The melancholy of winter

The leaf of a weed
beautiful in death,
or is its life just arrested,
like me in this moment,
petrified by hushed silence,
fingers of fear
melting, wrapping, squeezing?
Ready acceptance of the present,
colors not even yet dulled,
but all I feel is suffocated,
tricked by perfect stillness,
trapped by encroaching cold.
I gaze again at the mystery.
The grip loosens.
A binary constructed
of blood and sweat is
revealed as a lie
swallowed whole
in fear and pride.
The melancholy of winter
stirs souls and whispers
a painful promise of hope.

Stay

J-Goto-Absence

When the storm finally passes,

sun cutting through the clouds,

will I know my soul among the masses

the blurred faces of the crowds?

Do I still hear the certain voices

of sadness and of anger

or have I made different choices

and remain to them a stranger?

Did I feel the healing fingers

of the raindrops on my skin?

Do I know the hope that lingers

when I let everything come in?


* Artwork pictured above is “Absence” by Jennifer Goto, a Los Angeles-based artist who works with Japanese mineral pigments and gold and silver leaf.

Contact

Suddenly all I feel are your

hands on mine, rough and warm;

your heartbeat disrupts

the chaos, a welcome reprieve;

your fragrance clings to the

strands of my hair

and finally, I can breathe;

the world shrinks to just

you

and just me,

and I sense in the thickened air

that everything is OK.

One of those days

Hard to get up and go days,

Hard to put on that smile

To just feel normal days.


Feeling the air press against me days,

Feeling like I’m not awake

Like I can’t find my center days.


Seeing the darkness days,

Seeing my own frailty

The horror of separation days.


Finding you with me days,

Finding you gentle

Finding you listening

Finding you solid ground

Finding you here

Finding you loving me

Finding you with me days.

Sacred Sadness

**Disclaimer about this post: Chronic depression is an illness just like any other, and should be treated physically (in addition to spiritually) with the help of a medical professional, whether that be through lifestyle changes, counseling, and/or medication. Please, let’s all get the help we need.**

“Why should I be sad when Jesus is with me?” That was pretty much the thesis of every testimony I grew up hearing in the church. Between the lines I read, “I shouldn’t be sad, and if I am that means something is terribly wrong with me. I’m not faithful enough, not trusting God enough, and just plain not good enough.” For many years that message didn’t cause major problems for me – I was a mostly happy kid.

But in my early twenties I started to struggle with fairly regular bouts of depression. At first I simply had no idea what to do. Nothing in my faith narrative had equipped me to deal with depression. I thought it was all mental – that if I just willed myself to believe I was happy because God loved me, that I would be. Because, let’s face it, it’s pretty freaking awesome that God loves us. For real!

So yeah, I knew that God loved me and was with me. I mean, I really knew it. I started to engage in inner healing prayer and dove deeper into scripture narratives, where I regularly found myself encountering God’s presence.

But it didn’t, and still hasn’t, erased all sadness. And I don’t know that it should.

I no longer believe that my depression is only personal to me, that it’s merely a sign that something is wrong with me. Rather, sadness is a sign of the sacred. It’s a reminder that something is terribly wrong in the world, and that we have a God whose heart aches as a result. God allows the depression, giving me a glimpse of the horror that is the separation between us and the Father. For a time I am privy to the pain and isolation that so much of humanity experiences on a daily basis. God doesn’t shield me from all hurt because if he did, I would would miss the sacred calling to truly know Him and to enter into others’ pain with Him.

In walking through depression, I walk a sacred journey hand in hand with Jesus. He too was a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” To know sadness is to know Jesus.

My desire now, when I feel the heavy mantle of depression descending is not only to ask, “God please let this be taken away from me.” It is also to say, with fear and trembling, “Let your will be done,” expecting that no matter what happens with my own life, God will surely show up.

The art of not giving up too soon.

I’m the kind of person who likes to start new things. I learn a little bit of a language. Practice guitar until I can play a few chords. Write half a poem. I inevitably get bored or stuck and suddenly – like magic – I have a new idea or a different thing to try out. New ideas are always fun and exciting. Anything is possible! The sky is the limit!

The gap between what I envision and what feels possible is not yet that big.

But once that giddy feeling wears off, I usually get tired of slogging through the grunt work of getting the darn thing done. Suddenly, everything but the project at hand seems infinitely more exciting. There are piles of dishes to wash in the sink? Score! Corners of my house that have not been vacuumed in 3 years? Thank God!

Suddenly the grand plans I had when I started this project 3 weeks days ago seem like a very ridiculous pipe dream.

BUT. The few times that I’ve actually pushed through that time in the doldrums have been infinitely rewarding. Three years ago I ran a half marathon, after several months of preparation. Believe me when I say those training runs did not feel magical. But I did them anyway. Currently, I’m trying to write a novel in a month. I hit a spell of the doldrums today and thought I’d not be able to write another word. But I sat down at my computer anyway (after a great brainstorming session with a friend, mind you). And suddenly, the words came.

I’m learning that usually, when I say I want something so bad, I don’t actually want it as much as I think I do. I don’t want it enough to suffer through the doldrum moments. I’m not willing to descend into the of mess and confusion, where I’ll have to battle my doubts and insecurities, and play through the pain. I want to climb up, without first going down.

This novel project is teaching me to embrace the mess. To keep going even when failure seems inevitable. If I give up now, I won’t see what’s possible if I persevere. A couple days ago, when I had about 18,000 words and was at least 10k behind schedule, I decided:

I want to see what I can do with the talent that’s been given to me. Tonight, I reached 30,000. I’m coming for you 50k, and I’m not giving up yet!

Lessons from the creative process

It’s now been a week since starting this crazy novel-writing project, and already I feel like I’m learning so much. I know I’m probably nuts for blogging mid-madness (wow, that’s a lot of insanity talk for two sentences) but I feel like I had to get these nuggets out before my characters stole and buried them in an undisclosed location.

  1. Stories are puzzles that come together slowly. This idea has been revolutionary. After days of writing scene after scene without a completely clear idea on where the story was going, I started to panic. How will these scenes connect to each other? Where is my story going exactly? Am I just creating a huge mess that I won’t be able to clean up later?? I sent out an emergency tweet, confessing my panic to the NaNoWriMo Twitter powers-that-be, and got a prompt response: “Wait ’til all the scenes are written. I think of stories as a puzzle, the scenes the pieces. At the end, assemble!” I breathed a sigh of relief. I guess I don’t have to have it all figured out yet!  I’m looking forward to being pleasantly surprised by the way the pieces fit together.
  2. Feedback required. But not too much. After several days, my story and characters decided to start banging their fists against the inside of my skull. Translation: I quickly found I needed to get the story out of my head. I shared my process with a select few – 5 to be exact – and have benefited from their questions about the characters and story. It’s helped me to see the story from different perspectives and consider different possibilities. However, too many more people involved would become burdensome. Find the right people and use them well. Yes, you must use people for their brains. Don’t worry, all 5 of you will be mentioned in the special acknowledgements of my novel if when it’s published. Fair?
  3. Chocolate can work miracles. That’s it. Eat lots of it.
  4. Make it fun! I’m following a couple NaNoWriMo Twitter handles, one of which offers “Word Sprints” throughout the day, every day. After every 10-30 minute “sprint” everyone tweets back their word count and sometimes shares a funny line they just wrote. This is one of those times I’m loving social media! Writing and other creative pursuits can be super hard (when it’s not a blast), so it’s good to have something that keeps it enjoyable and exciting. And bonus, I’m now interacting with two legit authors I met doing the sprints. We’ve been regularly motivating each other to write!
  5. Just do it. When it comes down to it, I’m learning that there is no way around the grunt factor of creating. The ideas and words don’t just magically plop into my head (well, not usually anyway). If I waited until I had the perfect idea or until my story made total sense to me, I would probably never write another word. I’m learning that sometimes you just need to get your butt in the chair, and do the work, even when your output feels less than stellar.