An Aside–A Life Obliged

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So about that poem I just posted yesterday—if you haven’t read it, check it out here before reading this. I don’t usually do posts like this, but I feel an explanation and understanding is due. This is it.


Opening up about my mental health and how much I have struggled with it for a very long time, from obsessive thoughts and anxiety to unnecessary melancholy and persistent sadness… It’s one of those things that once I did it, there was no going back.

And I’ve spent so much of my college career simply figuring out where I’m at, what I believe in or how I feel about this life that I didn’t know what to say.

This poem was me saying everything.

I wrote it a few months ago and I’m not in the same place, but that’s not because things have gotten better or life has become great. It’s because I’ve grown and the way I handle myself has grown with me.

Thing is, it’s not just about me. Not anymore. This generation and those after me are growing up in the absolute in between—everything is very divided, we need to be individuals but also fit in, we value maturity but also don’t know when to act our age, we’re afraid to go to concerts or school or a restaurant or the DMV because who knows what might happen if someone gets too angry or takes something the wrong way. We are stuck in an atmosphere that is not healthy. Not even a little bit.

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In addition to that, we are growing up around so many standards for what we do with our lives or what we look like or the things we enjoy or the people we love and there really is no way to avoid it all. You can’t unsee the standards nor the fact that so many of us don’t fit into them.

We focus on the histories of white cisgendered men. That is not to say that they aren’t important, this country wouldn’t be what it is without them—good and bad. But it is to say that histories other than theirs are important too. I mean, with everything changing so quickly in our fast paced world, are you having trouble keeping all straight?

Notice that phrase, keeping things “straight” as if straight is correct and anything else is not.

Why do we do that?

Put people into boxes and tell them whether they’re right or wrong? I’ve dealt with it my whole life. I am a black female in CLA—in of itself, a college largely disrespected despite the fact that the basis of who we are as human beings is held upon the foundation of humanity and what CLA is—and maybe I don’t fit into a lot of the boxes that would make things “easier for me.” That would make me more “normal.”

I’m black and not just black, but a woman. In CLA. And throughout my entire life, I’ve have about two “crushes.” It doesn’t seem like that would be a big deal but in a society so focused on a women’s success as a pair rather than an individual, or at my age, the parameters of a society so focused sex and hook-up culture, all the while sex is something we also try not to talk about.

We are a contradiction.

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We tell other people to take care of themselves and don’t do it ourselves. We ask others how they’re doing and don’t take the time to listen to the answer.

We are not paying attention.

And I feel like in so many things about myself that I cannot change, I am incorrect. My existence is wrong. At a school like this where people don’t feel like blackface is wrong or don’t see why I would have a panic attack on my way to the car because I’m walking alone or don’t see the value or success in a major that focuses less on systems/engineering/stem and more about us

I will never be able to win if I set myself against the standards. But I’ve grown up doing so and in turn, sometimes maybe I don’t see my worth. Or maybe I don’t feel so good because maybe I’m not who other people want me to be. Not when people I admire and loved so much died without getting a chance to live a life that they lived “better” than I believe I ever have.

It’s guilt. It’s feeling wrong. It’s hurting but never saying so… Because so many people are worried about burdening others or being “too much” or imposing themselves on others when truly, maybe they should understand that the right people will never find fault in who you are. And it’s complicated. But the right people in your life don’t always need to fix things or change things, they simply sit with you in it when you need that.

There has to be space to allow such an need to be not only understood, but respected and followed.

My generation is growing up in the in between and we are not okay. Not at all. I see it, I live it, but I want to change it and I am doing what I can. I am using what I’ve been through or my beliefs or what I understand and letting this world mold me into someone who can make change. To be better than the girl I was yesterday.

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I’ve been sitting in this for years, all of it. And even though I can’t change it, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to be okay with making it work and letting it become just one more reason to fight for something better.

That’s why it’s a life obliged. A life I owe to myself to make beautiful and painful and lovely and full. Of anything and everything. That’s A Life Obliged.

So with that, I would love to know how you feel about all of this. Now it’s your turn.

A Life Obliged–An Original Poem

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So, I promised you something today. It’s National Poetry Month and this poem holds a whole lot of meaning for me. This one is a bit longer than what I usually write, but it’s long for a reason. You’ll see. I care a lot about mental health and the awareness around it, but I’ve never really talked about mine.

Not only am I breaking that boundary today, but as my readers, I’m letting you in. Because I’ve got a lot to say, and maybe it’s about time I said it.

Without further ado, A Life Obliged. Let me know what you think.


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Sometimes I really love cancelling plans,

it’s not that I cancel them if I have no reason to—

my guilty conscience is far too heavy for that—

but if I have a reason or I find some excuse not to go,

you can be sure as hell my fingers are moving like lightning

when I type out the words, “I can’t tonight…”

Don’t forget the sad face at the end,

wouldn’t want anyone thinking that I truly

didn’t want to go.

Trust me when I say that, the second I send that message,

it’s a relief of a weight I cannot explain.

It’s a diffused time bomb

of hands that do not stop shaking

and a mind that will not stop racing

even when the finish line

was a couple miles

behind me.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Because sometimes, this life feels like a song I’m trying to sing,

and I swear to God that I’m the one who wrote it.

But every time the chords start playing

and the bass bumps blindly through my chest,

I open my mouth to the words I should be saying,

and it turns out that

I forgot the rest.

My entire world is a play I scripted myself;

I filled each and every role with lives of the ones I love.

And I feel that love, I do.

It’s just some days I wish you knew,

the love

and the hope

and the need to keep going,

it isn’t strong enough to make it all the way

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

to a place

where I might believe it.

That place can be kind of hard to find sometimes,

especially when you don’t see any of the worth

that’s supposed to belong to you.

Instead, I lost two friends in the last year:

two beautiful, incredible, extraordinary people.

The kind that looked at life like it were a challenge

and they were the Barney Stinsons of the world, so

of course, they would accept it—

to see who could live

and love

and laugh

the loudest…

At only nineteen, I think they lived

more

than I ever will.

And it makes me wonder, why this world

would take away two people here,

and leave behind someone like me,

who doesn’t even know how

to live.

Not like this.

I’m the kind of girl who gets up in the morning,

wishing I didn’t, thinking maybe tomorrow

I won’t.

When this world,

it handles me like a play toy.

Yet depression

and anxiety

and OCD

seem to be the only ones

handling the strings.

A tug this way, a thought that way,

and suddenly

I’m doing whatever it wants.

All I can manage is to nod,

let it control me like a marionette

where the strings tie back to my heart,

as even more hold close to my body,  

pulling on me so tightly

that I have not a say,

not a care,

not a want.

Not a breath that I call my own.

Because not a single one

of those damn strings

seem

to belong

to me.

You see, suicide for me is like the ace in my back pocket,

it’s game that I chose not to play

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every single day I wake up.

Because it’s not that I want to die,

no, for that would be far too simple…

It’s that I look at who I am, the people I love, the way I live

and I just don’t want to exist

like this

anymore.

I need a reset button for the last time I saved this game of life;

back before I remembered how unfair this world can be

to the people who might not be the majority,

or how easy it is for men in power to get away with taking things

that do not belong to them because the word “no” wasn’t said

loud enough,

maybe it’s how little it takes to lose people we love because

we can’t control that either,

and how hard it can be when every one of us is fighting something

yet, in this society,

not a single one of us feels

like we’re allowed to be.

I just want to know why.

It’s not that I don’t love you,

no it’s not that at all.

It’s that I don’t think

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I love me

enough.

Sometimes, I wonder

if the only thing I know about living

is how to spend every day of my life

trying to convince myself

that I don’t want

to die.

If we are so depressed, so beaten down and

broken through and

bummed out

by everything we are turning out to be,

so depressed

and done

and diligently abiding by the rules of an unspoken pact that says

we need to keep going,

that the suicidal thoughts become relief,

or the absence of pain is terrifying…

If we are so ready

to pull a trigger finger,

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to pop a cap,

to inhale invisibility…

Then why are we here,

still moving, still going,

trying so damn hard

to live?


See you Friday.

Today is Not the Day

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It’s been a whirlwind week here, beginning with jumping my car at 10:30 on a Sunday night and ending with the mayhem of midterms and Valentine’s Day festivities. It was one of those weeks where I got about 3 hours of sleep one day and almost 11 on another.

Sounds kinda like college.

If you noticed, there was no Poetry Place on Tuesday, hence the midterms Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday took priority. But I did want to give you at least a little something.

So that’s part of today’s post. Because after all, it is Black History Month, something that people are also beginning to realize is not only ‘his’tory but ‘her’story too. The more I think about what has had to happen in the past for me to be where I am today, the more I also think about what I do and care about that will then lead me into a future I hope to have.

After all, my current reality will become a part of my own history before I know it. The least I can do is make the most of it.

You see, everything I’ve thrown myself into on Cal Poly’s campus is a huge part of what is changing my future. The things I’m passionate about and the people I hold onto in my life, all of that is changed by what I’m doing here. That’s why I write, why I follow the things I do or pay attention to the people that I want.

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Weeks like this one put it all in perspective. Because, sure, I’m working hard to get a degree to then find a career so I can afford a stable life. But it’s bigger than that.

Beyond the degree and the classes I have the people and the passions and the aspirations that are molded out of the clay I walked onto this campus with.

While I fight to figure out what I want and the directions I want to go in, I’m also beginning to realize that I need to pick my battles somewhere in between.

Some days are better fit for buckling down and grinding out a few hours of hard studying. Others are the ones to maybe spend a few hours watching too much tv or wasting too much time with friends.

I’m starting to realize that college is about learning to pick my battles.

Because within that, some days are the ones to allow myself the grace to take a step back from everything that will take away pieces of me that I need for my own good. And others, well… You get the point. Sometimes I can afford to give a little. Other times, I need to learn when not to.

The Poetry Place of this post, it’s about learning the difference in what that means. Learning the balance.

It’s a part of my life after all, every one of our lives. It’s about deciding which day is which. Maybe if you’ve figured it out, you can pass along some tips in the comments. In the meantime, here’s Today is Not the Day.


Today is not the day

to feel like I can conquer the world,

to hold my head a little too high,

or feel like this will be alright.

Today is just a day

to exist, to keep breathing,

to understand it’s all I can do,

to remember that I’m not okay

and that’s okay.

Because today is just a day,

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time will move forward,

and it will pass.

This day will become

a part of the past

just like they always do.


Happy Friday everyone. I hope you had a wonderful Valentines and remembered all the love that should come from you too. See you next week.

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What the Living Do–Poetry

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Sometimes, when the words are just right and the cadence isn’t too loose or too tight, you just might strike gold in a poem. At least that’s what I’m beginning to think.

This quarter has started off with quite the ride, as I got sick on the first day of classes yesterday with some sort of stomach flu and had to call out from work–lucky for me that I had late classes I could at least drag myself to in order not to get dropped. Don’t worry though, to add to the fun, I got a speeding ticked along the way. Yay for adulting and taking responsibility for my actions…

In the meantime before class and willing myself to still go, I spend quite a few hours yesterday in and out of sleep or laying over the side of my bed with a trash can, staring at my bookshelf because I didn’t want to move too much.

And I found this book, a book of poems, that seems to tell a story through each one in a way I haven’t read in a while.

I wanted to share it with you.

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The craft itself seems to be telling short truths, almost cliches or obvious trains of thought in the form of short lines that has changed what the standard of poetry has become.

But this one doesn’t do that. So to take a break from my own work and show you something, a form, you probably haven’t seen in a while, here’s the poem I’ve got for you today. No commentary, no further prelude, just poetry. Soak it all in and let me know what you think about it.


Marie Howe–What the Living Do: Rochester, New York, July 1989

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Early summer evenings, the city kids would ride their bikes down his street
no-handed, leaning back in their seats, and bump over the curb

of the empty Red Cross parking lot next door where Joe’s car was parked, and
John’s white Honda, broken and unregistered…everything blooming,

that darkening in the trees before the sky goes dark: the sweetness of the lilacs
and the grass smell…

And the sound on the front porch steps was wooden and hollow,
and up the narrow stairway stuffy and dim, and the upper door maybe a little

open—and in the hall and left into his room: someone might be sitting there
reading, or sometimes only him, sleeping,

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or lying awake, his face turned toward the door,
and he would raise a hand….

And the woman who lived below them played the piano. She was a teacher, and
sometimes we’d hear that stumbling repetition people make when they’re

learning a new song, and sometimes she’d play alone—she’d left a note
in his mailbox saying she would play softly for him. And those evenings,

when the sky was sunless but not yet dark, and the birdsong grew loud in the trees,
just after supper, when the kids wheeled by silently

or quietly talking from their bikes, when the daylilies closed up
alongside the house,

music would sometimes drift up through the floorboards,

and he might doze or wake a little or sleep,
and whoever was with him might lean back in the chair beside the bed

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and not know it was Chopin,
but something soft and pretty—maybe not even hear it,

not really, until it stopped
—the way you know a scent from a flowering tree once you’ve passed it.


See you Friday.

Setting Fire– Poetry Place

Happy Poetry Place day!!

So this one is a little different today, it’s actually a short story made up of haikus. I wanted to return to haikus for a little bit since they are surprisingly versatile and I also wanted to try to tell a story… Plus, California is on fire so that’s partially what I started off writing about before spinning it into a metaphor for something else. SO without further ado, here’s what I’ve got for you and I hope that you like it. Please do let me know what you think.


Setting Fire

Your meandering
smiles haunted me for a while,
and then you were gone.

But a fire lit
with a match to my mind and
now it won’t go out.

With all my eggs in
one basket…so what happens
if that basket breaks?

If the seams pull tight
and the hope breaks right down the
center, it must mend

with time we don’t have
and care we cannot give you.
There’s only one way

through, from something that
burns you from the inside out,
everything’s on fire.

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Photo by Dave Michuda on Unsplash

And one day you hope
to wake up and find out that
somehow the fire’s been

put out. So when the
morning comes and the sun sings
to you, just maybe

you can breathe in the
air, among the ash and the
past, you find a hope

that maybe this time
that basket finally held
and that fire burned

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Photo by Paul Wong on Unsplash

itself out. Welcome
to today: the first day of the rest
the rest of your life.


I know it needs work but that’s what writing is all about after all, the editing process. So if you have any suggestions or a quick comment, let me know! And I will see you on Friday.

Old Fashioned Love– Poetry

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Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Here’s a little poetry for your Tuesday, inspired by the older poetry I’ve been studying in class. It’s interesting to realize that most writing was about religion back then, the faith and the hope people put into a power beyond them just to get through their days and their lives. Fascinating really.

But, enough of that, my point with telling you that is to explain how I modeled these poems. Each is a love poem, written in a way someone would about their own faith. So check them out and let me know what you think.

Without further ado, Poetry Place.

One

Tell me of our navel’s gaze

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Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

when our pasts cannot

reconcile.

Hurt me with my love’s ill hope

when only one can

smile.

Blame me of the sin we keep;

Indict me for our

trials.

But love me not and let me fall.

I concede my heart’s

exile.

Two

I let you be the needle, weaving

threads throughout my love,

making textiles out of

my pain.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Blanket me dearly, tie my arms

behind my back, take my clothes,

drag my worth out through

the rain.

Wash me clean, let the grace fall

deeply to my bones. I will cry,

out at the brightness of

my shame.

In and out pass through me now, open

wide these empty tombs, fill me up

flood each alley with the whispers of

your name.

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Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash

Take my eyes, take my heart, take

patterned squares within my soul, leave

me open, leave me scarred to

the blame.

For it is mine and mine alone, each

sin that holds me close, you take

my love, I give my life as yours

to claim.


See you Friday.

Robert Frost and an Original– Two Poems

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Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

As I head back to SLO today, I’m thinking that sometimes transparency can be a good thing. I wrote the second poem here a little bit ago to play with a new style and in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day which is September 10th; for the love of poetry, I’ve included one of my favorite Robert Frost poems too.

Remember to treat yourself like someone you love this week, happy Tuesday everyone. Here’s what I’ve got for you.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening– Robert Frost

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Photo by Lilian Velet on Unsplash

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Transparency

The sadness can’t even
ache anymore;
it just sits
and stays
and holds
and hurts.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

It leaves me empty and desperate
for someone
to help me up
or out
or away
or through
or within.

For the loneliness, it’s cruel
to want ignorance
so soon
so badly
so achingly…
So please.

Tell me why broken
dreams make a home
out of me,
leave me lonely
and too tired
to keep this up
on my own;

I can’t bear
this weight
any longer–
The ache,
it never stopped,
did it?


If there’s anything you like or anything you would like to see more of from me, feel free to hop over to the Contact Me section; I would love to hear from you. See you all on Friday.