In my mid-forties, I went through what I suppose was a mid-life crisis, likely brought on by a combination of an ever-increasing work load at the office due to downsizing, the lingering death of my mother from brain lymphoma, and menopause – and perhaps not least by the fact that I was considerably overdue for a good hard look at my inner life.
To put it bluntly, I fell apart. I watched in horror as day after day, great chunks of the iceberg that I had always thought of as “me” calved off and fell to the ground, until finally there seemed to be nothing, absolutely nothing, left standing.
Throughout this long period, I continued to go about my daily life: I worked, kept house for my family, raised my teenagers, and stood helplessly in the background as my mother disappeared into dementia and died. It was a horrific time, and I often felt as though it would never end.
A good deal of the poetry I share here on these pages was written during those difficult years when just putting one foot in front of the other was about all I could manage.
This poem came about after many long months of working to piece together a new me from the shards of the old one: journalling for hours in the early morning and at night as if my life depended on it (who knows, perhaps it did…); falling into a profound interior life that overflowed onto miles of journal pages; and all the while trying to assure my worried family that I would be okay – and no, I didn’t want to be medicated – that I would be fine before long, and to just be patient with me.
In truth, I wasn’t at all sure that it would turn out fine, but what I did have was a powerful intuition that medication was not the answer, that what I needed more than anything else was to dive down into that strange and unsettling interior life and swim underwater currents that I had never before been brave enough to explore.
[I still wasn’t brave enough; it was simply that now I had no choice!]
Eventually, although the new self was unsteady on its feet and often came perilously close to crashing, I began to realize that in spite of the intensity of the roller coaster ride I was on, I might just make it through it after all.
This little poem recalls something of that unstable, unsettling time. Here is:
Out of the button-down regimen
of my daily life, I scavenge
fragments of wonder,
shards of joy
in brilliant prism colours,
slivers of satisfaction
warm and comfortable
as old woollen slippers.
Laughter is a bank account
to which I make deposits
every chance I get…
I store in corners, on windowsills,
under rugs, on top of the refrigerator,
all hoarded against the lean days
inevitably to come, when dissatisfaction
groans through my bones, wailing,
and intractable complaints squall
urgent and unruly as a litter of piglets
squabbling at the sow’s teats.
At times like these
I suck the hard rind,
which gives no pleasure,
and does not nourish.