Sunday, April 21, 2013

On Melancholy and Song Lyrics and Poetry

P.S.  I know it's weird to start a post with a P.S., but I feel like the postscript in this post is perhaps more important than the original post (which I published last night, and am now adding to).  First of all, when I read this post today, I rolled my eyes at myself a bit, so know that I completely understand if you roll your eyes a bit, too.  I kind of don't even want to re-read it, but it's there, and I don't think I will be deleting it.  So here's the postscript: yes, I know this post is kinda melancholy, and it is true that I am going through a bit of a rough spell right now.  But here are some more truths:

On Saturday I went shopping with my mom and Amélie, and we had a lovely day together.

Matt and I sat out on our front porch yesterday in workout clothes and robes (nothing sexier than robes AND tennis shoes being worn at the same time), and we chatted and laughed at ourselves as we sipped smoothies made for us by our daughter and her friend. 

Jack lost another tooth this weekend, and as I watched him grin up at me with toothless pride, my heart melted into a puddle of pure, absolute joy.

My friend Jeannine came over last night, and we watched Mr. Selfridge and sat out on our side porch with Matt talking way, way too late.  But we were having such a good time that I didn't notice how swiftly the time was passing.

So, what I say below is true, very true, but what I have written above?  That is also true, perhaps even more true.

This week I thought I was going to write about the Amish (technically Old German Baptist) wedding we recently attended.  I would like to write about that experience, and maybe I will soon.  I am going to be posting about our relationship with our Old German Baptist friends over at Practicing Families on Wednesday, so stay tuned for that. 

Today, however, I don’t really want to talk about a wedding.  I want to talk about poetry and song lyrics.  Do you ever get a poem or a song in your head and you can’t quit chanting or singing or mumbling those words? 

Sometimes, Matt tortures me with a song we sang together in our high school ensemble.  I won't be so cruel as to torture you today.  Amélie often walks around the house singing an Abba tune, and sometimes I hear Jack in his room humming the Star Wars theme song.  I always seem to have a song in my head.  In fact, I catch myself humming my way through the grocery store.  I can’t help it.  It's a little embarrassing.  A lot of times, a song gets stuck in my head because I have had it on repeat or because its tune is catchy.  Sometimes, though, there’s a deeper reason. 
Lately, I have had both a song and a poem in my head.

The song I have been singing is "Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers.
The story of the song doesn't relate to me all that much.  But there's this line in the song that I can't get out of my head. 
It's better to feel pain
Than nothing at all.
The opposite of love's indifference.
Matt and I actually argued about that song on our way to the Old German Baptist wedding.  We both liked the line, "The opposite of love's indifference," but he didn't agree with me that, "It's better to feel pain / Than nothing at all." 
He would rather feel nothing. 
I would rather feel pain. 
We're different that way, I guess. 
The other lines that keep running through my head are from an Emily Dickinson poem.  Here is the poem in its entirety:
After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Here are the lines that keep echoing in my head:

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;


This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

This morning, in fact, I was digging through the refrigerator for some yogurt, and I caught myself mumbling out loud...

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Let's just clear the air right here.  I know it's weird to be crouched in front of one's refrigerator mumbling anything, much less melancholy Emily Dickinson poetry.  I know that. 

I remember a dark time about eleven years ago when another poet's words constantly replayed in my head.  They were the words of the poet Sylvia Plath in her poem "Elm":

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

I would wake up in the middle of the night with those words running through my head, chasing me even in my dreams. 

Sometimes, I still do feel the dark thing that sleeps in me, but I no longer believe in its malignancy.  Instead, we usually work alongside each other in melancholy, but quiet, companionship.  It's not like that time.  I don't want to die.  I am fairly certain I won't be spending any time on the psychiatric wing of a hospital. 

I really am pretty much OK. 

I don't really want to say much else, I guess.  My blog is not a confessional.  You don't need me to vomit my insides out all over your computer monitor (you're welcome for that consideration on my part AND that lovely image). 

I just want to stake my claim, my struggle, here. 

If you look into my eyes, I don't think you will see the struggle.  I can look into your own eyes and listen and talk with a presence that is truly genuine.

If you come to my house, my bed will (usually) be made, dinner may very well be simmering on the stove, I might be teaching Amélie about the life of a medieval peasant girl. 

But if a strong wind came by and whipped the covers off of my soul, you would see a girl
whose faith feels shredded
whose heart is sore
who is crouched low in the chill and the stupor, just waiting for that moment of letting go. 


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