Change

The aged tea tastes the same
today as yesterday – with a squeeze
of honey. But the tulips
now, those are bit more wilted.

More open, yes, but drooping,
the fresh clear water of last
week grown murky. Slimy.

I am older, happier, sadder, fatter
than this time last year. And
the day broke cold and rainy
this morning. But
the tea tastes the same.

Solus

But when we are able to recognize the poles between which we move and develop a sensitivity for this inner field of tension, then we no longer have to feel lost and can begin to discern the direction in which we want to move.” – Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

i am alone
and yet

connected to the thread

i am mine
and yet

all creation bears my name

and yours is emblazoned upon my heart

I stand in the crowd of harried shoppers,
solitaries searching among racks
of half priced post-Christmas sales for
the satisfaction of
the deep craving of
a lonely heart,

and I consider restlessness – an ache
to attach to another through
a tether of goods to
consume the prey and
fill the empty void of need.

Dread of eternal isolation, the hum
mmmmmmming louder each moment.
Retreat retreat retreating from loneliness,
companionship quiets the ever impending

-for a time-

Being with myself, I
am converted to a new way:
alone in the crowd. My
restful inner necessity has nothing to say
in this moment.
Loneliness becomes solitude
The quiet inner center need not
say a thing
but rejoices
in the unity
of the crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

Sabbath Morning

Verse 1

The morning comes on strings of light
slowly pulling ‘cross the night.
The brightening for which you’ve longed,
the music of a new day dawned.

Too long you’ve wept for broken dreams.
Nothing now is as it seems.
Aching spirit thirsts for streams
of grace to quench, cleanse, and redeem.

Chorus

‘Cuz I’m a mess and so are you.
Come lay it down and be made new.
Nothing else you have to do.
Undending love was made for you.

Verse 2

Shake the dust of sleep away.
Stand barefoot at the windowpane.
Watch the sun and sky embrace.
Allow your heart to greet the day.

Thrust upon the altar dressed
to carry all your life’s distress,
each heavy burden you possess.
Now enter into Sabbath rest.

Chorus

‘Cuz I’m a mess and so are you.
Come lay it down and be made new.
Nothing else you have to do.
Undending love was made for you.

Verse 3

You’re not alone now, look around.
Tired eyes here too abound.
Drink them in as they do you.
Fill up on love like morning dew.

The music urges you to sway,
your aching body made to play.
Thrust out the pain deeply inlaid.
And shake the lonely lies away.

Chorus

‘Cuz I’m a mess and so are you.
Come lay it down and be made new.
Nothing else you have to do.
Undending love was made for you.

Bridge

Unending love
unending love
unending love
was made for you.

Unending love
unending love
unending love
was made for you.

Conclusion

Your heart is full now but you know
that emptying’s just how it goes.
Like breath that gives us love and life,
healing all our wounds and strife.

Unending love
unending love
unending love
was made for you.

Fury

I was tricked
like so many before me
and so many to come

A kiss on the nose
a rose to placate suspicion
the beginnings of doubt

I’m not a victim.
I’m not abused.
I’m just not ready to quit
giving up and giving in

save my life

The questions, accusations, stipulations
the thrum of shots taken
on my loyalty, my truth, my love

Am I where I say I am
am who I say I am
not so sure anymore

Try harder, be better, carry the lies
question the arrogance
just not enough, never enough

I’m not a victim.
I’m not abused.
I’m just not ready to quit
giving up and giving in

save my life

Changing, reeling, yelling, loving
manipulation, capitulation, frustration
lost in the sea, no one in sight

Lines of life severed with a rusty knife
beads of blood on my throat
okay okay okay okay you’re right

Sorry sorry, dry the tears
it’s just that love knows no fears
and this love is too much to throw away

I’m not a victim.
I’m not abused.
But I might be ready to quit
giving up and giving in

Until the bottle smashes overhead
and the screaming flashes a light
into the darkness
illuminating primordial awareness
only the adrenaline
rushes in
my life is in danger
my being is threatened
but I have legs to run

Seasons go by, years take their toll
Fearful eyes turn bold
shameful heart turns cold
running legs plant, take root, take aim
Fury rushes in

I’m not a victim
I survived.
I survived.
I survived.

Anxiety Ocean

I mostly swim in Anxiety Ocean. Often I have a life vest, a privilege I’ve earned after years of constructing such a tool for myself. Sometimes I float. Other times I freestyle. On rare occasions I even get to ride in a boat. But sometimes I find myself treading water, out of breath and exhausted, just trying to keep my head above the crashing waves.

Yesterday was one of those days. It started when I opened my eyes for the day. I could spend hours contemplating the triggers for this particular instance, analyzing every detail of the night and day before: Was I too tired? Did I have an overly emotional response to something? Did I forget to take care of myself in some way? Did I drink enough water? Am I internalizing some tragedy from work? Am I maintaining boundaries? On and on and on. But it doesn’t really matter what triggered it, if anything. I have to keep reminding myself to stop actively trying to blame myself for swimming in this ocean, as if I there was ever another option and I just didn’t take it.

There is no other option. This ocean is my life. And it’s not always fighting its way into my lungs, but it’s always there. In fact, when I finally started to admit it was always there, the less it tried to fight its way into my lungs. The more I could float.

But not always.

Yesterday I was fighting for breath. I was fighting to remember my coping skills. I was fighting to hold on to my self-worth. I was fighting the voices in my head telling me what a failure I was.

I was leading worship in the role I’ve played dozens of times before, but this time my heart was beating out of my chest and my stomach was roiling with snakes. My breath came in short gasps and my palms wouldn’t stop sweating. I was so cold, cold all over, cold all morning. The body’s response to trauma: send the blood-flow to the vital organs. Anxiety is traumatic.

I stood in front of hundreds of people, feeling naked and stupid. “No one likes you. You sound incompetent. What are you doing trying to be a pastor? You can’t do this. These people don’t believe in you. They don’t trust you. They think you’re a fake, a fraud. They think you’re vain. They don’t think you’re funny. You’ve only been here a year and have too many failures to count. What difference have you made? They won’t even remember you when you’re gone, except how thankful they are you left.” The anxiety attacks me because I can’t hear these voices and say, “Yeah right, thanks but no thanks, take your lies and leave.” I say instead, “Is it true? Are you right? Am I that blind? Have I been this way all along?”

Self-doubt and insecurity are the constant companions of social anxiety. They are the sea monsters pulling at my kicking legs as I fight for my life in the ocean. “You’re messing everything up. Things were better before you got here.”

And the worst part of it all is I know, logically, that of course none of it’s true, at least no more than is true for any other flawed and imperfect human. I’m not universally hated. I am a good pastor. I have skills and gifts and talents and God has called me to this work. I have family and friends that love me. I am fun. I’m a good friend and a good person. I know, intellectually, that these truths are evident and contradictory to the sea monsters’ lies. But the knowing doesn’t help. It’s like a person having a heart attack knowing they’re having a heart attack. Knowing it won’t stop it.

But it does provide an opportunity to address it. Take an aspirin. Call the doctor. So yesterday I had to implement my safety nets, something I haven’t had to do in a while. Call my husband. Breathe. Cry on the phone. Lock myself in my office for a few minutes. Breathe. Take the rest of the day off. Watch the West Wing. Snuggle my baby. Drink water. Breathe. Eat cereal in bed. Watch the Olympics. Go to bed early. Breathe.

And today, though the ocean is always with me, today I get to float calmly in my life vest. Today I get to appreciate the beauty of my life and all those who love me.

Today I am a survivor.

 

 

Pulse

Hot tears flowing freely through well worn trails of mascara.
I could no more command an end to this pouring
than I could bring back the dead.

Is this the worst?

Numbness sought flees to the wings
so I’m standing here naked in the spotlight again
but no one’s watching.

Is this the worst?

White hot ice surges through me
tearing at the flesh, ripping the heart.
rat a tat tat again and again and again and again and a

Is this the worst?

gain and again and again and a

Every burning shot buried in bone, lodged for life,
each accompanying me to death

Is this the worst?

Faces smiling from the computer screen
lovers and dancers and sons and daughters
dead dead dead dead dead times 10.

Weeping. Mourning. Grieving. Praying.
Acts doing nothing so much as highlighting my powerlessness
My complicitness
My failure.

I’M SORRY. To the mothers and the fathers and the lovers
and the friends, I’m sorry. To the empty rooms and lonely pets,
to the words left unsaid and the bucket lists unfilled, I’m sorry.

To the history books I’m sorry.

Is this the worst?

Don’t try to cover my nakedness with your holy oil
I’ve no place for hollow hope
Look at the pain, mine and yours
Do not avert your eyes.

LISTEN! Too long you’ve heard the pulse of your own righteousness
beating in your ears.
Today you hear a different beat
the thrum of blood pooling on the dance floor,
the depreciating hum of life ebbing into darkness.

Is this the worst?

Hear the cries of the mothers!
Hear the cries of the lovers!
Hear the cries of the prophets!
Hear the cries of the dead!

What have we done? Their blood cries out to us from the ground.

And I am ashamed.

You don’t have to smile

You do not have to please me,
or anyone for that matter,
Save yourself.

You do not have to strive
for a thousand hands clapping
or mouths shouting accolades,
as you stand bowed, heart bound,
the smile plastered on your face
while petals rain down upon you.

You do not have to stay in flight
soaring through the daylight air,
wings spread wide beyond comfort
just so we can point up at you
and feel the swell of pride in knowing you.

If you’d rather crawl
through the midnight mud and muck,
I will be there with you.
Wherever you are, I will stand by you.

You don’t have to smile.

You do not have to dance
as the storm clouds roll over you
if you’d rather join your thunderous roars
to the chorus of the lightning song.
You do not have to search desperately
for the possibility of beauty
in the midst of your suffering.
If all you see is darkness,
I will hold your hand.

You do not have to be good, polite, pure,
or humble
to ensure my fragile pride.
You do not have to be what I see
through my milk clouded eyes
when you see your reflection
clear as the mountain stream.

You do not have to bow down to the fear
of man’s gaze upon you, finding displeasure.
You do not have to please him.
Or me.

You don’t have to smile.