Today I sat in on our Poetry Group, which happens randomly but is a treat for ONE80CENTER clients- especially when they drag their feet in there.
I noticed clients who really did not want to participate, who came in with arms folded. Thats to be expected- as alcoholics, we typically do not want to touch any emotional buttons without having a handy escape route. Not that poetry is necessarily an emotional event- but it does seem to sneak in there and pull your guts out when you least expect it. Those same reluctant people wrote some of the most soulful poetry, which might explain their reticence to participate.
This is the poem we read today. I didn’t much like it, but I had to concede that I could relate to it. When I was drinking and using, my poetry was equally dark, chaotic, and resigned.
THE BROKEN FIELD
by: Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)
- Y soul is a dark ploughed field
- In the cold rain;
- My soul is a broken field
- Ploughed by pain.
- Where windy grass and flowers
- Were growing,
- The field lies broken now
- For another sowing.
- Great Sower, when you tread
- My field again,
- Scatter the furrows there
- With better grain.
So, I didn’t much like it- it was dark and foreboding and rhymed in a way that reminded me of Dr Seuss. However, its sort of like when they say- look for the similarities, not the differences. I needed to get over my sticking points and hear what this woman in 1930 was trying to convey- that her life was a dark, ploughed field and that if it were ever to be sown again, could it please be sown with better seeds. A lot of people feel that way. I don’t now, but I did then, and honestly she sounded a lot like one of us, before we find out way into recovery. (Or don’t. We don’t all make it to safe harbor.) Like I said, I wrote very dark stuff when I was active in my disease. I get it.
After we read it, we wrote poems with this one in mind. Here is mine-
My soul is not a dark, ploughed field
It might be rain, but not cold
It might be dirt, but not broken
possibly electric, unpredictable
My soul takes shapes
and shifts to serve
Each passing moment
Here, then gone
My soul does not bear marks
of living recklessly, or well
It is plush always
and of its own accord
It can not be touched
and above all things
In this, I sort of played with the bleak words of the poem, and wrote as if that writer had found the joy of recovery, instead of her dark, ploughed fields and seemingly blighted soul. 5 years ago, I could only see through the same sad lens as she. I could not have written a positive word if my life depended on it. It is only in recovery that I have learned to articulate the joy of living, the feeling of having tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders, almost like I could float away at any time from the ‘unbearable lightness of being.’ Even when times are seemingly ‘tough’, the operative word is not tough, its ‘seemingly.’ Life is a matter of what it ‘seems’ to be. A shift in perspective, and it can ‘seem’ to be something else. LIke this poem, which is culled from a very sad and grey and resigned point of view. It simply a matter of how we look at it.
If we understand deeply that every moment we have a choice, to feel empowered, or disempowered, then we would understand that so much of how our world shows up is how we look at it, what choice we make in each moment. It requires a commitment to living life fully, giving up the victim mode, and staying aware of our part in things- but its completely and totally the essence of the art of living well in sobriety.
I loved the poetry exercise as it reminded me of how disempowered I was when I wrote poems in my disease. The poem I wrote in the poetry group is who I am now- my soul is not altered by life’s vicissitudes. It is plush and verdant and electric, no matter what, and stays present even when I don’t or can’t, and wants to reach out to others to promote peace. I remember feeling that the world was killing my soul. I was the ultimate victim. But now I choose to be empowered by life, and life does not get to hammer me anymore.
So how are you looking at your world today? Are you seeing your challenges as great gifts, tailor made for your soul’s growth? Are you seeing ‘the universe full of magical things, patiently waiting for your wits to grow sharper?’ Its your choice. Choose wisely.