It’s been awhile since I regaled you with a little verse. Okay, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever ‘regaled’ anyone with anything I’ve written. But here’s a poem I scribbled down and now it’s part yours.
have you ever
thought you knew everything
about a human heart
only to find out,
in clips and phrases
exchange of words,
those priceless commodities,
that you didn’t, in fact,
like them at all?
With every volley of
and self-doubting forays
trying to figure out the complexities
that every one of those micro chasms of worlds
in their lit-up brains
from the sadness to the fury
the senseless damage survived,
the deep, erotic bites hungered after
and the sweet forgiveness
layer by layer
that you didn’t like them
not at all.
and all along,
you, in fact,
It was a goal heavy year. I talked briefly a few weeks ago about how to set up your own yearly goals in a manageable way, but today I want to talk about you. That’s right…not some bullet list on a webpage or a chart of tick-them-off boxes. I want to talk about the beautiful human on the other side of the screen. Stop looking over your shoulder, it’s you. I mean you.
Now maybe I know you, personally. Maybe we’ve never met. The point is, I think you’re amazing. You may not believe me. It’s okay. I’ve talked A LOT about not believing everything you read…and my words are no different. So allow me to offer proof.
This year has been tough. Hell, the last two have been a raging dumpster fire…for nearly everyone who wasn’t making a personal rocket ship to go play Spaceman Spiff while countless other humans suffered in poverty, starvation, and lack of medical care on the Earth. No wonder they were so anxious to leave for ten minutes and show how awesome it is to have money… but I digress…
The point I’m trying to make is that you’ve survived 100% of all your worst days.
At the start of a new year we have a tendency to look back (sometimes like Indian Jones on the destructive explosions of warplanes and tanks going over cliffs, shaking on torn knees, dirty, bent, beat to hell, and wondering how we survived, still clinging to our favorite hats) and worry that the next year will only be worse—Nazis, aliens…Shia LaBeouf—it could get a lot worse.
But it could get a whole lot better.
And we have some say in that. Now, we don’t always have a say in the bigger things of the world. I’ll never change the inequality of women or be able to change the mind of every little girl who’s been told, (like her mother and her mother before her…and so on) that being skinny is the height of desirability and beauty.
But I can shift the way I speak around my daughters. I can shift the way I talk to my friends (and speak up for them when they cannot speak well of themselves). I can shift the way I talk to myself.
I can’t fight capitalism. But I can support companies that pay their workers a living wage. I can’t change lobbyists, or billionaires, or any number of corrupt, societal ruining forces. But I can lend a helping hand. I can volunteer. I can protest. I can stand up and use my voice, I can vote…
When we look at the battles ahead of us in this new year, let us pick ones we can charge into wisely. And please, for the love of mental health, let us start with the ones in our own heads.
The direction of your life, the ability to lift yourself above old and destructive habits has everything to do with how you speak to yourself. Your voice is the only one in your head 24/7. Your body is the only one you live in. Your voice, your mind, your heart, your body—every single one of those things is beautiful. Every one of them is enough. And they (read: you) deserve to be taken care of, loved, and respected.
So when we look into this new year, I only ask that you change one thing.
I want you to change how you talk to yourself. Be bigger than what the world wants you to be. Take up space and use that space to spread compassion and acceptance. Be outspoken with your understanding, your need for justice, and most of all, be outspoken with love.
Life is short. This could be the first year of a long and beautiful rest-of-your-life.
It could be your last year on Earth.
You simply do not know, so spend it with your heart and passions in mind. Draw and hold boundaries where they need to be and do not apologize for cutting out the people who are hurtful or refuse to acknowledge that you are enough. Speak well of yourself. Speak kindly to yourself. Accept every soul-bump as part of being beautifully human. Don’t be cruel, but take no bullshit.
We humans–we’re a beautiful mess. Falling in and out of love, drunk on passion and enthusiasm one minute, and stumbling into the gutter of disappointment the next. I say, just do your best, little human. Until you know better, then do the better. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. But don’t give away your light and energy to people who don’t appreciate and return it.
It’s just that simple. And just that complex. It’s just. that. human.
Today is my mom, (Christine Wickstrom’s) birthday, so before I get all poetic on your asses, let us take a moment:
Here’s to another trip around the sun with the woman who loved, fed, raised, and let me survive my teenage-hood. You’re a spiritual whirlwind, a passionate crusader, the raucous laughter I hear in my own voice, and the sturdy rock on which I was built. Also, sorry for using the word ‘asses’ up there…and again just now. Have a lovely day, take naps, eat good food, enjoy the sunshine and the new dawn of spring. I love you to the moon and back again.
And now, this:
They used to say,
over coffee cups
behind her turned back
that she was an old soul
Even at six
when she struggled to sit pious
in pews too hard for anything
Or dreamed beside lazy rivers
in tall, cool grass
feet barefoot and setting roots
in worship of the bigger gods
An old soul, she thought, was
used, misused, tarnished
worn thin like soles
on the bottom of shoes
She thought her soul
looked like beaten leather
and scarred with use
Everyone else got a new one
right out of the box
the day they were born
the 'new soul' smell still clinging
smooth, shiny, glowing
with kinetic possibility
But what choice did she have?
Old was far better than none.
Six turned to sixteen
and all the years blended
in hues of decisions
and roads taken
the ones where she felt,
memories walked beside her
and footsteps recalled
and every where felt like home
in far off rooms of her old soul.
Sixteen to thirty
and on to forty
and on, and on
and her dented soul carried
tears and laughter
just as well as any other
Because new souls, she learned,
were breakable and brittle
they faltered in storms and
dented at the slightest strike
In the same span of years
the glittering glow of the new
was thin like a grocery store bag,
plastic urban jellyfish, aimless
and at the whim of every breeze that blew
But old souls
are stalwart souls
They grounded roots
feet in dirt and
sturdy branches rising.
Fingers tasting every flavor of life
without being swayed to break.
Old souls have lived it all before
and are wise to the ways
of errant breezes and
the fickle affections of years.
Old souls, she learned, came back
loved and experienced once more,
into only those vessels
strong enough to carry them.
Just a quick reminder that the poetry anthology is accepting submissions until September of 2021. I’m already receiving some truly amazing work. In the next few months I will be featuring and promoting the poets who have submitted their work. I encourage you to support their work and check out their other writing endeavors. If you have something to contribute to the “Wilderness of Soul” please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Today, I’m offering up a couple of poems in semi-celebration of this strange month of ‘love’. Enjoy the broad spectrum of heart.
Growing a scar is hard.
The wound never stops throbbing
It’s enough to keep you awake at night
And irritated during the day.
The thrashed skin, angry and red,
Prying open at the slightest provocation
So you wrap the bandage
Good and tight,
Until the rest of the limb
Distal to the wound
Throbs with its chokehold,
Gasping for blood.
But no pain either
And no dead skin,
Hanging to catch on your clothes.
At every minute
Bump against door,
Or paper turn
We were girls in tall grass
Running with scraped knees
And dry throats.
Disappearing into the past
When things were simple
When life was sunshine
And big-dipper gazing
We were the past
I can’t quite recall anymore
But the whisper of memory I hold on to
Like the edge of a cliff
What if I forget?
Will we both stop existing?
Will we snuff out
Without the constant loop playing
Over and over in my memory?
Do I keep you alive?
Or does your memory keep me?
Your bike gears were gritty with sand
and the vinyl on your seat was cracked
so you never sat.
You were never still.
You were perpetual motion
And magic kept you aloft.
How still and fallen you lay now.
The earth is tender and cruel
Around bones that once
Commanded the rotation of the skies.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers these movies. I think, they may be partly to blame for my current profession (not the karate instructor—the other one, that pays even less). I loved the quirky, unrealistic way that the original frumpy romance novelist came upon adventure and began living the kinds of stories she only wrote about before. I also loved that by the second film we see her living this exotic and adventurous life and still suffering writers block brought on by lack of romance in her characters.
Because no matter how much adventure, vine-swinging, sheik angering, and Jewel finding you do, if you’re not in love with your novel, no one else will be either.
Bam. Mic drop. Blog finished, I can go take a nap….
*sigh* ok, I’ll elaborate.
Romance isn’t just about what happens between the sheets in a typical Harlequin. Romance is about creating a smolder, a heat, an intrigue between your characters, and between your story and your readers.
When I titled this blog, I worried I would lose those writers who focus on different genres and have little need for ‘romance’. Suck that (respectfully), we all need romance. Humans are born to seek out connection. Now, the phases of it and levels of requirement are different. But the truth remains that if there isn’t chemistry between your characters…be it platonic, hate, or lust…the story will fall flat.
Well, gee whiz, Sarah, what do I do about my Scifi Cowboy Inter-dimensional six book series where no speaking women exist because I’m THAT kind of author.
First of all—ugh, way to cut out 50% of the entire thinking, capable, and amazing population and demote us to some hot object in a skimpy space suit, so 1960’s of you. Secondly, your ‘lone star’ lead has to have some connection to someone or something. A loyal side kick, his long-lost brother, his space ship, or *puke* if you must, even some hot object in a space suit.
Otherwise, he lacks a pathway for your reader to connect to him. Characters that ‘don’t need anybody’ are fine, but you may find that attitude extends to your readers. They won’t need him either. Characters, even the lone wolf, are better if they really do need people and are just too afraid to say something, until somewhere in act three.
“Hurrumph—well, I write non-fiction only. There is no romance. Its fact and common knowledge. I do not deal in fluff.”
Lady, (or mister?) listen. The numbers of readers you will get from a book that is all fact and no heart (i.e. romance) will be disappointing. I can’t think of a single person who goes back to their high school American history book and eats up 100 pages on the American Revolution (I’m sure they exist okay, there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ informative book). I can, however, name numerous people all salivating over Hamilton tickets. Why? Because THAT story, makes us fall in love with the characters. The writer found romance in the people, situation, and actions of the time. It created a bond by connecting us to common feelings, needs, and emotions. And that’s what romance is really about in writing. Appealing to the human divine in all of us.
So, in this made-up month of love, explore your current work in progress and ask yourself if you are in love with these characters, their story. Ask if your character is hell-bent and heart centered on someone or something three-dimensional to ground themselves to. Is it throwing spice into the reading? Or is the plot fizzling? Where and how can you use romance to draw in and maintain your reader’s attention?
After all, romance is not romance, if it doesn’t have an anchor of reality at its heart.
Hello kids. Listen, lately this blog has been heavy handed with the writerly stuff. Let’s face it, a lot is going on in the world and sometimes its nice to focus on something we can control, something we can improve, something we can do.
I began this blog with a rant that just sprung out of the general feeling of hopelessness, anger, frustration and worry. For my family, my community, my country. I began on a three paragraph spewing about inequality and why the government and richest among us love to stoke the fires of divisiveness. I began, this early morning, festering outwardly what I’ve been festering inwardly for the last three an a half years.
Because our country has turned to a festering shit pile that’s hard to ignore. But we all know it. We all see ourselves behaving like hateful, ignorant assholes, but…everyone’s doing it so it makes it ok? See? Witness how easy it is for me to fall back into the loop that keeps me up at night, gives me anxiety, and makes me plan to move off the grid and become a hermit.
But today is about reprieve. A break. A rest.
Something different is called for. And so, to take a side road from writing (while not diving into the sewage that our current state of affairs has become), I want to talk about song lyrics.
Specifically, those lyrics from songs that stick into the sides of our hearts. That spur inspiration in our brains. That connect us as human beings. Surely you’ve got a few rambling around in your neurons. I’m going to give you a few here, and links to the songs.
Your exercise this week is to listen to some of your favorites and something new. Think about the words and how they correspond with your own experiences.
Writing is not as powerful if, at some point, the reader (or listener) doesn’t sit back and say to themselves ‘man, I’ve been there’.
Your job, in essence is to find a way to connect to a complete stranger by letting their words affect you.
Here you go:
I heard this one earlier in the week and it had been years. As I’ve aged, it’s struck different and more meaningful emotions in me.
“Once upon a time there was an ocean But now it’s a mountain range Something unstoppable set into motion Nothing is different, but everything’s changed
It’s a dead end job, and you gets tired of sittin’ And it’s like a nicotine habit you’re always thinking about quittin’ I think about quittin’ every day of the week When I look out my window it’s brown and it’s bleak
Outta here How am I gonna get outta here? I’m thinking outta here When am I gonna get outta here? And when will I cash in my lottery ticket And bury my past with my burdens and strife? I want to shake every limb in the garden of Eden And make every love the love of my life
I figure that once upon a time I was an ocean But now I’m a mountain range Something unstoppable set into motion Nothing is different, but everything’s changed
Found a room in the heart of the city, down by the bridge Hot plate and TV and beer in the fridge But I’m easy, I’m open, that’s my gift I can flow with the traffic, I can drift with the drift Home again? Naw, never going home again Think about home again? I never think about homeBut then comes a letter from home The handwriting’s fragile and strange Something unstoppable set into motion Nothing is different, but everything’s changed
The light through the stained glass was cobalt and red And the frayed cuffs and collars were mended by haloes of golden thread The choir sang, “Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean” And all the old hymns and family names came fluttering down as leaves of emotion
As nothing is different, but everything’s changed”
This man is brilliant, in voice and lyric. There’s something dark and gritty in him that brings out the underbelly of love:
“Love ain’t nothing more than black magic You better want what you wish for It might happen I drank your poison Fell under your spell Love is hell and nothing more than black magic
Love is like a bag of drugs it blows out both your knees Innocence gets tangled when you hang it on a string Both our eyes were foggy glass, too high to ever see The devil’s sleight of hand, twisting fate with ancient ink”
This song…is on my alarm in the morning…Because what we have is what we are and where we’ve been has gotten us this far.
“Every tree has got a root And every girl forbidden fruit and got her demons And the path I chose to go, a different girl so long ago I had my reasons
And she’s in my head so loud, screaming “Shouldn’t you be proud of what you came from? Oh, you’ve been crippled and you’ve walked on You’ve been shut up and you talked, so let’s talk some more”
Where is the hand for me to reach? Where is the moral I’ll ever teach myself? In all the black, in all the grief, I am redeemed
And its ripping at my heart Because Im dodging all the darts and on a slow train And then Ill wear it til it tatters And it shatters on the floor in instant replay
Oh, were all rotten and were pure And were just looking for the cure that feels like spring snow And all we have is who we are and where we’ve been got us this far, so let me go”
This woman’s voice and writing is so empowering. I recommend listening to this one while you’re out walking, or running, or moving. It’s a heart-helper.
“The way you smile When you believe in it, in your future It’s different, it’s different
Now we moving forward, ever backwards Never forward, ever backwards, never And when the going gets rough and life gets tough Don’t forget to breathe
I love it here ‘Cause I don’t have to explain to them Why I’m valuable, that I’m magical And back home they tear Tear my soul apart Love my broken heart I don’t know where to start
The way you smile when you believe in it, in your future It’s different”
I could go on ALL DAY. But I’ll only give you two more.
This has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It feels like a whole journey through life and the one lesson at the end you wished you’d known sooner. And this video, I believe, was compiled by some amateur videographers. It’s brilliant. It feels like what my soul would do, if it were untethered from fear.
“Hello, my old heart How have you been? Are you still there inside my chest? I’ve been so worried, you’ve been so still Barely beating at all
Oh, oh, don’t leave me here alone Don’t tell me that we’ve grown For having loved a little while Oh, oh, I don’t wanna be alone I wanna find a home And I wanna share it with you
Hello, my old heart It’s been so long Since I’ve given you away And every day, I add another stone To the walls I built around you To keep you safe
Oh, oh, don’t leave me here alone Don’t tell me that we’ve grown For having loved a little while Oh, oh, I don’t wanna be alone I wanna find a home And I wanna share it with you
Hello, my old heart How have you been? How is it being locked away? Don’t you worry, in there, you’re safe And it’s true, you’ll never beat But you’ll never break
Nothing lasts forever Some things aren’t meant to be But you’ll never find the answers Until you set your old heart free Until you set your old heart free”
If you haven’t been listening to them so far it’s cool. But, PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS ONE. PLEASE WATCH THIS ONE. In today’s hurtful environment, we all need to be reminded that every man is a son to a daughter. Every woman is a daughter to a father. We should always treat each other as if we are gifts, in need of love and understanding. It should be forefront in every heart and mind.
“What I’ve learnt from the ocean Hard to dance and rejoice in the motion Let the sun have its moment The moon will come What I’ve learnt from a soldier Every man is a son to a daughter And we only remember When we see the blood
Don’t grow up on me Keep that backstroke in your Afro Don’t you grow up on me Slow up homie Don’t you grow up on me Keep it OG sipping slowly Don’t you grow up on me Slow up homie
Don’t you show off on me Don’t you grow up on me Show off on me
What I’ve learnt from a traveler There’s no road that can lead to nirvana There’s a world to discover But home is love
What I’ve learnt from a mirror Look too hard and you’ll find you a stranger Love is just a decision The choice is yours”
All right, writers. The choice is yours, how you do this day. Are you an ocean or a mountain range? All you’ve gone through has led you to where you are today. And while love is like a bag of drugs that blows out both your knees, you’ll never find the answers until you set your old heart free. I hope you move forwards, ever. Backwards, never. And know that love is just a decision; the choice is yours. I hope you choose love.
Okay, you can call it a cop out, but I loved this blog and I’m rerunning it.
It’s that time of year when we are faced with a choice that defines our humanity. The choice to either believe in the light of the season in all the forms it takes and spread our own joy to illuminate the shortened days, or the choice to be petty and divisive and shit on other people’s beliefs.
Don’t be petty and shitty, not any time, but especially not this time of year.
The world is dark enough as it is.
Be good to each other.
Psst… if you’re looking for a way to be good, especially after you read this tear-jerking post then click on this link (or find the similar site for your own state) and spread some joy:
I hear there have been some questions at school and amongst your friends, about if Santa Claus is real.
There comes a time, in most kids lives, when they are taught to grow up and out of what some adults call “silly, fanciful, daydreams.” And so adults and peers will go about destroying everything that even whiffs of magic, and work hard to wipe away every ounce of stardust from the eyes of children who believe.
To this I say…shut it your mean-hearted pieholes, you wankers. (And anyone who hasn’t, at some point in their existence, called a middle schooler a wanker is probably lying. Let’s face it, middle school was/is not our finest hour as humans.)
I’m willing to bet that these are the same little judgmentalists that gave you sideways glances for not attending a church (particularly one of a Christian persuasion).
These are the people who will say it’s obviously impossible for a generous old guy to deliver presents to kids one night of the year, while simultaneously cherishing and accepting the “fact” that a deity impregnated a virgin and their child wiped away the entirety of sin in the world…
If they can suspend reality, even base their lives around an idea of, albeit a cool, hippy/demigod, is it such a stretch to believe in a jolly old elf that spreads the ideals of generosity and selfless giving for just one day?
(To be clear–I’m an equal opportunity believer so I won’t touch your demigod hippy if you don’t touch my fat guy in a red suit.)
I refuse to lose my stardust. As Anne Shirley would say; I refuse to be poisoned by their bitterness.
You want to know if there is magic? If Santa is real?
Here’s what I know…
Santa is real and magic exists.
How can I be sure?
I’m here aren’t I? You’re here, yes? We’re all here.
We were sprung from the unlikely combination of a chemical lottery and dumb, cosmic luck. We went on to survive hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary death traps.
If that’s not magical, what is?
Here’s what I also know.
There are two types of people in the world.
Those that destroy joy, and those that spread it.
I say, it does no harm to believe in something better, more beautiful, and magical in our lives (Hippy Demigod or Santa Claus).
I say, it does no harm to fill our eyes with wonder and joy in the midst of the darkest day of the year.
I say, it does no harm to hope and anticipate.
I say, it does no harm to walk into these short cold days with elation in our hearts.
I say, what a horrible, dark and sad world it must be for those that seek to take away such light; those who disbelieve and ridicule others who hold magic in their heart.
It does harm to take someone’s joy.
It does harm to smother the fire of giving and generosity.
It does harm when we seek to oppress the light of selflessness in a world so dark.
I know this; each one of us chooses what we believe.
We choose what we fill our hearts with and in a world that can be so gloomy and wretched, why would you want to fill your heart with anything that would make it even more so?
I choose to believe.
I believe in Santa Claus and I believe in magic.
I believe that there is light in the darkest of times. And I believe that the joy radiating from the hearts that hope, and love, and give, is more real than any hot air getting blown around by a bunch of self-conscious, hormonal, dying-to-fit-in middle schoolers.
I can’t decide for you, but neither can they.
So you choose.
Embrace the joy, be the magic, and light up the dark… or reject the lot of it and wipe the stardust from your eyes.
Last night was my last class, officially, teaching at the karate school I’ve been at for nearly five years. It is a necessary step that had to happen for the health of my heart and mind. I’ll be taking the next month completely out of that world to reset my perspective and see where my love and energy really belongs. Perhaps I will return, refreshed. Perhaps the universe has other plans for me.
This is the way of the orbiting dance of life.
Even when a move feels like the right one to take, it can be difficult. What we leave behind can often open up holes of melancholy and bittersweet sadness in our chest.
So this is for you; those who are leaving, those who’ve been left. If you are in one of the hundreds of delicate transitions that come with the years of breathing, take heart.
And leave heart.
I leave behind pieces of myself
In every heart that I have loved.
So that I may live a thousand different lives
And share their journey in a million different moments.
I spread toes in broken sand
and sing with the breath of black loam forests.
Blaze in pursuit of sunsets and stretch,
reborn to every dawn
I leave behind pieces of myself
So that every pulse
in every heart of my heart
Is a star in the sky,
I leave behind pieces of myself
In every heart that I have loved
So that I may touch the world with their hands
See the world through their eyes,
Beg them lay still when they need rest
And filter and fiber their blood as they race
down dusty borders of earth and sky
I aid the fire and fever as they fall to love
and mend softly the wounds suffered there after
I leave behind pieces of myself,
In every heart I have loved
So that I may live a thousand lives
Be born and grow old,
Laugh out joy
Cry through despair
So if I am far away from you now,
By streets or by stars.
Know that I am not gone.
I am stitched into your heart
A patch of peace, when the weary world shouts too loud
Hello Poetry lovers…or maybe you’re just poetry dabblers. Whatever the case, and your current thoughts on the boiled-down marvel of words, here’s today’s poem. Share it, comment on it, like it or don’t.
Again, still open for submissions. I’m super excited to be featuring a beautiful poem next week from Jennifer Munoz, so stay tuned for that!