5 more minutes

Partway thru and
I begin to grit my teeth into the pain
I can take 5 more minutes
3 more
1 more

It’s not the same
He’s not the same
I don’t have to sacrifice myself
Or bite my tongue
He loves me
He will listen
And it hurts

All the way thru and
My fingers come back red
He looks pale
That’s a lot of blood
I feel grim and all-knowing
You’ve never had a period

He keeps asking
Are you okay
I keep replying yes
Getting ready to walk home
It is too much to explain

This blood is nothing
That is okay
What is not is my soul
Which now bleeds for the past
Which will be sore tomorrow
And bitter, and vengeful
Holding grudges against
The motions of a long-ago person
I feel in your body

Fear from the window

Throw open the curtains of fear and doubt–
your eyes take in your future as they look out.
The window glass heavy and tainted with time,
the Three Fates are weaving line after line.
Breathe in bright hope and hold your lungs full,
for resignation calls out with a leaded-hand pull.
Ask fire from your lovers and strength from your friends,
for none of us knows if this fear ever ends.

Let my love down

You found out the hard way:
I struggle to love.
I shirk from opening
myself up. Armor amassed
from lingering blows.
Only time and the old scars know.
My tears are tales
I need to let go.
Your loyalty guides me
like tracks in the snow.
Your hands are warm;
the touch sets me aglow.
Time will show us the way to go.
The lonely hawk cut me hard and deep.
I still hear the voices in my sleep.
Your whispering quiets
my fearful heart.
Say you’ll stay near me,
not split me apart.
Teach me to adore you;
sing the song of your soul.
I’ll let my love down
like a weeping willow.

a fierce love

my God, what if
he is surrounding my heart this minute
as I scratch a poem down hurriedly
on a diner napkin while he’s in the restroom
what if he’s building up his life around me
brick by solid brick
if I wake up one foggy morning
two years from now and say,
“I can’t imagine a day without him”
what if he breaks me down so badly
my muscles stop working and
I can’t even cry
my God, what if his loyalty heals me
so completely, I forget how to hate
what then?
how will I survive such
a fierce love

Reclaim Myself

I am tired of all the waiting, the excuses,
the endless I got caught ups,
me putting on make-up and eating candy
to pass the time, tired of wondering
when I will deserve to be a priority,
sick of hanging onto the words of another boy,
sick of you, and all the yous I’ve met
and wasted my sweet time on, growing impatient,
boiling like a kettle forgotten on the stove,
feeling forgotten one too many times.

I am ready to cast off all these ties and lines
which anchor me to your validation, to your words,
to throw my vessel into the roaring sea and
set sail without a map, to reclaim myself alone,
ready to chart a course to a new land where
I am not just someone’s fantasy, not just
available to make you feel better, but am
myself without you, my true self, and
I do not linger in the pain you’ve caused me.

She

She was a child with a fear of fire.
She was a child with dreams of art
and nightmares of death
and dying and killing.

She became a woman with a story
clutched to her chest.
She was a woman always walking,
and sometimes faltering,
but never stopping.

She becomes a master of solitude.
She is like a deep lake;
emerald near the shore and
the color of lapis lazuli at the center.

It is painful to know fear so intimately.
It is exhausting to embrace it,
to cradle it in your arms.
Still, she tries
and tries.

John Muir Poem

P1030060

In August I want to become John Muir, re-
incarnate. To breathe Douglas fir, aspirate
hemlock like oxygen. Subsist on nettles and
wild blackberry, staining fireweed pink
my bloodstream. I will thrive on the cliff-
sides above lakes. I will build my house
over a trickling brook so that it runs through
my living room, where I read crabapple leaves
like novels, veins like my veins. Blood is
just water flowing through us all. This forest
is just one way to understand God. You may
find yourself afraid, but you are not a fraud.
Nature is our equalizer. Think yourself better
and you’ll be quickly corrected. Stoop low
to find false lily-of-the-valley. You are
both worthy and worthless, like soil, like sun.
Don’t let skyscrapers and screens ruin
your eyes. Don’t let the money ruin your mind.

Nature and Healing Anxiety

I grew up outdoors. My parents started taking me hiking and backpacking when I was very young. I began learning to ski at age 4. I have spent many days wandering the Cascades, the Chuckanuts, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and so on. Since I was a child, I have felt comfortable in the wilderness.

P1020409

But now, my anxiety has been creeping up. Slowly and then all at once, as they say. The thing about this chronic anxiety (at least, what I’m experiencing) is that it slowly becomes more and more generalized. I used to be somewhat afraid of heights. Now I become anxious while on bridges, in skyscrapers, in planes, atop cliffs, on mountains, and while hiking. I used to be somewhat claustrophobic. Now I become anxious while riding buses, flying in planes, taking elevators, standing in crowds, entering small classrooms, and attending events.

My anxiety ranges from fleeting thoughts such as “This is making me a little nervous” and “What if something bad happens?” to full-on panic attacks, during which I shake uncontrollably, feel that I cannot breathe, experience sweaty palms and a racing heart, and feel disconnected with reality. I understand that a panic attack won’t kill me, but the intense rush of adrenaline is exhausting and the fear can be paralyzing.

P1020625

I wish anxiety and fear did not impact my ability to be outdoors. But they have.

There are some things I can do to feel more “safe”: bring along someone I trust, choose an easy destination, venture somewhere familiar, et cetera. But often I engage in the easiest and laziest form of protection: avoidance.

Ironically, I believe with all my heart that nature has healing powers beyond what humans can even hope to understand. The trees, streams, and clouds have always calmed me and eased my mind. And yet, I am avoiding what I love so I feel safe. Where does this fear come from? What am I afraid of? I am addressing these issues in therapy, but I feel unhappy without snowy mountains and alpine lakes to create a backdrop for my summer. Many of my happiest memories have taken place in the wilderness.

P1030064

For now, I can continue to face and challenge my fears without inflicting too much stress on myself. I hope I will crave the outdoors for the rest of my life. I won’t let this stop me. The more time I spend in nature, the more comfortable I will become. Right?

This will get better. Right?