Category: self-reflection


Poetry

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nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it.
- excerpt from Poetry by Marianne Moore

I haven’t always loved poetry. It’s confusing and obtuse and frequently leaves me frustrated. But I can’t quit reading it.

Because in the cadence of the words there is truth. Poetry is the fastest way to share the indescribable  elements of reality without music. Those real toads are especially difficult to deal with when their hardens are imaginary.

Which is why I hardly ever share the poetry I write.

Not that I write poems that often. In fact, I can really only write poetry when I’m surprisingly happy. And the poems are never very good. (Which is another reason I hardly evershow the poems I’ve written to anyone)

But, despite all the current madness in my life currently, I’ve been writing poetry. These ones would have to be revised (which I don’t have time for), so they’ll still probably never be read, even if they weren’t so revealing.  I’m just glad to be writing them in all their terrible glory.

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I am spectacularly terrible at interpersonal relationships. I have several theories as to why, but I think my primary source for the exquisite ways I manage to damage my relationships stems from my inability to stop thinking.

The very first time I read “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot, my first thought was “That’s me!” I probably should’ve reigned in my enthusiasm because poor Prufrock is a mess. He wanders through the whole poem noticing details that bear no weight in his life and asking himself if he should act to change his course. And at the very end of the poem he hears the mermaids signing and remains so indecisive that he doesn’t act and the moment passes. Prufrock over-thinks his entire life and so ends up caught when the human voices wake him. Which is funny in that sad way funny moments in stories often are when they ring too true.

I also really love Prufrock because of his similarity to another of my favorite characters: Hamlet. But Prufrock doesn’t see himself as the lead in his own life. In fact, Prufrock explicitly states he’s “no Prince Hamlet”. For those of you playing along at home, we call that irony. Because Prufrock is Hamlet in poem form with less blood on the stage. Neither character can make a decision to save their lives. Hamlet just has the weight of the realm on his shoulders, while Prufrock has a dinner party.

Both of these men have to decide but find themselves stuck in their indecisiveness because they are thinking through every possible situation and possible outcome: they over-think.

And this is why I love both of these characters.

Because I frequently find myself stymied when it comes to making a decision. All of the layers of information weighing on my decision slows the process. Just to decide what I want to eat takes evaluating numerous elements, and that’s just for me. I turn the decision over to someone else when I’m with a group, because I’m never able to decide out of fear of making a bad choice. So I think over the question and my many possible answers for a long time. But, most of the time, this thinking ends up wasted because I always second-guess my decisions. The human voices wake us and we drown.

And so, when I read Hamlet and Prufrock my first semester as an underclassmen, I knew I was finally in a place with kindred spirits who take their decisions very seriously. And while this realization that such sad characters reflect such an innate personality trait might lead other to despair, I found comfort in knowing that others have felt like me. Probably less often, but, still, other existed who understood.

It is not, however, all doom and gloom. There is always a pathway for connection through the indecisiveness. I have met some interesting people along the way because I’ve hesitated, which allowed them the space to stop and chat. And, actually, the easiest way I’ve found to get a stranger to stop and talk is to look a little lost.

I’m still not entirely sure what to do when the human voices speak, but I’ve decided to try to look a little lost more often to try to meet those real people who can relate to Prufrock and Hamlet. And I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing my thoughts on this poem that has so captivated me I want to pin pieces of it around me. I’m sure I could write books on the different meanings the poem has had for me over the years since I first went wandered through the half-deserted streets with Prufrock. But this post will suffice for now. I would love to hear your thoughts on the poem, so please do share in the comments!

My final thought will be to you with the recording of Eliot reading the poem himself below.

This is a fair warning post.

I’ve written a number of posts that are very self-reflective that I’ve never published. They’ve been coalescing in my drafts folder until such a time as I was ready for other people to read them.

Now is that time. For some of them.

Keep in mind you don’t have to read any of the posts. If you think you’ll think of me poorly, or like a real person with flaws, or you just don’t care, or some other take altogether, that’s cool. Don’t read them. I certainly won’t be grading you, and you’ll still be welcome to whichever posts you want to read and comment on.

Please do share your thoughts, questions, anecdotes on posts with comments! Sometimes the idea has to be shared in order to make room for new ideas. And if any of my posts do that for you, feel free to use the comment section!

(Though I will remove all names connected to me from comments, and will remove comments that are simply attacking or belittling me or anyone else along the way. This is my space, and I expect this to be a space of respect (which doesn’t mean agreement).)

Business card holder. Or the history of the earth in your hand.I’m not sure when growing up transitions to getting older, but I think I’m in that stage now. Later this year will mark 30 years that I’ve walked the planet, but I think reading this blog post by one of the high school students from my work drove home the realization that soon the joke I have of what I will do when I grow up will move to absurd.

But even when the joke is absurd, I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’m grown up. Maybe it’s because I’ve looked pretty much the same (with the exception of the length of and amount of gray in my hair, and the addition of glasses) since my sophomore of high school. Or maybe it’s because I’ve always been told I’m an old soul (though less frequently as I add years).

I don’t really know. How does one every know when they’ve grown up? Based on the social milestones passed? Or do you just wake up one day and realized you’ve finally grown up? Or perhaps you grow up when you realize you aren’t invincible and that death is a part of life. (If that is it, then I think I realized that early enough that it’s part of my life already so perhaps I’ve always been getting older and never growing up.)

I’m not sure that I want to grow up. Not because I have a Peter Pan complex, but because I think that if I felt like I’d grown up, I wouldn’t have any new goal to continue striving for. I’m content with who I am, yet there are still many things I’d like to do. That transition to getting older seems so final, and I’m not ready for final. I don’t even like making solid plans longer than a month or so. And even then, I only solidify what I have to. Like plane tickets to visit friends.

And perhaps this random collection of thoughts stems from nostalgia that comes with age.

Or maybe I’m just getting old.

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