Finding Hope in Despair — my article in Borderless

“There is no activism without despair, no despair without hope. Despair can be as powerful an engine for change as hope.”

Finding Hope in Despair — Borderless

Heavy seat

They say

don’t sit at the bar too long

alone

people will get funny ideas

they’ll think you’re a drunk

they’ll think you’re a lush

they’ll think you wanted it

when you wanted

nothing

but to stare into the glass

watching amber liquid come and go

drinking until the edges blur

and the day is no longer painful

until you begin to forget

you are unhappy

and you watch lovers

dance slow on wet pavement outside

watching how graceful her wrists rise above her head

and his eyes follow the shape of her gleaning neck

understanding time differently

you were once, that moment

you stood in the very same pealing door way

you removed your long coat, your breasts blooming like night jasmine

they watched you with intention

not that curled side-ways glance

of lazy people who no longer see

for now, years flung ahead in time

you are just a piece of splayed furniture, unused

watching through hooded eyes

the slow unfurling of radiating youth

a delight spilt out into cawing streets

abundant with summer dew

and your memory, her cheeks are round like fruit

when she smiles and pulls on her dark cigarette

you want to capture all of it

deep in the bottom of your 6th empty glass

where a favorite song once played

causing you to rise

from your heavy seat.

Beneath its rebuke we claim our sex

I am disappointed when
My thighs resemble dough

From lassitude or the dreaming void

I know not

While others jog I find ways to hide, and years bring encroachment
I am disappointed when stretchmarks form and breasts once firm and fine, fall
As if the hour, prescriptive written, perforation, was

all along a trembling, inken fate

Only in your arms
away from dull gaze of waxen youth

yet to taste harsh glare of life
Still blunt in their unlidded perfection

Was I ever so?

Only in you, I find solace to unburden these stored shames
Bidden me by my role as woman
The unkind hand, who beckons us close to fire
That we may touch a moment of glory

Then slow descent to nowhere visible

In my head of aches, I hear the cacophony of iteration

Women over a certain age
Sexless, sagging beasts of burden

We laugh over my fears
Our respective flaws, rubbing each other
Tenderizing that, which believed itself perished
And was alive
Beneath its rebuke

And when you bring me out of my shell
To kneel to the sun god, without need for apology
I see not those things

Or the artificial glide of time

But feel
Feel your fingers

Deep in my belly

Sense your mouth
Folding bliss in her eternal recline
Taste the syrup of us, in the temple
Then
I am disappointed no more
A fire bird loose in my body
Such pleasures, no child can find
We lift together, in our mutual ecstasy
Emboldened by the dream to be free of chains

Two of us
Released from the grip of words
Threshing at the gate, with the symphony of a female’s sex
Greater than anything that can be crushed
Our fever, mighty in her conquer
We cry as one, our voice raw with awakening
For to be pleasure, is to know
The Gods

No you do not own this moment
Bashful world

For we have transcended the hand of man
We
Who are
Woman
Claim
Our

Sex

Steel eyes

Why

don’t older people

express their despair

as much as young?

Do we numb ourselves so much?

Shame? A mask we don

to pretend we’re well

when everyone knows

ageing doesn’t bring respite

from demons.

It is the singular reason

aside chubby cheeks

I wish to be

16 again

for all the friends

who unknowing of pains

to come

had the tenderness

of a hundred, 40-year-olds

who have seen

and are

gone

into their

steel eyes.

It interests me to recall how much time a young person will give someone who is upset. There’s visible difference between what a young person will say and do, versus an older one, that I think has nothing to do with becoming more mature. Older people have little tolerance for depression. You would think, based on this, older people suffer it less, though we know this isn’t true. Is it to do with hope? Societal shaming of seeming weak if over 25 you still give it your time? I always wonder what those over 40 do by way of finding support and people ‘hearing’ them, when the entire world seems to shut you down by a certain age, including yourself.

Reflecting the Madness and Chaos Within

I talk to Borderless about Indie Blu(e)’s Mental Health Anthology: Through The Looking Glass, (publishing soon) and the necessity of highlighting mental health.

Borderless

Over 150 Authors and Artists from five continents, wrote on mental illness. Candice Louisa Daquin, a psychotherapist and writer and editor, tells us why this is important for healing

A watercolor of King Lear and the Fool from Act III, Scene ii. Courtesy: Creative Commons

When Indie Blu(e) put feelers out about creating an anthology based on mental illness, the passionate reception galvanized our belief it was a necessary subject. However, a few expressed concerns that an anthology about mental illness, would be ‘depressing’ and they wondered ‘who would want to read about mental illness?’ It is this perspective, acting like a fog, that separates those inflicted with mental illness from those who are not.

Such responses exacerbate feelings of isolation, unworthiness, and loneliness that many with mental illness already have. Through The Looking Glass, a metaphor from Alice in Wonderland, evokes this common feeling of separation, as…

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New girl

A broken bottle

a discarded hairbrush

totems within totems

effigies of past and present

a light knock on the door

she’s wearing a French halter dress

her ankles are slim like my mother’s

she’s not my mother

her skin is brown like my mother’s

she’s not my mother

her black hair is curled like my mother’s

she’s not my mother

her perfume speaks of wanting passion

it belies the faux expression on her face

attempting trickery

she bends to me and pretends to be enchanted

by childhood photos

they are not her photos to touch

with her careful, manicured pink nails

a color my mother always hated

she had more style in her little finger

the one with dupuytren’s contracture

more a question mark than deformity

it didn’t stop her playing the piano

carving her place in my father’s heart

and this imposter? Flicking her way into our life

like a cheap fan you buy, because you are sweating

I want to tell her, using grown up words

I may be six, but I know what she’s up to

with her shifting glances toward my handsome father

with her endearing crossing of espadrilled feet

if she touches my mother’s hairbrush

I will burn

this happy house down

Salvation

Detail lies

prism-like

at the bottom of the cheap glass

heche en Chine

blurred by straining eyes

brokenly watching colors

as they wink in and out

made indistinct

by tears, long rinsed

clear of salt

Revelation

I have little family but I have an aunt. My aunt reminded me today of the prayer of St. Francis. To give to others what you most need. She is not a Christian but she said it’s an apropos relative to karma and that awareness kills karma, once you learn the reason for something, it has no power over you.

Years ago I would not have imagined my aunt, whom I was close with as a child but did not see as a young adult, would be such a guiding force in my life. She told me people come into our lives, even those who damage us, as much because we ask them to, as they want to. That doesn’t mean if you are victimized, that you ‘asked for it‘ (you didn’t) but you play a part. Not meaning you are responsible, but you are not outside of the experience either and when you see that, you can see the flipside of the trauma and the value of the lesson.

By lesson, I do not mean, if you are victimized, that you are ‘being taught a necessary lesson’ because who the heck wants that lesson? But if you experience it, there is a way to turn it into a positive. I wholeheartedly agree. My dear friend Susi Bocks and I talk of this often.

I admire my aunt very much. I was always told not to admire those whom I have and they were open to derision by people who felt it their place to judge. But I’m listening to my gut on this, and I know who I admire and why. I feel it is not my place to judge, it is my place to be a positive thing in this world. That often helps me personally too. I admire her because she has literally gone through hell and not only succeeded, but flourished. She is one of the wisest, brightest, most likable people I have known and it saddens me that I didn’t know her as well earlier, but I’m so glad I know her now.

My whole life, I thought if I did something wrong, ‘karma would get me‘ and I had some fear related to that. But nothing good comes from fear. I now see that we have some power over karma, that it isn’t this force that can wreck us if we slip up, but something we can engage with. By being aware, we can play a part in how karma manifests. After all, we all make mistakes.

One of my ‘mistakes‘ I thought, was letting people into my life, who my gut told me were not healthy for me. I did this relatively recently and deeply regretted it. From the start I knew it was a mistake and the person was not who they said they were, but I felt sorry for them and wanted to help. Rather than regretting this and believing my having to walk away from them, as they became more unwell mentally, would lead to some karmic rejection in my life, I now see, I let them into my life to learn a lesson.

The lesson was I am not the same person was I was at 20 even if I didn’t realize that until recently. It would seem obvious? But in many ways, I focused on how similar I was to my 20 year old self. It’s only now, I see how different I am. My 20 year old self would have gone down the rabbit hole, would have pitied that person until they had power over me, and led to bad experiences of narcissistic personalities trying to dominate and control good people. I wouldn’t have walked away because I would have been triggered by ‘abandoning‘ someone.

The person I am today doesn’t let people do that.

Not long ago I felt if I turned someone away who was pushing my boundaries, I was abandoning them the way I had felt abandoned. I see now that if I carry this martyr complex of being abandoned, around as my yard stick, that’s what I will attract. I also see that from abandonment comes positive things like, compassion, and being a good friend and learning to do things for others because I wanted them done for me when I was young (be the change you want to see and all that).

When my mom initially left, I did not blame her. I understood her needs. I still do. When she rejected me later, people told me I should hate her, because she was ‘doing it again.’ I defended her and said: No she didn’t reject me then. it was what she had to do. I believe this, especially as a feminist. As for now? True, I can’t explain it. The reasons she gave didn’t seem enough, but as I have learned, what seems ‘enough‘ is subjective. Likely for her, it was the last straw. You may ask; What could you have done that would be a last straw? But it’s not about actual wrongs, so much as perceived wrongs. If she perceived things I did in my childhood, to be a litany of wrongs, there could be a last straw. My therapist said this wasn’t true, as at some point people have to do the right thing, which she believed was being a mother to me, but that’s a judgement statement really, as not all of us are born to be mothers.

I don’t hate my mom, I never have. I don’t even think she hates me, I think she just can’t stand me. Which isn’t the same thing. And whilst yes, it will always hurt, especially if I outlive her, I know she did what she had to do (to live well) and I don’t put her in a demonized role, where I play the martyr. This frees me to live my life (yes, without a mom) and be glad of those positive things I did get from her (and there are so many). Literally a day doesn’t go by when something she did/said doesn’t cross my mind in a positive way. I may have wished for her approval, but deep-down I know I am every bit as good as she and do not need anyone’s approval to see that.

Going back to recent events: Narcissists especially, know exquisitely how to push boundaries, they are fat on the idea they’re terribly clever, when in reality they’re following a trope that most Narcissists follow. Often a Narcissist will disguise themselves as an empath even as they are the complete opposite. When I began to feel uncomfortable with intrusion and daily pushed boundaries, I bought into the idea if I did something I would: 1. Hurt them 2. Be incongruous to my ideas of being supportive.

I have learned that while I want to give to others what I most need, as a form of being that change I want to see, and a valuable human being (defined as, someone who helps others and cares) I don’t have to take it to an extreme. It is alright to step away from someone who doesn’t respect me. When I did, I was proud of myself, but they continued to disrespect and demand. Since not being in touch I have felt myself again. I didn’t even know how much they weighed on me until they were gone.

Those of us who do care for others, especially those going through hard times, through no fault of their own, are particularly vulnerable to abuse. When you carry your former abuse with you, you paint a target, unwittingly. Whilst it may be hard not to see through that abuse lens, I see how if I continue to define myself by my losses, disappointments, regrets, sorrows, I will probably live in that place.

This may seem patently obvious to those who do not struggle. But before you judge me, consider, when you suffer from depression it is hard enough to move through the world, let alone think of others, or do the right thing. Coupled with health issues and no family, it is easy to fall into the woe-is-me trap. I am endeavoring to do this less. I can’t say I will stop doing it, or not fall backward, but I am trying. That’s actually all I can do.

As for Narcissists, stalkers and people who play mind-games. Thanks to my aunt I think I have the wisdom to recollect who I was years ago, a strong little girl who gave to others, what she had needed, out of a pure heart. And combining that with an adult who knows people can abuse that kindness, have more boundaries and safety-guards in place, to prevent being taken advantage of again.

You make your own karma. I choose to make mine by caring for others, but not letting them trample me. Hopefully, as we give what we need, we also receive. I believe this. Having met some wonderful people here on WP. Thank you all.

(This doesn’t mean I’m quitting writing out feelings, good and bad. No recovery advocates shutting down those, they’re better exorcized).

The nadir of naught

It’s very difficult to write

when you are depressed

when you know depression

isn’t fleeting

isn’t because something happened

but the same as

a piece of string

will get affixed to tree limbs sometimes

and despite all effort

not be able to get

free

O

I envy (you’re not supposed to envy, but I do)

those without this malady

the world would call them stronger

they may blush slightly and say

aw shucks it’s a lottery isn’t it?

I could be just as glum as you if

my dog died, if my car broke down

and in those instances I want

so much to say

nononono

that’s not it

at all

it’s crying on your wedding day

from pain not joy

it’s feeling strong at a funeral because

the wires in your head don’t fire right

it’s understanding you’re going to have to try ten times harder

just to stand and be counted

and even then

you may wish

not to be counted

because perversity

is the twin

of sadness

she breaks you into shards

snickering as you

flail to put things back

It’s very difficult to write

when you are depressed

when you know depression

isn’t something you can push through

like your MFA teacher bid

one night when you contemplated

cutting your wrists with broken pottery

almost on a lark when hearing; try to work smarter!

desperation surging unbidden

fast and dark like unfiltered coffee

always leaves its gritty mark

on the ennui of fileted souls.

(This is for all those who were ever shamed for being depressed and having depressive symptoms, for feeling they were ‘less than’ because they could not function seamlessly as others appeared to. I see you. You are counted).

Fade until you are gone

I have decided;

tomorrow you will not exist

so bring tomorrow now

fade until you are gone

for you are not welcome

It’s easy to inherit words of hate

deride someone, tear them into tender shreds

morsels of taint blown out

It’s easy to throw bitterness and shade

until the lake consumes us both

I choose to stand between extremes

I neither hate you nor fear you

you repulse me

as I have been repulsed many times

by a look my gut says is false

and I say nothing, though I should

too late, not too late, I move on

thinking not of your attempted control

but of what stands after

when you are gone and nothing of my world

smells of your arrogance any more

when your belief that you know what I am thinking

has washed away with time

reducing you to a memory I

try to lose and find that I can

and the power you thought you had

has also receded, a dread vanquished

showing there was never anything

but an empty shoreline

and sea, going out, out, out

with you

running ever after it

tomorrow you will not exist

so bring tomorrow now

fade until you are gone

for you are not welcome