by Joyce Kilmer
I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
My eyes are very green today
And they reminded me of you
The way they billow in like smoke
And lie about the truth
I’ve written just as many poems
In your absence
As I did when we first met
They were exciting then
Of hikes in snow
And resting there, by waterfalls
And all that I have written now
Is about the way time has shifted silently
In the days since you’ve been gone
How the aching in my hollow chest
Is working its way out
Through the surface of my skin
My eyes are just as green
As the path that I refused to travel down
On our way that day
To our swimming hole
That I’ll never get to swim
When really, they should be gray
Like the days have felt
Without the color seeping in
And my eyes smiling shut
In the blinding brilliance
Of your love
The other night, I asked God to explain to me in a dream exactly why I’m destined to spend my life alone. I asked for the dream to be thorough and clear, and for the ability to remember all of the details.
This is what followed.
I woke up at 4:40 am remembering vividly the two different dreams I had just had. Though I remembered them so thoroughly, that I felt the need to write them down immediately, I also felt very intensely, like I needed that last hour of sleep. I went to the bathroom, and when I lied back down, I prayed, as I quickly found myself hovering in a space between both awake and aware, and also in an REM state. As I prayed in that state, I asked for the ability to remember the details when I woke, if I was still in need of sleep. And I did.
I woke just after 6, and needed to start getting ready to go run. I prepared and as I drove there, I made a voice note recording the dream. This is my first time writing it down. I knew it must also be written, in order to be both fleshed out and processed.
The first dream began as I entered the apartment of a couple I am friends with. The apartment was old and filthy on a level that was beyond cleaning, but they obviously took very good care of the place, to make it was as nice as it could be. They were cleaning up after dinner and preparing for winding down for the evening. When I walked into the apartment, for what must’ve been the first time, I noticed the old wall next to the door had, at some point, been dug into as though someone were trying desperately to either get out, or get to something inside the wall, or perhaps just out of sheer madness. I noticed three specific layers in the wall. Maybe paint, plaster, then brick. Even the brick had been carved at, but not penetrated. And I was amazed by the fact that, as old as the building was, and as hard as that mystery person had tried, the wall was still fiercely resilient and standing strong. It also struck me that, rather than building the door there, the builders had decided to build the door right next to this individual’s feverish digging. It kinda seemed sadly ironic, and also a like a slap in the face to that person’s hard work.
As I sat in the kitchen, talking to my friends, they had moved on to doing things in the other rooms. Their cat proceeded to walk into the kitchen, stop right in front of me and sit, watching that area of eerie wall. It sat completely still and just watched for the longest time, and I thought to myself, “its as if the cat is watching the person who is still digging, after centuries, never realizing that the years had passed.” At that point, I was pretty thoroughly convinced that the place was haunted.
I followed my friends into their living room and sat on a loveseat perpendicular to their couch, chatting with them. I mentioned the unusualness of the cat’s behavior, and my friends rolled their eyes, as though people had commented on it before. As I moved my hands while talking, and tucked my hair behind my ear, I kept feeling a third hand on me. The hand wasn’t aggressive, or chilling, but rather, offering my hands support. It was trying to help me, as though it were my own, third hand. Totally creeped out, I mentioned the feeling and stood up. I moved to their couch. My friend then stood up, all huffy and annoyed. She said, “I don’t appreciate what you’re implying about our home. I know all of the superstitious things you believe, but you can keep that to yourself.” She also expressed offense at my suggesting that they’d make their house sitter who was coming soon stay in haunted environment. Obviously offended by my comments, I apologized frankly, and shut up. That pretty much had killed the conversation, though. And as awkward silence took over, that scene closed, and another began.
Dream number 2:
In this one, I seemed to be in a commons area of a church. It was hard to tell if it was a small church or a mega church. Two of my pastors were there. My female pastor from my most recent church, and the only pastor of my church in North Carolina. My female pastor was explicitly ignoring me the whole time I was there, which was hurtful and very similar to one of our last interactions in real life. As my North Carolina pastor pulled me aside, my other pastor pulled aside someone else.
My NC pastor spoke with me, checking in to see how I was doing. As we talked, the conversation of a group of men from my North Carolina church was starting to drown us out. Now let me say, the men in this church were the kindest, most polite, gentlemanly, and respectful men I have ever come across. In my dream, however, they were shootin’ the shit like a regular group of guys. I was generally ignoring them, but when something totally inappropriate was said, my pastor reminded them that I was in their company, to which one replied “well, she’s a bitch.” He said it very articulately and spitefully, making eye contact with me as it came out. I was totally unaffected by the comment.
The guy who was leading the disrespectful conversation sticks out to me. It is someone from that church who was a serial dater. He was one of those people who goes from relationship, to relationship, and so on, ad infinitum. They never lasted terribly long, and he ended up dating almost every woman in the church at some point. He recently became engaged, and as far as I know, that relationship still stands. (He seems to have deleted most of the people from our church off of his Facebook friends list, including myself. Which is cool, because I don’t have to worry about his seeing this. I guess things get awkward when you have a history with every woman in a church. Haha—I’m not included in that list though. Just sayin.)
Anyway… While this was all going on, the guys were around a coffee table, playing a strategy game. The game was a series of stacked circles, 3 or 4 to each row. The board was actually reminiscent of the mat in Twister. I watched closely and diligently trying to understand how the game went, as they had invited me to play the next round. I was almost able to understand the game, when it ended.
In real life, playing new games is one of my biggest anxieties. Despite being a gifted writer, everything else has always been difficult for me to understand. I suck at reading comprehension, and the number of repetitions needed for me to understand a concept, far outnumbers most people. Even the most basic concepts are like a foreign language the first 38 times I hear or see things. So, games are always stressful for me, as I fear my inability to understand the rules will reveal how utterly stupid I’ve always believed myself to be. The only game I’ve ever excelled at has been scrabble.
So, just as I started to learn the game, it ended. And that board disappeared, and a new one appeared. These circles where in an oval, curving, kind of resembling the outline of a lake. Apparently, the board changed with each round. My stomach dropped, right when the guys decided they were done playing for the night anyway. At this point, a wave of relief washed over me.
Reflecting on this part of the dream, the pastor from my North Carolina church feels like a very Jesus-like figure to me, which seems accurate. He was listening carefully, engaged, and invested in what I had to say, though there wasn’t much. I think it is interesting to consider, knowing that, the fact that I paid him very little attention. I was too focused on the guys and figuring out how to play that damn game. Sooooo, that’s an interesting side note, that means so much more when I read it back to myself. Yikes.
It has been days since this dream, and I have had a lot of realizations since. I’m not sure whether to include them here, in a new post, or at all, as they might be revelations best left to my book.
I will say this, the next day I went to have a reiki session after a yoga class. In the session, two Netflix shows came to mind, which both feature a group of people intensely connected, whom are on very important missions in the world. One is Sense8, about a group of spiritually connected people who can pop into the lives and experiences of each other. The other is Travelers, in which a group of time travelers have gone back in time to, of course, save the world. Both of these groups are fighting powerful evil forces, and are deeply, fiercely connected. But what they both most importantly have in common are their soul missions on this earth.
Similarly, during the session, my practitioner got the image of two energies, one being my own, and one being another. At first, these energies were raised up on a platform together, but then they split off from each other, going in opposite directions. She said that she got the word “mission” as if these two souls were parting to go serve and important earthly mission, but she said she got the sense that they would reconnect down the road.
What she reported seemed very interesting, as I had not told her of the question I had asked to have answered in my dream the night before. Only that I had asked one, and it was answered. I gave no indication of what the question had related to. The vision she received seemed to pose the possibility that the question itself had been based on a falsehood. It seemed to be a confirmation that my belief in a lifetime alone was wrong. That being said, I cannot really say whether these souls will reconnect in this life, or realm, or another. Only time will tell. Unless, of course, I ask another question.
Honestly, whenever I have a question for God, I have simply asked for an answer, and He has consistently offered answers to what I have asked. I truly believe, He will tell you anything you want to know. All you have to do is ask.
Ugh. There has been so much lately that I’ve wanted to say, and it has all piled up. I’ve started blog post after blog post, never finishing or sharing. At this point, I feel like I’m going to explode.
And Also, I don’t even know where to begin.
I am going to start with a letter to someone whom I shall not identify. People who know me will know who it is.
After you left, I started my memoir. It is going well, and I appreciate your contribution. I was so thrilled to start it, that I did not get sad about your departure. But, in the days since, there is much that I have missed.
The way you appreciated my athleticism and my dedication to running. I’ve been told since that I’m either not a runner, because I’m slow, or that being slow makes you “bad at it.” No one has appreciated my hard work like you did. It made me feel good, and now I’m feeling like I’m not even a “real” runner.
I watched a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about the California redwoods that made me think of you. It made me cringe to hear about how 95% of them had been destroyed, and I couldn’t even watch old footage of them being cut down. I saw the prettiest tree yesterday while lying on the ground, and thought of you.
I miss our hikes. I’m not sure it’ll ever happen again. Here, at least.
Now, that you’re gone, the end seems so petty. What a waste.
There’s a lot I miss that I will not post, but it’ll be in the book.
I pray for you at night, though, when I’m going to sleep… That you go where you want, and get the job you want, and find happiness, and beat your demons. That doesn’t make me feel stupid. I will always pray for people I love. But missing you does. And caring.
The last time you told me you loved me, I didn’t say it back, and that’s the only thing I regret. If there were only one thing I could say to you, it’d be that.
I honestly, did not realize how much I’d miss you. I guess you can never truly mentally prepare for something when you have no idea what it’ll be like. And it is harder than I anticipated.
And in an “I’m not going to say I told you so” sorta way, I’m totally not going to admit that I totally hope you miss me too.
No one will ever get me like you did.
“I’m not sorry I met you. I’m not sorry its over. I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save.”
I am a part of a running group that chooses a cause or charity every month as their focus. Everyone in the group donates towards that cause. We get a ticket in a raffle for every mile, or 20 minutes worth of exercise we do each day. At the end of the month, the tickets are drawn for raffle prizes. It is called “good running” because we are using our running to work towards bettering our world.
Everything I do is an attempt at improving the world around me, and this is just one way.
I volunteer for Hospice. I share my triumphs and my struggles. I express my gratitude and apologize for my mistakes. My main goal in life is for the world to be a better place because I am/was in it.
Many people don’t realize this, but my self-care is an integral part of my effort to have a positive impact on the world around me. I believe is was Rumi who said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise so I am changing myself.” This has become my philosophy. In order to be of any use to anyone else, I must first address my needs. Also, I AM changing the world, by starting with myself. Believe it or not, I have seen that have a HUGE impact on those around me.
This week’s celebrity suicides have brought to the forefront of our minds the issues of mental health, suicide, stigma, and survival. It just so happens, that this month’s cause in my Good Running group is mental health. As someone in recovery from addiction and an eating disorder, and as someone who struggles with the affects of a mood disorder, and the lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, these issues are always in the forefront of my mind. This is my every day battle. This is why I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour, and get plenty of rest. This is why I wake up each morning and make my bed. Why I organize and take my meds religiously. Why I try my darnedest to eat a balanced diet and practice moderate, regular exercise. Why I go to AA meetings, a psychiatrist, a therapist, a dietitian, and work diligently as both a sponsor and a sponsee. This is my life. This is my every day. Even when the suicidal thoughts aren’t present, I am working tirelessly to make sure they don’t have the environment they need to appear or grow or fester in my mind. My mind is like a garden that I tend to each day. And my body and spirit are just as important, in keeping my mind a healthy place. They are all intricately connected. It is hard, constant work, but it is so amazingly worth it.
Words cannot convey how worth it, it is. But let me tell you this… if you’ve ever seen the change of the light in someone’s eyes, when they finally grasp and really begin to pursue recovery, you’ll know. Something changes. It is just as palpable as a corpse once the spirit has departed. Only this is the opposite of that. It is like, for the first time, someone is finally ALIVE!
I have so much love in my life! I cannot REALLY look around at the people who surround me and not start to get choked up. Runners, artists, teachers, caretakers, addicts in recovery, patients who devoted their lives to becoming the counselors, survivors of sexual violence, those who’ve conquered their eating disorders, those who’ve taken back their power, and declared victory over their lives. I’m surrounded by them. Supporters. And when I struggle, a single post on Facebook sends them the battle cry. And they step up. They always step up. They are always there. To run with me. To go to a meeting with me. To combat ed’s voice with me. To remind me to keep going when I just want to sleep. To ask me if I’ve taken my meds, or written recently, or called my sponsor, or had a hug. I’m blessed.
And the exciting thing is… THEY. ARE. EVERYWHERE. And they will help you too. Because that’s what they do. They’re helpers. And when they’re the ones in need, and you’re the one who is able, you return the favor. You can’t keep what you’ve got unless you give it away. That’s how this works.
This is community.
There is a wealth of hope and resources and people ready and willing to tell you how much you matter, and how worth the fight you are. And you are. There are so many just waiting to offer a hand, to lift you up and walk with you into hope. So, don’t give up. Let’s figure out a way to surround you with these kinds of people too. Because life can actually be so fucking incredible. I promise.
Stop. I am still here.
Something’s gotta give.