to be happy by nurturing gratitude—even for the smallest and most ordinary things. We can learn to be happy by choosing to hope and believe. And we can learn to be happy by simply waiting out the temporary darkness, knowing that there’s light on the other side.
Remember, that hope you can see isn’t hope. But if you hope for what you cannot see quite yet, you wait for it with endurance.
When we have the courage to step out on the Milky Way—when we just keep persevering through the rubble choosing to believe that we can pass through the asteroid belt—then we find the rhythm of the stars, and the view from up there is amazing!