adversity · creativity · disability · health · poetry · recovery · women's issues

Dear Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I have examined your wallpaper,
discussed the scholarly attributes
of shades of yellow, traced the edges
of your unravelling with my mind,
argued the merits of Gothic horror;

marvelled at the brilliance of wording,
the courage to define the nature of
feminine madness, the boldness to
highlight inequalities long before the
establishment of a Person’s Act.

Forgive me, but I need to set aside
this keyboard for a moment, for I tire
easily, am suffering from an exhaustion
that is systemic and calls for elimination
of all stimulus in favour of rest, you see

I share your sentence of confinement,
isolated to a room with windows, my
mind wandering to ancestral gardens,
contemplating shadows and movement
cognizant of underlying forces, creeping.

My husband has just left, dear man, having
checked on me, taking on my burden,
concerned that I am not sleeping at night
thinks that by reading and rereading your
words I am only fueling an already over-

active imagination; begging me to be still
as the doctor has recommended; but I am
burning to tell you that time has no
relevance between us and that you and I
exist simultaneously – a secret we dare

not confess – how correct your impulse
that there was more than one woman,
that we are many, barred by the designs
of society, papered over by irrational,
outdated shades of yellow, lacking

symmetry, or sensibility, suffocating
our creativity, tortuously contorting
ourselves to been seen, accepted.
It is the smell of our discordant souls
that pervades your consciousness

the rotted withering of  a stifled
existence – a yellowed existence –
once hopeful, sunny, now molding
mucous, desperately torn away
at the edges, pleading for escape

How grateful I am that you see –
may I call you Charlotte – that you
have smelled the angst, witnessed
the struggle, are willing to tear at
the sticking places, to set us free.

200px-Yellowwp_med

( The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman [not sure why 1899 edition depicted here bears a different surname] in its entirety can be found here:

https://www.nlm.nih.gov/literatureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf )

 

disability · dreams · health · Humour · life · nonfiction · Rants · recovery

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

I’d go back to school, continue post graduate work, rally the troops to get me there, scrounge
the fees, find someone to carry the books (I no longer have the strength) – undoubtedly miss a few sessions, get behind, feel frustration building, consult with the energetic youthful instructor, become brain locked when I cannot interpret the email address she writes down for me, confront the fact that transcribing the required reading assignment in nearly impossible (which means the work will likely never get completed in the allotted time period), and drop out.

I’d look after your young children, give you a break, but my hand is not steady and if I drop a cup it will break and what if it shatters where the children are playing – barefooted because I couldn’t rally the wherewithal to get them dressed without that much needed tea – and now the shards are a real threat, and the children are laughing and bouncing around, not heeding my warnings, thinking it’s all a joke, and I have lost control, needing to clean it up and manage the children, which I cannot do because multi-tasking is no longer within my realm of possibilities.

I’d visit my sister, the schizophrenic, who lives in a group home, and try to be supportive, but my mind is still reeling over the children, and other accumulating failures, and I know I’ve let everyone down, and quite frankly, her current state of neurosis seems so much less troublesome than mine, and I have nothing to say that would aide her other than I know what it feels like to be fucked up and exist outside the ‘norm’, and right now I just want to crawl back into my cell of isolation and breathe again – so have a good life.

I’d get a scooter, try to go for a ride on my own – be independent – but I’d likely choose the back roads to avoid the traffic and, not having accounted for inclement weather, would find the pace too fast and be forced into some small town where (with my luck) they’d be having their Christmas parade and I would be caught between crowds lining the street and marching bands and in a moment of panic would duck into the nearest opening – a family restaurant from which people are constantly coming and going  and where I’d realize that I just need to get home – and try to exit  just as someone (equally as pressed) is trying to enter, and having lost all vestiges of my normally polite self, I would refuse to back up, choosing instead to rage at the poor unsuspecting woman, who only needed a quick place to pee.

So, when you next ask me what I do with myself all day – and aren’t I bored – be assured that I am not lacking in suitable stimulation, do not need to take on added responsibility to give myself a sense of purpose, am incapable of volunteering with any degree of compassion, and have accepted my current state of dependency as the most appropriate given coping capabilities. I am, at present, unable to navigate life with any degree of normalcy, am content to struggle with my own limitations, putter at a speed below tortoise, bear the silence of solitude, and stay home.  I am not broken, in need of rescue, or lost.  I simply am.

life · poetry · recovery · spirituality

False Prophet

I used to ride the New Age train
finding answers in the stars
unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
a warrior for peace.

I was a see-er, an analyser
purporting to spew wisdom
a vehicle for a higher power
a spiritual guide.

It was like riding the bull
in a rodeo show –
fast and entertaining
but not sustaining.

And when I fell –
as surely we all do –
only the dust in my mouth
attested to my momentary ride.

The crowds have moved on
nothing to see here anymore
just post theatrical let down –
the show is over.

I was the mirror in the funhouse
distorting images of reality
believing I offered insight
unaware of the duplicity.

Magical thinking is
the merry-go-round of life
spinning fantasies
of wonder and revelation.

In the end, it is uncertainty,
not creed or indoctrination,
that rules destinies –
change is the only given.

recovery

A Child’s Grief

I didn’t cry when you died in that fire,
you and your sisters and brother.
I didn’t cry when we saw the images on the news –
the charred remains of your house,
four stretchers with black tarps being carried from the scene.
I didn’t cry when we all crowded around the coffin –
one built for four – your bodies reduced to nothing –
family members wailing in disbelief.
I didn’t cry, because I couldn’t.

Your bright eyes haunted me –
that impish smile of yours
cutting through my soul
taunting me, as you always did –
your quick tongue and high energy
dancing around me, making my head spin –
raising my ire until I could take no more.I wish you were dead, Billy!
I’d said it out loud.
Said it in front of everyone.
Said it with spite and meant it.
Said it, only days before the fire.

I know they know.
I can tell by the way they all hold each other,
and cry into their handkerchiefs
and don’t look at me.
I can tell they know it is my fault.
I know it is my fault.
I didn’t really mean it, Billy.
I didn’t really mean it, God.
We were just playing around.
Billy and me, it’s how we are.
We were just fooling.
Billy’d always make me mad,
then we’d make up – everytime
I swear.
Please God, make it not so.
I won’t fight with him anymore, I promise.
I only fight with him ’cause I like him.
You know how it is with boys and girls.
Billy’s my cousin.  I love him.
Please send him back God.
I’ll be good and learn to tame my temper –
Mommy always tells me to watch my temper –
I’ll be good, you’ll see.
I didn’t mean for you to kill all of them –
well…I didn’t really mean for any of them –
it’s just something you say –
when you’re ten and don’t know any better.

health · Humour · poetry · women's issues

The Queen is Missing

She’s not in the kitchen –
presiding over the preparations,
thriving amidst the chatter,
tutting away thieving hands.

She’s not in the classroom –
mastering subjects,
upholding order,
ruling with a charitable hand.

Nor is she at social affairs –
smiling regally,
head bent in rapt attention,
compassion oozing forth.

The Queen is missing –
the poise and grace
that marked her carriage
has vanished without a trace.

Don’t ask the old woman –
tottering down the lane
stooped and stumbling –
she’s not all there.

Her mind’s a trickster,
her ego a petulant child
unwilling to concede wrong –
she’s merely the court jester.

 

adversity · dreams · health · poetry · recovery

Oh, To Dream

I dream of waking before the dawn,
preparing for my day with proficiency,
professionally preened and on the go.

In reality, I see the early light of day
through an insomnia-induced haze,
or miss it altogether, unable to rise.

I will carelessly tie my hair back,
and moan at my image, forgoing cosmetics –
no one will see me, after all.

If I dress, it will be for comfort,
elasticized waistline compensating for swelling,
soft fabrics to soothe the burning aches.

In my dream it is the first day of school,
and I am excited and anxious,
caught up in the camaraderie of the moment.

I awake to the resounding silence of solitude,
no schedules await me, no colleagues
exchanging pleasantries, communal conspiracy absent.

I will pace myself, shuffling
between bed and simple tasks,
a cup of tea, maybe some writing.

I drive in my dream, a shiny red car
in which I glide through the streets
and park with the pride of knowing it awaits.

Its been years since I’ve felt the freedom
and independence of self-chauffeuring,
reliant on the more able-bodied, sharply cognizant.

It’s a rare occasion that rouses me from
this compelled complacency, enough
to venture into the hyper-stimulating world.

Disability has closed around me,
limiting experience, restricting imagination,
until I dream – and am whole again.

adversity · Family · health · poetry · recovery · relationships · spirituality

My Spirit Stands Strong

Progress – seldom linear –
tosses me into unexpected decline –
stranded and incapacitated.

My son – with labour-hardened strength
leaps to my side, steadying me
and I feel the fear in his caring grip.

My daughter, ever compassionate,
reaches out for me with horror-filled eyes
as my body crumples onto the bed.

My husband, my oak, seeks to comfort
his voice betraying the helplessness
this futile predicament imposes.

Beloveds, I know that you see me
this dis-abled, non-functioning shell
weakened and sickly, lying on this bed.

Do not be deceived – that is not me –
it is only an illusion –
a vessel – temporarily fettered.

I am, in essence, beside you –
ambitions and desires intact.
Feel me there, tall and proud.

Sense the wholeness of my being
remember me for the woman I am yet to be –
My spirit stands strong.

health

A Mountain of Grief

I exist in the spaces –
crushed and flattened –
between the rocks that form
this mountain of grief.

Each sorrowful fragment
petrified,  polished –
a collection of coldness
hardened and maintained.
I’ve never known how to grieve.

How do I shed the weightiness –
crawl out from the crevices –
breathe new life into myself?

Should I try to scale the mound?
Conquer my emotions?
Raise a flag to victory
and ultimate denial?

Or, one by one,
should I examine
and relive the losses
counting them till my head spins
and my heart beats no more?

Lacking the strength to do either
I sit and feel the hollow agony –
the overwhelming numbness
that precedes movement.

I live in the cracks
of this precariously constructed
shroud of stones –
a self-imposed prison –
and pray for resurrection.

dreams

A Room of My Own

” I have a recurring image in my dreams of a house with two floors that I have either forgotten about or abandoned. Both have separate staircases, and while others are aware of the one set of stairs, the other is only known by me,” I tell my therapist. “I get the irony of having two stories hovering over me,” I add. “But haven’t really worked with it. The one floor has many bedrooms and bathrooms and feels overwhelming.”

“What’s on the other floor?”

“A single room, like an attic, that sits at the front of the house. A room with a view,” I joke.

“What’s in the room?”

“A lot of cobwebs, as if I haven’t been there for a long time, and only two pieces of furniture. I think that it represents my spiritual connection – a kind of sacred sanctuary that I have neglected.”

“I think that should be your homework,” she advises me. “Decide what you want to do with that room – create a visual of a room that brings you peace or whatever else you need to maintain equilibrium. I think its’ especially important at this time.”

It’s not that I disagree with her, but I find this exercise difficult. Born fifth of six children, I have seldom experienced a room of my own. Even after I left home, I had roommates, or husbands, then children, and the focus has been on compromise or pleasing others. What would a room of my own look like?

I picture myself back in the dream, in the room with many cobwebs, and in my mind’s eye that’s where I begin: cleaning away the cobwebs. I would paint the walls lavender, I decide: a soft, comforting colour, reminding me to be tender with myself. And I’d have three windows – one facing forward and two on the sides to create a cross breeze, so the wind would always blow and the thoughts that normally crowd my mind could follow the wind. And I’d have crisp, white lace curtains, to add a touch of delicacy to the room. There would be no window looking back.

One of the pieces of furniture is an old cedar chest that once belonged to my mother – her original hope chest. Battered on the outside from years of use and being moved frequently, the chest’s cedar interior remains pristine – aromatic and well-constructed. It reminds me of a time when I believed in magic and mystery – childhood fantasies of what the chest contained; although my mother always reassured it held nothing fancy, I liked to imagine otherwise.

The other item in the room is a Bentwood rocking chair. “Rocking is a comforting motion,” my therapist reminded me, “something mothers do with their babies.” “I still like to rock,” I agree. Why a Bentwood, I wonder?

Like my mother’s hope chest, my Bentwood rocker was the first thing I brought into a marital home. It symbolized my wishes for a cozy home life, and the children that would follow – a woman’s hopes and dreams. Why are they in this room? Is the dream telling me that it is important to hang on to one’s dreams – or at least one’s values? So much has happened throughout the years that I wonder if that’s possible. How many times does a woman get knocked down before she stops believing that family, harmony, and peace can exist?

I’ll trust my dream source and keep these two pieces of furniture. What else does this room need? Music, I instantly think, I need a source of music, and not just my cellphone playlist – I will not have a cellphone here – that’s for certain. No wi-fi either. I’ll need a word processor, and if I need to look something up, well I can go return to the life of electronics by leaving my room.

If I’m going to write here, I’ll need a desk, or one of those lounging sofas so that I can sit comfortably while I compose. Shelves for books, too, so I can surround myself with inspiration.

An easel. I’d like an easel. Not that I’ve painted in a very long time, but maybe I could dabble – it’s something I always wanted to learn to do. Sketch books, of course, and art supplies. I wouldn’t restrain myself. This is my room, after all.
I would need art on the walls – water colours of beautiful landscapes, or seascapes – or maybe works of my own creation – making sure the view out my
window is always a beautiful one.

A view. Whose heart doesn’t yearn for a view? I’d have a big old willow tree, constantly reminding me of long ago summers, whiling away lazy days in on the uppermost branches. And water too – although my cravings fluctuate from the laughing chorus of a trickling stream, to the lulling waves of the ocean – water is a must. No roads, or buildings. Just green as far as the eye can see, or fields of wildflowers – nature at its best.

I’m enjoying this exercise. Even as I write this, I can feel the tension in my mind easing, and the possibilities singing inside me. A place of peace, of sanity, and restoration. A safe place where I can explore my creativity or just sit and soak in the beauty and tranquility. A place where time stands still and there are no disruptions. A kind of heaven.

Next step: Who would invite in this room with me? Hmm, more contemplation needed.

What would your room look like?