Lent 28

Because I love poetry, or because I am a masochist or simply because I am absurd, I am seriously contemplating taking up a second and overlapping, 30 day writing challenge for April, which is poetry month! 30 days. 30 different poetic forms. Not sure yet if I want to just do this in a private writer’s group where less people will notice if I miss a day, or take it here to the blog as well.

This could be very good for me. I have a problem with the substance of my poetry that I want to tackle. Too much of my poetry exemplifies a broader problem in my life. It is a problem that affects my mental and emotional health as well as my relationship to others. I have a much easier time expressing disappointment, disillusionment, depression, sadness and anger than I do expressing comfort, contentedness, contentment, happiness and joy.

Throughout my life I have rarely written about those I love in poetic form. The most noted exception has long been, if they have hurt me or I have hurt them in some way, then they show up in a poem. The other exception has been if I am expressing love in the form of anxiety. These poems have mostly been romantic in nature. From adolescence through my former life as a husband, the substance of my romantic poetry has largely been, ‘I love you, please don’t leave me.’ Or, ‘I love you! Thank you for saving me.’ In high school I wrote a poem for a girl who had just broken up with me about how I was just watching the clock waiting to die. The first poem I wrote for my ex-wife was – in retrospect – as ugly as it was beautiful. The setting was a surreal nightmare in which my whole life I had been prisoner of “black on bone grey devil” and a “dragon.” In the poem, she “woke me from my slumber” and “cut the head off the dragon.”

That is a lot for one person to bear. Too much! I am sorry in so many ways and to so many people that it took me so long to realize that I am responsible for my happiness: my mental, emotional, and physical salvation.

If I take up this additional writing challenge, I want at least 1/3 of the poems to be about love: love for someone or something or love for life. The one I wrote today wasn’t. Alas, I’ll write another day.

Maybe I am truly a glutton for punishment. This Lenten writing series has already ripped me open, raw, and found me writing at my most vulnerable and exposed. Now I am contemplating a 30 day challenge with two rules and adding an additional rule of my own. It sounds like I’ve talked myself into it!

I have been trying to write a poem about my sister since I was about 15. I have started it at least 100 times. I have a book she gave me for Christmas when I was about 13, Charles M. Sheldon’s In His Steps (the book that coined the phrase “What would Jesus do?). Tucked away in the middle of the book is a letter that my sister wrote to anyone who would read it: “Hi my name is Brenda. Not every day is good for me. Sometimes my parents fight. Sometimes my dad leaves.” I snatched it up. I have longed to answer her letter in a poetic form, find some way to say, ‘Here is the happy life I would give you. I love you. Don’t give up.’

I am changed. And I am changing. It is wonderful and wonderfully frightening. A few months ago I wrote a love poem for Amanda called “Hearts in Calloused Hands.” It wasn’t about hurting me. It wasn’t a plea for her to save me. It was all about how love, real love requires of us to hold our own fragile, broken hearts in our own calloused hands and be able to say “I love you!” Before we can really reach into another’s chest-cage and hold their heart high, giving thanks, giving praise for the joy they bring, we must first do the same with our own fragile hearts.

In the days to come, you can expect two post each day until Lent is over. To be sure, some of them will be dealing with my depression and my fight for mental and emotional health. But hopefully some of them will be silly, funny, irreverent, short (*gasp!*) and some of them will be about love! Challenge accepted!

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