Sorry.

I say “sorry” too much. I apologize for things that are my fault, are not my fault, and those things that haven’t even happened yet, but may, eventually, be my fault. Some of it is just par for the course in the life of an empath who anticipates others’ emotions like it’s my job. But the rest of it, I’ve come to realize is really just a way for me to disappear. To not take up any space of my own for fear of taking any of yours. So, I apologize to the cashier in the grocery line because I can’t stuff the receipt in my wallet fast enough to get out of the next customer’s way. Or I feel guilty for taking too long to parallel park because I’ve inconvenienced the car behind me.

Not all apologizing is bad, mind you. I’m not talking about the “actually did something wrong and need to own up and make amends” type of apologizing. But, rather, the “let me anticipate what I’ll do wrong and apologize before you can get mad at me” apologies. I’m pretty tired of those. I’m sick of them. They’re not apologies. They aren’t admissions of guilt. They are admissions of shame.

So here is a poem about my perpetual apologies. About breathing in shame like oxygen and breathing out apologies like carbon dioxide.

And, maybe this is a step in breaking the cycle.

Here I am. I am taking up space. Albeit virtual and cloud-like, but space, nonetheless.


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But Also

Writing this week has felt like wading through water with weights on my ankles. Each step slow coming. Then a stop and a stumble backwards or two. A tedious pattern of type, then delete. Type, then delete.

So rather pretend I had this all planned out, I’ll be honest and say I didn’t and I don’t. Today, I realized I’ve been feeling stuck. Stuck at the intersection of personhood and parenthood.  And overwhelmed with what it means to be both, fully. Which, ultimately, led me to this poem I wrote a while ago. One of the first ones I ever sat down to write when I was only a few months into motherhood. It feels honest this week.

The past two years or so I’ve felt dogged by this truth. I find it everywhere, in everything. I didn’t always even realize it was happening, but in hindsight, I can pull the thread out of everything I have written since. Must have been my soul working something out before my brain acknowledged it.

For me, that’s been “but also”. You…me…we can be two things at once–can feel two things at once and both have equal validity. There is a reason we have this capacity to be a mosaic of emotions–some that contradict, some that complement. But, we don’t often allow ourselves the space to be “this” but also “that”. We occupy one circle of the Venn Diagram when, in actuality, we belong right in the middle, where the circles overlap.

So, here’s “But Also”. It’s about living in the tension of our contradictions and learning to be okay there.


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Second Language

When I first started writing poetry, I felt like every line I wrote should be emotional and moving. Like I needed to spill my guts, every single time. Like last week’s poem, it felt like it needed to be revelatory for me every time. And if I didn’t and it wasn’t, then it wasn’t good or worth sharing. But I don’t think that’s true anymore. The simple ones, that aren’t profound or intense…those can be good and necessary too.

Have you ever heard people talk about becoming fluent in a foreign language? I’ve heard it said that you know you are fluent when you can dream and think in that second language. When the words seep into your brain and coexist seamlessly with your primary language. You dream in French or you write your grocery list in Spanish.

I think the small poems, about normal every day things…those are evidence I’m becoming fluent in another language. I’m thinking and dreaming in poetry. Finding them in the mundane and unimportant, as well as the extraordinary. And, it’s giving me a new language with which to process my days.

I’ve always found it strange how the urge to write always seems to hit me under similar circumstances. I’m usually driving somewhere. So for lack of pen and paper and eyes trained to the road, the poems, more often than not, live and die in my head. Maybe that’s the life for which they were meant.

But, here’s one that survived outside the car door. It’s simply about my favorite time of day. Because anyone who knows me will tell you–I am neither a morning person nor a night owl. My sweet spot is mid-afternoon to twilight.

Hope this finds you well, friend.

That time of day

when the sun

retreats

into the dirt and

the dark begins to curl

its long fingers

around the light–

that is the time I am most awake.

The sky, lit in violet,

has ceased

creating shadows for the day.

And, I, for one, do not

resent the sun

for leaving.

Instead,

I think that, maybe,

this is the moment

the dark comes home.

The Stars Over Raleigh

I have debated posting this–worried that it was too much, too quickly. Or just too much, ever. Too vulnerable. Too raw. Too emotional for me to open it up to the court of public consumption and opinion. But, if creating authentic space remains the goal here, then this is something I need to do. And a snow day offers just enough quieting of the soul to allow it to happen.

A little over a month ago, my son, Ezra, turned two years old. If you know me, you have probably heard Ezra’s birth story. If you don’t, here is the short version: Ezra was born on December 7th, 2015 at 9:08pm, after thirteen hours of labor. He was born via an unplanned, emergent C-section. After pushing for three and a half hours, the doctor informed us that continuing to push was no longer an option, as his heart rate was dropping intensely whenever I pushed. He would not fit through my pelvic bone and every push was putting him in an unsafe situation. So they prepped me for surgery and off we rolled. Ezra was born healthy and I healed up fine, physically. That is truly a long story, short.

Up until a few months ago, I would have been able to relay this story to anyone in a fairly unemotional fashion. I’d probably crack a few jokes about how I thought my naturally wide hips wouldn’t have failed me like they did and moved on.

The long story, long, though is how I have finally been able to acknowledge how traumatic Ezra’s birth was, for the both of us. I have realized I have something to grieve. I avoided this fact because, if I gave birth to a healthy baby, there seems no reason I should need to grieve, right? And compared to what could have happened? I should be celebrating my healthy baby boy. And believe me, I did and I do.

What I’ve been asking myself, though, is this: Is there space to both celebrate a moment and grieve it, at the same time? I think there is and I think many women have similar contradictory emotions about their birth stories. It’s disorienting to feel two things at once and not be able to reconcile them. And so, we often ignore the more uncomfortable emotion in favor of the safer, easier one.

I decided to give myself a gift for Ezra’s birthday this year. I got a tattoo I’ve been dreaming about since Ezra was born. It is the picture you see above–a chart of the stars and their places in the sky at the exact time he landed earth-side.

Why this tattoo? Or why a tattoo at all? For me, this is the moment time split in two–before and after, Before Ezra and After Ezra. This marks the juxtaposition of how this moment shook my world, while also acknowledging the rest of the universe probably didn’t register the movement. It was a day that saw the best and worst of me. I got a tattoo to honor that and I wrote this poem about it. And if you have a story to share, please share it in the comments. There is so much space in the world for all of our birth stories and how they changed us. I’d love to hear yours.

Note: I will place a trigger warning on this post. It references birth and c-sections in some detail and if you have unresolved feelings around those experiences, please take care of yourself and read with caution.


The Stars Over Raleigh (on December 7, 2015 at 9:08pm)

I’d like to ask the stars

where they were,

in the night sky,

on December 7, 2015

at 9:08 pm.

If they watched from that great distance,

as the scalpel cut

the stretched skin.

 

Did they see how

I was taken apart,

piece by piece,

to make room for the hands

that pulled

because I could no longer

push?

 

If they held their celestial breath,

as I held mine–

waiting for him

to disrupt the universe

with his first cry.

And, if they exhaled in unison,

as they heard his cry pierce the night.

 

Did they notice the second birth

happening that night?

Did they bear witness to the one

in my soul—

product of a longer labor?

 

If they felt the

vibrations

as my soul screamed

its new breath

into the pillow of

my swollen, torn body.

 

If they counted the stitches on my stomach,

as they counted the hairs on his head.

 

I’d like to ask the stars

over Raleigh

that night—

did they know

before I did,

what it meant to be

broken

and whole

all at once?

A Conversation With My Two-Year Old

“Mommy, look!”

his eyes sure and bright,

“What is it?”

“Look! Up high!”

a finger extending, shaking with anticipation.

 

“What do you see?”

“Up high! A plane!”

a heavy sigh escaping his lips,

his gospel proclaimed.

 

And here we are,

chins up,

necks stretched,

eyes towards the heavens.

 

One looking for planes.

One looking for God.

Both with a timid assurance,

that for which we are looking,

exists in the space

above our heads.

A Pseudo-Resolution

I admit I am wary of beginning. There is an inevitability of risk with beginning. Especially, when I have no idea what the middle looks like, not to even mention–the end. This feels like the hardest part of it all. What’s the first thing I want to say? Even though I’ve been writing for myself for a long time, opening a space to share these words with more than just a few people I trust…it feels terrifying. But also, this feeling–it resembles the cautious hope of New Year’s Day. A hope that tends to cut through cynicism.

This space is and is not a new year’s resolution. It’s been in existence for a few months–sitting empty for many reasons, most prominent of which is fear. But the timing to truly begin on this day feels simultaneously overly sentimental and oddly poetic. I’ve found when I am judging myself to be “too cheesy”, I am often being my most sincere self. So, if I had to name a resolution for 2018,  it would be to create space where I can be that sincere self. I intend this to be one of those spaces. 

Let’s be honest, the risk of beginning anything on New Year’s Day is that it feels like a ticking time bomb of failure. New year’s resolutions normally die by February–if they even make it that far. So, does this post feel like a curse of sorts? Doomed to fade, despite the best of intentions? Maybe. But, to be honest, I don’t really need a new year’s curse to curb my writing–I am more than capable of being my own worst enemy.

I’ve become accustomed to the initial passion of a project–that feeling I have something special to say and the initial excitement to lend my voice to the fray. And then, to watch it die a slow death as time and energy become elusive, and in creeps my old friend, self-doubt. The voice that says, “What you have to say isn’t important or different or well-written…” And every time, I listen. I stop writing.

But here I am again. On a new day in a new year. Almost like I can’t escape the impulse to write. To say something.

As Mary Oliver puts it,

“And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?'”

What follows this post are my comments.

If this project withers and dies like most resolutions do, at least it was once filled with the hope of starting. At least, I said something for a time.

If my voice returns to hibernation again, I’ll take solace in the fact that it always seems to come out of the cave. Over and over again.

Happy New Year, friends.