“I need coffee like a junkie needs dope!”
She laughs and injects liquid gold
straight to her vein where it colors
from blue-green to murky brown.
“It wakes me up and makes me feel good.
Look,” she says, “look at my smile.”
And takes a knife to the corners,
widening her grin in jagged edges.
“This doesn’t happen on its own.”
She says, “This can’t just happen you know,
something has to make a smile.
It can’t just happen.”
Sweat is beading on her upper lip,
her forehead slick and moist,
hands are clammy, trembling.
She says, “LOOK at me.”
She says, “Look at ME!”
She was just learning how to sit with this soft sadness. It crept up like a warm blanket, hand-crafted crochet, and promised the comfort of familiarity, the absence of change. She was just learning how to set her face in such a way that her eyes would reflect whoever was looking at her. They would see themselves and be distracted from whatever question they intended to ask. They would look deep and then never manage more than a quick glance as they were reminded of secrets they wanted buried and regrets yet to be faced. They would claim how nice it was to see her and then rush home, not to be heard from again. She was just learning how to entertain her thoughts so she felt more distracted and less like drowning. She asked herself questions she’d never be able to answer. Questions that seemed minuscule in her own life, but for some were their lives. How does a battery work? What does it really mean when cats purr? Why don’t people use more public transportation? She let the questions tumble in her brain and picked one out at random. She guessed solutions and mused different scenarios in her head. She was just learning how to be her own best friend. She was just learning what it meant to be alone. She was just learning, and then, she just was.
I wanted to explain the picture I used in my last post, O is for One Perfect Moment, #AtoZChallenge.
I went home for Christmas this winter thinking it would be the last time I saw my mom. My flight back to California was ridiculously early so I had to say goodbye the night before. I asked my dad to tell me when it was time to say goodnight and he let me know when Mom was finally ready to go to bed. I went to her and tried to stay really happy and positive, giving her a hug and saying goodnight. It was quick because I didn’t want to think too hard about the situation, but as soon as I left the room I realized I forgot to tell her I loved her.
I had to go back in, I knew I needed to tell her in person because it might be the last opportunity I got to do so. My sister came in after and while I was hugging my mom on one side, my dad hugged her on the other side and she took this perfect picture. In it we all have genuine smiles. We are holding onto each other and although the practical reason is we have to hold on to Mom to help her keep her balance, in the picture it just looks like a warm embrace (which it also was). When I look at the picture I can’t tell my mom has Alzheimer’s. I see happiness, love, family. That’s why I was inspired to write the poem that I did.
I don’t like to talk about perfection, because I think it’s generally an unobtainable and unrealistic goal. I see this picture though, and it really is one perfect moment.
after the hourglass has filled
with time-worn sand
turned dusty and coarse
after the air has settled
still and stagnate
after the weight
of disintegrated decay
that plagued the mind
after the realization
that change is inevitable
after the faces
streaked with saline
after the anger
hot and unbridled
comes one perfect moment.
Then, after comes….
I am the fly buzzing in your ear,
flitting this way and that,
just out of reach of your
frantically waving hands.
I am the parched, cracked sponge,
caked with gummy grime
and specks of ancient food.
I am the lip in the sidewalk
that thrusts from the earth,
uneven and begging
for your foot to make contact.
I am the nail in your tire,
letting your air escape
in a slow hissssss
until your tire sinks,
drooping against the pavement
as I proudly perch in my new home.
I am the haunting whisper in your head
that calmly reminds you,
“You aren’t good enough.
You can’t do this.
You are flawed beyond repair.”
I am nagging dread.
I am lingering doubt.
I am creeping fear.
I am persistent anxiety.
I am constant, unrelenting,
but you have a choice.
What will you do with me?
Whenever one of my music students makes a mistake and apologizes for it, I tell them don’t apologize for learning. Making mistakes teaches us what not to do so that we learn what we really should be doing. This doesn’t just apply to playing music, it carries throughout our lives.
Nobody likes the feeling of when they mess up, but if we could change our perspectives around mistakes I’m sure we’d do a better job managing regret.
I’m not saying I’ve mastered this concept, but I’m working on it.
One of my 5th grade classes is working on the song Try Everything by Shakira for their Spring Concert. It was featured in the movie Zootopia. I love the lyrics of this song because the message is saying it’s okay to fail as long as you keep trying. One of the lines is actually “I’ll keep on making those new mistakes, I’ll keep on making them everyday”. This is said as a positive!
I still am very hard on myself when I make mistakes, but I’m getting better at putting it back into perspective.
What is your perspective on making mistakes? How do you deal with them?
I don’t remember where I learned this phrase from, but I found it fascinating that such a phrase exists. The definition from Wikipedia is this: “L’appel du vide, literally “the call of the void”, is a French phrase used to refer to intrusive thoughts, or the urge to engage in destructive behaviors during everyday life. Examples include thinking about swerving in to the opposite lane while driving, or feeling the urge to jump off a cliff edge while standing on it.”
I tried to make a poem to capture this phrase’s meaning, but I found it really difficult! Here’s my attempt:
L’appel Du Vide
This is it.
This, this is the moment.
The moment you look down.
You look down and see,
See an escape beckoning
From high above.
On the perch of a cliff
The world seems quiet.
So quiet thoughts
Sneak in on silent haunches,
Padding by common sense.
Look down, down,
Down into the abyss.
Imagine the fall,
Tumbling over and over,
Wind rushing by,
And this strange silence
That pervades your senses-
This moment of clarity.
Kindness is definitely not a flaw. It’s just hard to think of words that start with K. Of course there have been times when I’ve been told I’m “too nice” like that’s a bad thing. Which begs the question: Is being too nice a bad thing?
When can kindness get you in trouble?
My theme should have been “I ask readers a bunch of questions about basic personality traits people typically don’t think twice about.”
One of the biggest times this dilemma has crossed my mind has been in teaching. Many times I am told I’m too nice as a teacher and this leads to classroom management being difficult. Objectively I can see this happening, but then I also see how my students react to me. I think it’s important for children to be able to trust adults and know they are cared for. That is probably my main goal over teaching music, although I think that is super important too. When I get “firm” or “strict” I know I am being “fair”, but I don’t like the way it makes me feel. I just can’t seem to always find a balance. I don’t want to change my personality of always being kind and helpful, but sometimes I’m forced to in the classroom so things run smoothly.
I think this is my biggest doubt of whether I am a good teacher.
I love my job, but I also think it is one of the hardest jobs someone can choose. I need to find the balance between being kind and not being too passive.
Until then, I will lead with kindness. I will always try to be understanding and compassionate. I will keep an open-mind to accept people from all different walks of life. I will risk the struggles and criticism that come with being “too nice” until I find that balance. If life has taught me anything, it’s that I’m much better at dealing with my own pain than handling knowing I’ve hurt somebody else.
Sometimes I try to be funny. I like to think I’m good at making people laugh, but who doesn’t??
My sense of humor can be dark, satirical, biting, and sometimes I’m just plain silly.
We started these top ten lists in high school. They weren’t meant to be funny or sarcastic, but of course I made it that way. So here’s an example of the jokes I make. May it make you laugh or at least chance a flicker of movement in your lips that somewhat resembles a smile.
Top Ten Reasons People Welcome Global Warming:
- “Pale” went out of style fifty years ago.
- Boots are no longer made for snow-wear.
- Bathing suits are cheaper than winter jackets.
- Heat is expensive.
- Frost bite is more serious than global flooding.
- We’ve already invented life vests.
- Titanic fans run a very convincing anti-glacier campaign.
- Skin cancer is curable.
- The human race is indestructible.
- If Earth is destroyed we could totally move to Mars or something.
I’ve done this before-
Watched a cold sunrise
In the darkest blue
That matched your eyes.
The grey dawn rose
With mist seeping through.
Stood tall with skin drenched in thought,
Stood small when I thought of you.
I’ve seen this before-
Decay in evening sky,
Sunlight dying with a soft glow,
The moon was your reply.
Night came creeping in
To replace a faded day.
It seemed light was useless,
But that was always your way.
I’ve felt this before-
Pressure breathing hot.
At first I thought I recognized,
But now I realize I forgot.
A stranger’s face blurred my sight,
Lifted my hands to match the stars.
You shined so bright I couldn’t see your heart.
No, I couldn’t find the light without some dark.
I’ve been here before-
In an unfamiliar place.
I thought I’d be with you,
But you’ve grown that stranger’s face.
I won’t cry anymore,
And I’ll take back my blame,
Because we’ve both changed so much
Still expecting to be the same.
I’ve done this before-
Watched a cold sunrise
In the darkest blue
That matched your eyes.