On Memorial Day weekend in 1998, an ex-boyfriend committed suicide. We had lived together for three years and had broken up less than a year earlier. Three weeks after his death, churned by emotions, I struggled to find ways to express the turmoil I felt. I came across a poem I wrote back then; an attempt to describe the indescribable.
Reading it, I have memories of those days, of multiple characters in my head navigating their conflicting feelings triggered by his suicide: sadness, anger, guilt, despair. They were all part of the chaos. At the time, I fully submerged myself in those feelings; their presence defined me. I didn’t see my emotions as the response of characters, but as me. I was the pain. I was the anger. I was the guilt. There felt like no me beyond the emotions.
And yet, there was. There always is, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
When I’m in the throes of a powerful emotion, it often seems as if that’s how life is going to feel forever. And dark emotions—those of anger, despair, guilt—feel particularly powerful in their hold over me; as if they will never let go.
And yet, I also know that with the passage of time, the power of those emotions’ fades. While in them, it doesn’t feel like they will. Out of them, I am no longer in them, although rarely do I acknowledge the lack of dark emotions. If I did, I’d have to acknowledge previous dark emotions had faded.
I also know that time—combined with meditating, mindfulness practice, and simply getting older and wiser—has allowed me to gain new perspective. I no longer see my responses as me. I see them as different characters feeling pain. Feeling anger. Feeling guilt. While those feelings represent aspects of me as I wear them, they are not me.
There is an enduringly infinite something that exists beyond my reactions; that exists within. What to call it is a forever-struggle: spirit; divine-essence; energy; life. Names fall short. But remembering that essence reminds me that a place of peaceful tranquility exists within me. At all times. It’s a sliver of hope.
Especially when I’m cloaked by powerful emotions.
Balloon pulsates in spastic bursts
of painful energy
Stomach in knots
It hurts all the time
Some times worse than others
But it never stops
A scream squeezed up from tight darkness
Yawns of blackness threaten to erupt in volcanic volumes
of painful sound
Like nails on blackboard
or a yowling cat
The balloon pulsates on
A void of pressure
An emptiness of pain
A piece of heart torn away
But not the pain