I post a haiku on Facebook.
Sad has descended
Melancholy body parts
drag feet on pee walk
When I come back online, I find some very kind words in response to my haiku from friends, far and wide. I am touched and grateful. And thoughtful.
I haven’t been sending many postcards from the window ledge over the last eighteen months. This isn’t a conscious thing. It crept up on me and now I notice that I’m not writing much.
I think, now I’ve noticed it, that it’s a consequence of the physical pain in my back, hips and legs. The escalating pain from my herniated discs, that I could manage and medicate, and am now just surviving until I get to my turn in the NHS queue. Waiting to be surgically decompressed is grim.
The not writing has to do with how the direct experience of living with this kind of constant pain, mirrors the narrative of living with baseline depression. When I try to write, I find myself using the same kind of language and metaphor. Both things are fierce, unforgiving and relentless. And yet, I seem to be able to write from one and not so much the other.
Struggling to escape my depression, with emphasis on the struggle part, eventually brought me home to a place I call the Fields of Kindness.
I can’t seem to stop struggling with my ravaged body. I’m trying too hard to surrender and am attached to an idea of that, even as I try not to be. As Leonard Cohen says in one of his last songs: I’m angry and I’m tired all the time. I do so ache to soften and to lay my head down… And, maybe the real difference between depression in my bones and blood, and pain in my damaged bones, is that I am invested in fixing the latter.
That is a terrifying thing.
But, what I am tugging at here, is the crazy making, heart-breaking struggle between okay and not-okay-ness. It has taken almost all of my almost sixty years, to break out of that bloody prison.
Now I know, not with my mind, but with my breath, that I am both broken and whole, that I am already here, and that there is absolutely nowhere to go. There is poetry in this simplicity, but it is not an abstraction. Welcoming This, over and over, is not easy.
Somehow though, I know it. I don’t mean I KNOW IT like I’m clever, I mean, I am blessed to have found a field of deep simplicity. It isn’t easy but it is simple. I am here, like this, moment by moment, breath by breath, until I get to the very last exhale. I keep on practicing welcoming it all, and every time I think I might have got a little bit good at it, I find out just how much there is to welcome, and just how much it isn’t about being good at anything.
I started this postcard because I wanted to say something about the freedom I earned from ditching the ‘okay, or not’ idea. I’ve ditched a few things along the road. Giving things up takes my breath away, and then it gives it back.
My haiku practice is an attempt to stay connected to the poetry in my heart, even while I’m ground down by pain, pain meds, and am angry and tired all the time. I still need to write a little. A haiku is a little.
Sadness didn’t decend and steal me away from happy. I am always with my melancholy feet. Depression is in the beat of my heart, and for now anyway, pain that makes me want to chew my arm off, is too.
As some of you know, I just took my sorry self to Hydra, and I was there in this most precious place, with all of me in attendance. I was touched, open, closed, closed, open, tired, angry, on a horse, on a white bed, in the blessing of the sea, in a storm, in a conversation, on the road to Leonard’s white house… each day I was defeated and healed and defeated. And healed.
Speaking simply, this is the way my days roll. Physical pain notwithstanding, I’m learning to live with the one I’m with, rather than making her not okay. She is somewhat grim and heavy-hearted by nature, but it seems that grim and heavy hearted were just waiting to be welcome. Welcome begets generosity. We all breathe more. There is room where there wasn’t before. It seems I’m a bit of a comedian and a tender beast, as well the one that lives on her knees.
What do I know? That this is my little life, and I’m always going to be saying thank you. Living on my knees is part despair, part devotion and surrender, and always prayer.
I’m in my sun filled bedroom in London, half laid down in a bespoke cradle of pillows, laptop perched on my chest. I pause for breath more than thought, one hand on my keyboard, the other resting on a warm dog belly that rises and falls beneath it. I am here. This is one of those moments of grace when this is easy. I wrote these words from such a place, one day on Hydra.
At last, I have slipped into the breathing of sea
I found a shady spot to call my own
inside vast and salty lungs
At various points
during the course of this day
that was all
These moments come and go. It all comes and goes. I am touched by how fleeting everything is, as one who strived to get hold of things and keep them. I love knowing I can’t keep anything, except of course when I don’t. Then I try to draw on my practice and love the unlovable: the resistance, the pain, she shut off and cut off, and the ugly refrain. From here, the poems are less beautiful, if they come at all.
My holiday/retreat/pilgrimage to Hydra was food for mind, body, heart and soul. It fed me up. And, yet I struggled every day with my inner and outer world. As I do. I have suffered mightily from the hopeless pursuit of good days as a pose to bad days. Or a good life, not a bad one or a wrong one. This is an impossible dilemma, I reckon for anyone, but certainly for this one. The weight of depression is ever-present, so a lifetime of making that wrong made good days or a good life, elusive to say the least.
So, of course I love the days when I am at one with the sea, either when I’m in the sea, or in my bedroom. All the other moments though, they need to be loved too, and stayed with. And if the tyranny of right and wrong days/life has been ditched, I can just keep being here however I am. Broken and whole. Human.
Two fragments of Leonard’s writing float in through the window. He’s always singing in this room.
I greet you from the other side
Of sorrow and despair
With a love so vast and shattered
It will reach you everywhere
You got me singing
Even tho’ the news is bad
You got me singing
The only song I ever had