When Sadness Wants To Be Seen, Hannah Lyles, 2/1/20

When Sadness Wants To Be Seen

When Sadness Wants To Be Seen, Hannah Lyles, 2/1/20
“When Sadness Wants To Be Seen”, drawn 2/1/20.

Here’s a comic I drew this morning to illustrate how my resistance to sadness often perpetuates the constant and terrifying feeling of being bound by it. Of it haunting my days and nights.

If you are busy putting your energy into avoiding sadness then it will run your life. But if you stop and look at it and acknowledge its presence you make peace with it. You can be a friend to every part of yourself. You can experience life without being distracted by your fear of what will arise, and instead enjoy the moment as it comes.

When I don’t hold space for my feelings, no matter what they are, I am not being present to myself. When I don’t witness my sadness, I suppress a part of my experience. When I censor personally my experiences I deny myself the opportunity to grow and learn about myself. Telling myself to not feel something when I do is denying what makes me human.

Holding space for sadness can make me aware of many things. It can tell me whether I’m being triggered by something. It can tell me if I’m not enjoying myself and feel disconnected to where I am or who I’m with. It can indicate a deep dissatisfaction with what I am doing. It can inspire me to make a change.

When I was a child I was often told to not feel sad even when that was what I was feeling. My parents love me and wanted to protect me. I was told I was “too sensitive”. With messages like these, it is easy to learn to resist the feeling when it comes. Now I am responsible for telling myself these things. I say, “Go away! You’re not a good feeling. I’m not going to see or listen to you. Why am I so sensitive?”

It’s important to know that sadness isn’t a bad feeling. It’s not good or bad. It just is. It’s a temporary, passing feeling. It is not who you are. You feel sadness. You are not sadness. Happiness isn’t better. It just is. If you start judging your feelings, you set yourself up to feel shame when you experience the “bad” ones.

No matter what you will feel sad at times. To not feel sad when the moment calls for it is to disrespect the moment and yourself. Exercise honoring the parts of yourself that feel sad. For example, when you grieve you’re likely to feel sad among all the other feelings (like, anger or guilt). To hold space for your sadness acknowledges that the loss you have felt is significant and meaningful to you.

“What you resist will persist.” I’ve heard this recently and it really struck me. In the past, I’ve resisted sadness to the point of having a mental breakdown. Then I was forced to look at my feelings because I had no other choice. I advise that you don’t wait that long to face your feelings.

Meditation and mindfulness has really helped me to learn how to check in with myself and to be aware of my feelings when they come up. It’s not easy though. I get frustrated at myself for feeling sad and ask myself, “Why can’t I just be happy?”

I’ve carried sadness around with me like a blanket a child gets when they’re young. I’ve suppressed my sadness so I wouldn’t burden anyone. I’ve avoided parts of myself so I could fit in and be likeable. I’ve told myself that no one wants to be friends with someone who is sad. Now I’m realizing that by being vulnerable with others I share myself in a way that others can relate. If there are people who turn away when you are vulnerable you can’t worry about them. They’re dealing with their own stuff.

It’s up to you to accept yourself along with your sadness. You can’t wait to be accepted by everyone else because that will never happen. As Buddha says, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” I strive to live this every day.

My Journey as a Plant - Hannah Lyles - Life is Many Things

My Journey as a Plant

How would you live if you were exactly what the world needed? Would you be a plant that grows and grows and realizes that it’s too big for its container?

***

Someone picks you up and puts you on a shelf. You have no choice. You might get put next to plants that you don’t like.

You sit there for days. Every day you get bigger. You are growing but soon your soil becomes depleted. You aren’t growing as much as you could. You need to get onto a new shelf with new friends. You might even need to get out of the greenhouse all together.

One day, you look outside a window in the greenhouse and see a whole world that’s wild and unlimited. There is no roof and you marvel at this strange world. Is it possible to grow up and out and not hit any walls?

You realize that you’ve had enough. You’re sick of playing small. You are tired of the other plants trying to grow over you to keep you stuck. You are tired of feeling hungry all the goddamn time.

With every thought you get bigger and bigger. Your tendrils unfurl. Your roots burst your pot. Soon, the greenhouse breaks, glass flies everywhere, and walls fall down.

You take a breath of fresh air. You quench the drought in your being.

Now that’s the kind of plant I am.

Drawn today, 1/30/20.

Ancient Feeling

Why does everything have to have meaning?

Why do I look for trees that are old?

I look for trees to outlive me, to be bigger than trauma, so I can feel comforted by majesty and legacy.

These trees are small in the desert but who am I to judge?

The rocks are older than pain. They chip apart in more fragments. Surely, that should provide some solace.

Why is “should” being mentioned?

The fly’s eyes match the red rock. Lizards crawl over logs like thoughts. Drops of water fall on my elbow, my forearm. Wind pulls past my left ear.

I wonder what time sunset is. My phone has no service and the suspense is exciting.

I see a future of fainting on the trail, sleeping it off on the red earth. Losing track of time and place.

Is that why I came here? To weep? To watch the yellow pages flutter while my heart beats in my temples?

My breath is not mine, but the land’s. My body is not mine, but the land’s. My heart is not mine, but biology’s.

I pass one family and then see no one. Everyone has gone home, and I have, too.

Home is here with particles of dirt dancing and wet cheeks over dry earth. Grass twists into curls. Moss grows faded green; a green so dry it’s blackened and flaked. The moss has pores like my face. Breathing sacredness. The ground glitters with silver in some places.

The half moon is there. I don’t have anything else to say about it. It hangs. It is being a moon. Can I be a moon? I’d love to be hidden and then suddenly be seen. But I already know that feeling. It’s called love. It’s called an awakening from sleep.

I find a piece of silver and it breaks apart in my fingers like fish scales. Maybe all the silver belonged to a giant fish that swam here when there was water, before it was colonized. It’s a relief to feel something ancient because if something can live that long, I believe I can, too.

On the way back, I clutch a smooth, rounded, wooden stick that fits perfectly in my palm; a walking stick for the soul. Halfway down, a large boulder beckons me. I hug it and feel the mass of a thousand tonnes leaning into me. It holds time itself in its gravity. My cheek to the rock, smooth meets rough, skin meets ant. They climb onto me like I am an extension of the rock. Filled with the weight of the moment, I put the wooden stick into my bag and make my way down the rest of the mountain. I have made an offering and now I have one with these words.

You Are a Meal

All I have to do is look
At your eyes, and I know
I know which way the wind blows
On Agua Fría at 2 am
I know which way the blood flows
When I come to at 9 pm
I know why I came this way
Through a longitude of suffering
Latitude of brokenness
Like an earth caving in to entropy

All I have to do is look
At your eyes, and I know.
I know that you are a meal
That feeds me, you, a healing
of multiple destinies at once.
I know that I am free
As a woman, free to be
Spectacular.
I know that true love is more than not nice
It is the deadly bullseye of Cupid’s bow
It is the impact that doesn’t come twice
But once. Thank god.
I know that time is a mountain blessing:
A testament in patience and
Reckless fear. A dusting of dreams
And eyeballs. An allergy to stopping
And suicidal footprints on the climb up.

All I have to do is look
At your eyes, and I know.
I know my demise into your arms
At the end of my days
Surrounded by children
Ours, ours, ours, Forever.

I know that I want to survive
The seeping seasons to come
The ooze out of summer into fall
Blending from self to everything
Golden. I know that golden is a feeling,
Not just a color, a way to paint.
Remember that first drive in the sun
After the fainting?
We were gods born from a miracle,
Gasping for air through gritted teeth.
We were cupped in the womb’s hand waiting
for a washing, a cleansing of vices
and untethered joy.

All I have to do is look
At your eyes, and I know.

A Daughter’s Prayer

The Past

As a young child, I carried many ants
on my arms
but he blew them off
in the hurricane of his voice.

He hacked away at the woods with his questions,
one tree at a time,
one dream at a time,
severing my heart from his
until the forest of my soul laid bare.

I grew up in the shadow of his cloud
never asking for more sunshine
than needed to stay put within the four walls
of family and expectations.

The Present

Can roots grow where there are none left?
Can they grow like philodendrons
from nothing but water
and promises to change?

The Future

Here, in the garden
I rest,
with the running water
of the fountain.
The sun burns my eyes with hope and
I feel a tingling.
My nails grow long and spindly.
My body shrinks with wrinkles.
My voice cracks like the heron’s calls.

I see an old woman now,
moss-covered,
with long, greying hair,
roots twisting and
touching the earth
that holds her father’s ashes.

Now

Bid the clouds that muffle
our cries farewell,
for it is not too late yet.

Let it not be death that frees us.

In The Book of Memories

We are still children
attempting to raise the next generation;
pyramids of hope from the bottom up.

We think we progress like keys
on a piano, up to the faintest
pitch of heaven,
but the truth is we fall down
the scale so many times.

Rock bottom is nowhere and everywhere
at once.
The ending of a song,
the beginning of a life.

Getting up is hearing the pianist say,
“she is in the book of memories”
reaffirming the thought that we are
stories walking on stilts.

Two days later,
you’ll think it was a dream,
remembering he said all of it
was an illusion.

Vincent Van Gogh said,
I dream the painting, then I paint
the dream.

Entering and departing
with the screech of a Greyhound bus;
the chimes of hypnosis.
I’ve got the mosquito bites
from the river
and the notes to prove it.

My Friend, The Pianist

For Michael Caldwell

 

I want him
to pull out
every song
in his repertoire,
Beethoven, Mozart,
Rachmaninoff, Chopin,
the music nobody
can perfectly pin down,
untwine the notes
from his fingers,
unleash his aging body,
take the fear
and the almost-fear,
and the love,
especially the love,
and then
and then
play them
on his piano
and see how
they sing
and his heart jumps!

 

Inspired by a slightly more solemn poem, My Friend’s Divorce, by Naomi Shihab Nye.