My blog theme may be turning into “It’s all About Timing.” That feeling when what you’re reading is exactly what you’re going through in real life. Perfect Timing. I’m seeing grandfather clocks, wrist watches, stopwatches… Now that scene in All Dogs Go to Heaven with the ticking and the clouds and the floating …
I’ve probably mentioned it all over the blog already, but poetry is mostly timing.
Modern-day poet and surprisingly wonderful photographer, R.H. Sin has impeccable timing. Great poetry too, but mostly perfect timing.
Myself, my best friend, and a fairly new friend from work all went through break up (ish) scenarios at the same time. This was also the same time R.H. Sin came into my life and, by extension, was pushed into theirs.
Sin’s Whiskey Words and a Shovel series got me through my break up slump. I read the second book, the first book, then the third book. Out of order, but in the perfect order for me.
*I have someone who is tired of me writing about sad times. But I think it’s the sad times that shape you, make you stronger. She asks when I will write about good times, asks why I am sad still, and says that she likes happy things. I like happy things too, but rough times have been had. Only now that I’m okay and happy am I able to write about the sad in an all-encompassing way, though.
I am almost done, I promise.
I relied so heavily on poetry when I was low that I still have an awful lot to say about how helpful it is. Especially when it finds you at the perfect moment.
So back to Sin and his wonderful words.
I read Whiskey Words and a Shovel II while sitting in bed the Sunday after my heart exploded. I read it cover to cover and I wept. Then I read it again. I sent photos of the poems to my best and I said things like: “How did he know this happened to me?” “This poem has a line in it that someone said to me just last week, in real life.” “THESE WORDS WERE SAID TO ME!!”
My whole reading experience was full of thoughts like, how is my life here? There was so much to relate to about heartbreak and picking yourself up and getting through shit. It was amazing. It was my life, exactly as it was in that moment. It was honestly scary how much of my heart was on those pages staring back at me.
For this collection I put stickies in it, like I did in Milk and Honey, to indicate pages that were super important to me. Since this was a deeper book, I also put post it notes on the pages to explain why the poem was important. This book is filled with little hints about my sad time- my broken heart. I was literally too sad to hold onto the pieces of it, and I needed somewhere real to put them. So, they went between the pages. I gave it to my best next and told her that I needed her to bleed in it like I had. For real. This book was so hugely important to me as part of my healing, that I needed her to write notes for it too. I needed someone else’s heartache that I knew matched mine.
Her notes in the book mirrored mine in a lot of ways. I knew they would, because she and I are connected and we had been through the same ordeal anyway. She wrote in it for me a little bit, and for herself a little bit.
After her, I gave it to a friend at work who I didn’t know too well. I knew she had gone through a break up, but didn’t know the details. I asked her to write in it as well, as much as she was comfortable with. Told her not to stress; didn’t want to push it since we were new friends. But I told her my heart was in it. She could see my pain; and if she was willing, I thought the book could hold her pain as well.
Her notes still make me sad. I have a very hard time reading what we left behind, but especially her words. The great thing about leaving real notes in a book, not just stickies, was that you knew the why. It was important for this round of poetry that the why not be a mystery. This book was so much about not being alone.
Heartbreak is a universal truth, and logically we all know that. BUT – when it is you who is crying in bed, and thinks life will not go on, it does not feel universal. It feels like no one else in the entire world has ever felt this much pain. It’s extremely isolating. This kind of sad can’t be shared easily, so this book needed the extra step. Multiple flags on a page would not have been enough this time. Knowing that maybe five other people related to the poem doesn’t mean as much as words written in heartache.
My favorite thing about this book was the conversations that were had inside of it. People wrote and responded on and to each other’s notes. You could feel that connection.
My new friend from work texted me the weekend she read it and I will never forget how happy I was. She said to me what I had said to my best. That this book was her. It was her life, her feelings. She said it made her not feel alone. And that’s important when you’re sad. Isolating sadness can turn into so many darker things. But sadness that is shared and is understood, is a little easier to handle. It’s hard to trust people to pull you out when you’re sitting there thinking, “Yeah, but you don’t know how I even feel!” When you know they know and they have survived it, that can be all the comfort in the world.
Whiskey Words and a Shovel I was my in-between book. My heart was on the mend, thanks to a few close friends and some poetry which really pulled me back into the land of the living. At the beginning of this book, I had learned to love myself and had just started a new relationship with the man I had just gotten over. I was happy on my own, but trying to get over my trust issues and let myself be present in my new/old/new relationship. There is a lot of history, but I was trying to focus on our new-found forgiveness and on the deep love that had always been there. I had grown very quickly over the months after being sad. Radical self-love and strong friendships do wonders for a grieving soul. Accepting myself, trying new things, and really, honestly, writing about it all rebuilt me. My soul bled so much so quickly, that there was nothing left to fall apart and no choice but to start again.
In this book, we wrote names. That’s the marker left behind when passed from home to home. When a poem reminded us of someone or of a situation, we wrote that person’s name. If it reminds us of ourselves, we wrote “me.” That way we still had some mystery, but also were also able to put ourselves on the page in a real way. When my circle of tragedy-bound girlfriends read this book, we were closer than most. So I wrote my friends’ names all over it. Every poem about being broken, yet perfect and every page about being better because you’d been hurt – I just listed out my friend circle. Over and over. My name is all over this book too, because that’s how supportive we all are. I wrote all my friends’ names, and they all wrote mine.
That’s lovely to go look back on.
Since this was in between me being uncomfortable and being comfortable in my relationship, there’s a lot about my current boyfriend, that is negative. I wasn’t yet secure, but was trying to be. He hadn’t yet proved that we would be okay. Frankly, neither had I. We were both scared while I read this book. Scared that the other would leave for the slightest of reasons; that they would not stick it out after the first big fight (which as I am writing this, we still haven’t had). We were both at the very beginning stages of trust. With such a long history of pain and misunderstanding, giving ourselves a real shot, was terrifying. A lot of the poems about trust issues, have his name on them.
And that’s hard to look back on.
Maybe he’d have put my name on those same pages, if I had had the courage to let him read this book ever. Maybe an experiment for a later date will be to read one with him. And see where his pain points are. What still hurts, if anything. What reminds him past me versus current me.
*stay tuned. 🙂
Whiskey Words and a Shovel III took me months to pick up, maybe six? Half a year of being really, honestly happy and not wanting to look at poetry about relationships. Past hurts don’t come up much now. Of course, memories last a long time, and painful ones seem to last the longest. It is there, sometimes, below the surface; but it’s truly not an everyday grief – not even every week or every month. I do remember what happened and how I felt. I just don’t feel like that now; the pain, the embarrassment, and the questions are gone.
I knew I wanted to finish Sin’s collection and I was just hoping it wouldn’t bring up bad times. That poems about lying or choosing someone else wouldn’t bring me down and bring me back. That it wouldn’t still hurt. Poetry is dangerous that way. When you feel it, you FEEL IT. That depth can be therapeutic, and comforting, or it can just make you sad. When I was already low, the sad stuff was good; I felt connected to someone who had also been let down in love, and that was great. This time around, I didn’t know how being happy would play into it. How far would I go back into a painful past that I thought I was over?
I read this book alone. And I put post it notes on very few pages and just for me.
While reading it, my situation only came to mind twice. There were two different poems that I literally wrote “stings a little” on the post it notes. I didn’t cry, put the book down, or dissolve into thinking, “Oh yes, that hurt was bad.. in fact, it’s still bad.. I can’t believe that happened!”
It was just an ouch, really; a little, tiny smart. Then it was gone. What I picked up on most in this last book was the lack of forgiveness and the high, high drama in the words.
There were poems with absolute statements like if someone wrongs you, cut them out completely. No looking back. Close the door. They are not worth anything. There were poems that called love shit and relationships trash. It was just so negative and left no room for personal growth and no room for two sides of a story. Someone wrongs you – cut them out – the end. Never mind if you ever wronged them, or if they had the ability to change. It was so one-sided that I honestly found myself rolling my eyes at someone whose words I normally adore.
Relationships and life are so complicated that I think it’s hard to make absolutes like that. It’s hard to have tough rules about what to accept from others or how much you’re willing to forgive or handle. Each situation is different. I don’t know that (aside from abuse) there’s a right or wrong way to love. Or an absolute on what is forgivable or not. Life is just too broad for that. I ended this series thinking that Sin needed to have a little bit more grace in his life. A little bit more understanding and forgiveness. How cold he must be.
Then I thought some more. I remember being in bed and being so incredibly mad and hurt. If you even mentioned forgiveness to me then, I would have thrown you out of my three-story window. For real.
I built myself up without any man in mind, especially not one who had just hurt me. I deserved the world and I was not going to let anyone give me less. If I read a book about forgiveness and giving myself some space to grow and then giving it another shot, I would have been trying to build myself up for someone else. Growing with the intention of getting back with someone is no way to grow. I had my mind made up to never go back there. I wrote and read poetry about leaving that shit in the past. Only by growing with myself in mind, rather than him in mind was I truly able to even grow at all.
But that worked for us. We miscommunicated, loved, fought, miscommunicated again, ignored each other for months, then started over. This isn’t a road map for relationships either. I think Sin is too cold, but he may call me too forgiving. He doesn’t know me and I don’t know him; neither one of us can make absolute statements. However, I owe him a great deal for my introduction to him. He did teach me to heal, that you’re not damaged goods, no matter what you went though, and mostly to expect more. I’ve got very high standards now thanks to all the self-love he’s helped me gain; and I assure you, they are all being met.