Suzanne Dudley Schon
Recently, I wrote a poem (see below) and sent it off to my poetry group. I had opinions about it:
It’s kind of stupid to write about my reaction to a movie. Why would anyone care to hear my opinion? Does what I say make any difference? Why would I write a poem about it anyway??? Is it really worthy? Is this even a decent poem? Is it self-indulgent? Is it my same-old, same-old story about feeling yucky and then feeling better? Did I do the line-breaks right? Were the verbs strong enough? Did I use images or rely too much on telling? Does it even make sense or is it too obtuse or oblique? God, why did I feel so compelled to write this poem? Why do I write poems when I am fully aware that writing poems earns me not one single penny and I should probably be using my time in other more “productive” ways?
All of this nattering was whirling around in between my ears like a spinning maple seed. It kept my mind busy and simultaneously kept me momentarily unable to take action.
Without any other options to include as my weekly poem, I pushed the thoughts to one side of my brain, and “send” on the email.
Hours later, a gift appeared in my inbox. My poem had “landed” for a member of the group. She shared a story. Earlier she’d been feeling “less-than” and “not special” and was giving in to those negative thoughts that can crop up like weeds when we compare ourselves to others—especially someone else’s curated-self like on facebook or other social media platforms. Yet this woman said that my poem had turned her around. Helped her feel better and see herself. Her true self.
For me, this effort of putting my poem out there was a lesson not to listen to the noise and negativity in my mind that sounds so superior, so smart, and “so right.” The insidious voice that looks like thinking, but it is more like the insidious insertion of doubt and self-criticism. The experience was a lesson to follow my heart and to write – and “do what I do” in the ways that I can – and specifically in those avenues that are authentic to me.
My mission is to help heal—myself and others —through coaching, writing, acting, or a simple conversation. Sometimes that sounds so high-falutin’ and “big” when in the moment all I am doing is feeling compelled to write a poem about my experience at the movies.
The truth is—the actions usually are “small.” That’s all there really is: taking the next small action, not judging the size of the action, nor being attached to the outcome. If I held that notion of “this is gonna be huge,” the pressure would take the wind out of me and I’d be struggling to knit two words together. The “bigness” is really about taking action in spite of the mental chatter or the emotions swirling. The discipline involved is not about pushing harder or some enormous act, but rather to cast off my own negativity, darkness, and self-doubt. To act in spite of the possibility of it being meaningless or un-read.
In spite of how we feel, we should persevere, go ahead and share, put ourselves out there… to do what we do, how we do it. Don’t let the Joker get in your way—filling you with the wrong ideas.
We have no idea how our small acts will fly through the ethers to benefit someone thousands of miles away, or touch a soul on the receiving end of an unexpected smile from a lady on the street.
Because I’d been told it was violent but beautiful,
when I arrive in the dim theater,
I only peel off my coat
and a single shoulder of my armor,
settle in my seat
ready to tango, syncopate heartbeats.
The flickering lightbeam overhead paints
the screen with a face, grimacing,
the character’s own blue agony.
Heat rushes away.
Ocean coldness floods the floor
feet unsteadied, sandy bottom gone,
I smell fog, sadness, and gasoline.
I recognize darkness--
sleek and seductive,
as it searches for unhealed wounds.
With a finger it can explore leathery old holes
trace the edges of ragged sores.
It can stare into the weeping
while whispering kisses and licking salt.
This time I refuse
to feed it my liver
or give it the candles in my pantry.
The soundtrack leaks in.
Cellos moan like a creeking ship.
Still aboard the vessel, I rock in my seat
and think, how I would have preferred
the theater of my garden.
Now Showing—double feature
“The Last of the Red Hot Zinnias”
“Lord of the Squirrels; Two Towering Pines.”