“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”
~D.H.Lawrence; Lady Chatterly’s Lover

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testament

One of the most beautiful testaments to love I’ve ever read — Pip to Estella in Great Expectations:

“…You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since—on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation I associate you only with the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you!”

nOtes from a burned journal

no
thing
not
hing
noth
ing
nothi
ng
nothin
g
nothing
takes as much space as 

nothing

     n O thing

you say I don’t hear you
but that’s because I’m
listening so hard to all the 
things
you don’t say

***

like that maybe we both realize that you don’t need it as much as I do

you made me a promise once
and now you don’t keep it —
not because you can’t
but because it doesn’t occur to you

   ***

I will not take up only the amount of space
you have apportioned for me
I will not lower my voice, nor
my expectations
I will not trade “let’s do this” for “it can’t be done.”
I will
not.

   ***

I read back over seven years of a journal
and I sound like such a child.

I should just burn the whole thing. 
In fact, I think I will.

***

Sometimes I’d like to start
everything over

***

They were having some silly argument, he couldn’t even tell you what it was about, but then he asked, “but you tell me everything, don’t you?” and she laughed. And he said “don’t you?” And she said “no” And she laughed again. And then he said “half?” And she laughed again and shook her head, just slightly, and he said, “25%?” And she said “10. Maybe. Probably. Yeah, 10.” And he said “but why don’t you tell me everything?” and she said “you couldn’t handle it.” He remembered that part.

***

You make the past mean something different
by what you make of what comes after.

***

The clouds billowed toward me,
tumultuously, lugubrious, if such a thing is possible,
like the roil of boiling water
viewed in slow motion.

I pedalled determinedly,
the bag of blueberies
knocking against my knee
marking the seconds
between strobe flash and resultant
thunder.

When I returned
dry and winded
we leaned in the landing window
shoulder to shoulder hip to hip
and felt the house exhale
as drops of rain
rattled like stones on the driveway.

***

by Constance Merritt

Lying

awake at 4 a.m.
whatever the space beside you holds
you are yourself alone

and whatever there is of truth
turning in crevices light can’t touch
it must be that which wakes you
*
in a quiet room a woman works
arranging words, a world
where she might live

it changes little day to day
but the mind is changed
as light changes, as the leaves turn

and whatever holds that space inside her
it is so much harder, vaster, colder
than this near mortal, however breathing,
however loved.

It’s just a small coal, really

I had a student perform in a concerto competition yesterday; he took third place.

He sent me an email later in the day expressing that he was somewhat satisfied with his performance, but was having a really hard time with not having won.

Without getting into unnecessary and tangential details about preparation, and competitions; and not having sat in on every other performance, I wrote back something like this:

One should never enter a competition expecting to win. All you can do is go in and do your best, or at least whatever version of your best is available to you at that particular moment. Everything else is out of your hands, and therefore not worth thinking about. Ten people could play fabulously and the judge still has to pick one.

And I clicked send, and I went to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, and I realized

[bam, mind blown]

that this statement is actually about everything.

And I realized that I have actually always done my best, or at least whatever version of my best had been available to me at that particular moment. And sometimes it was enough, and sometimes it wasn’t, but that part of it Didn’t. Actually. Have. Anything. To. Do. With. Me.

And then I went to bed, and kept thinking that I wasn’t really sleeping, but realized in the morning that I must have been, because I dreamed that this discovery [when the world seemed to stop for a moment, like Dorianne Laux putting gas in her car in the rain] led to a transformation, and when I woke up in the morning I was actually a different person. I looked different — tall, blonde, thin (Freud would have a field day with this one) — had a different name. Same husband, same children (Freud, again), but I. Was. Different.

I woke up this morning, and am, as you probably expect, still me. Except I think I’ve finally forgiven myself for everything that wasn’t my fault.

I looked in the mirror a couple of times today. [Still] not tall, [still] not blonde, [still] not thin.

But definitely different.

***
*From Courage, by Ann Sexton

It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing….

***

*This discovery may or may not have had to do with the fact that yesterday I watched To The Bone. A fabulous, beautiful, powerful movie about people struggling with anorexia. The poem above was read in the movie.

A few of my favorites, from RedamancyLit*

Calmness is power. It doesn’t have to be stoic, but it is not reactive. You are in control of how you respond, no matter what.

You must do the thing you think you cannot do. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

You will be successful if you show up to your life and live with calm confidence. If you show up, you will suffer and change and have to be honest and you will experience so much beauty around you and in you. And if you show up with calm confidence, realizing that most things don’t need your opinion, that your reaction to anything is your most useful power, and that most things that hurt you have nothing to do with who you are, you will find your freedom

Secrets rarely help. Say your truth out loud. You owe the people who love you that much.

You are good, worthy of grace, and have nothing to prove.

And finally:

I believe
in forgiveness
in putting all my eggs in one basket
in travel
in blood and promises
and knowing when neither is enough
in scars
in stories
in letting go
and not letting go
in rearranging furniture
in ascribing the best intentions
in tomatoes
in being a good audience
and especially
in you.

*redamancylit.wordpress.com