There’s a Frank O’Hara poem called “My Heart” that begins with the following lines:
I’m not going to cry all the time
Nor shall I laugh all the time
I don’t prefer one “strain” to another
This week has been a week of strains. (And it’s only Wednesday…funny how that works, right?) I had a complete and utter breakdown Monday morning when I backed my car into my dad’s truck. Just completely slammed into it, leaving his truck unharmed and my back bumper nearly detached. I rubbed at hot tears in my eyes and ran to my room, avoiding everyone’s questions, comments, and suggestions. Locked the door like a nine-year-old and curled up in bed. Not crying. Not yelling. Just lying in a sort of semi-frozen state of stress and never wanting to leave my room again.
At least not until November.
It wasn’t even October yet.
SOMETIMES I WONDER HOW LIFE CAN BE FILLED WITH SUCH UPS AND DOWNS. And maybe it’s because I’m an optimist or perhaps I just have a wonderful life, but I feel like I’m constantly marveling and enjoying and soaking things in. There’s so much good and so many laughs.
But sometimes I cry. No, a lot of the time I cry. Sometimes I can’t even force tears. I just squeeze my eyes shut and want to sleep, sleep, sleep instead of live, live, live.
MONDAY WAS ONE OF THOSE DAYS WHEN IT ALL COMPILED AND I WANTED TO JUST LOSE IT. My computer had crashed and was in the shop about fifty minutes from my home. I’d ruined the tail end of my car on my way to get it. I was stuck at home with no computer and no car stressing about the six girls who were coming in five days and the SATs I’d be taking the weekend after they left and all the grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning and planning I’d have to do in between. My mind was swimming laps without the aim of winning any medals. Just aimlessly paddling and paddling and not heading anywhere.
My boyfriend texted and asked if I was okay. My best friend seemed concerned and wanted to know what was up and why did my tone sound different. I’M JUST STRESSED, OKAY? Angry capital letters delivered on an iPhone screen somewhere, and I’m sure they were both a little taken aback. (I’m the optimist, remember?)
I told them I needed to write and just get it all out and that I’d be okay to talk and pray with them after I’d put words to some of my feelings. So I opened up my journal and made a list and just started scribbling.
THINGS THAT CAUSE ME STRESS
messed up cars
passive aggressive discussions with my dad
the feeling that I’m stretched out and
but I don’t know what for
scraping the bottom of my savings
giving up on a “want” to fix a “need”
broken computers fifty minutes away
grocery lists–the prospect of grocery shopping
six girls being here for three days
not being good enough
or smart enough or old enough
feeling like others see the things I lack
actually, mainly geometry
not getting the future I want
but also feeling like I need to escape
falling out of love
staying in love and having to maintain it
seeing fears written into lists
I took a deep breath and put the pen down. My fingers were actually cramping from my need to write so quickly into such little crooked letters. It looked like a foreign language and it stared back. Bold. Messy. Harsh.
And so I turned the page. And made another list.
BUT, AS ALWAYS, GIFTS
words and knowing I have words
money and knowing I do have money
the ability to make choices
others having confidence in me ($400 kind of confidence)
seeing things work out
knowing they always do
not needing a million friends because I’m never without any
food–always food. peanut butter + chocolate
three sisters sitting barefoot on the bed
not always needing to escape
sometimes, despite the urge, feeling okay to stay.
Part of the reason why I read poetry, like Frank O’Hara’s, is because seeing my feelings written in someone else’s words gives me the confidence to be able to say: okay. I will be fine, I will live through this like the millions of other people who have before me. I’m realizing that there is no preferring one strain to another. There will be days where I will laugh and laugh and fill my cup with sunshine and there will be days when I will want to cry but will only find cold beds and harsh stark words in my hands.
I’M HAPPY WITH THE BALANCE AND I DO LOVE THE TIP AND SWAY. Because it really does tip this way some days, but it will sway back with time.