I have really been wanting to try my hand at writing poetry. Sometimes when I read short stanzas, I feel like I’ve been gazing at a piece of artwork, like a painting. There is so little written on the paper, but so much is said. I hear a full narrative, a beautiful scene constructed from my own interpretation. Poetry flows more like a song, like music. I admire those who can produce beautiful poetry. Reading poetry stirs something special within me.
On my last trip to Square Books, down the road from my favorite little coffee shop, I bought a haul of books to last me a while. One is called “Devotions,” a book of all Mary Oliver’s poetic collections. If want to write poetry, I believe the first step is reading poetry.
The book sits in my purse and I read a poem here and there, in between baby naps, lunch breaks, and appointments. I’ve marked pages with pink sticky notes to the poems that feel like a painting. When I have time I’d like to make them into a painting.
Mornings At Blackwater
For years, every morning, I drank
from Black Water Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.
And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.
What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
– Mary Oliver
I’ve been reading through this large collection for about a week now. It inspires me even more to write poetry of my own. Mary Oliver’s beautiful stanzas bring together the bond of all living things, the earth, spirit, and light, connecting them all to each other. Reminding us all that we are connected, wild, free, and full of possibility and light.
When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
– Mary Oliver
During each evening of this week, I’ve wanted to write. To write and write and write until all of the words in my mind fall away and make sense. The longer I put it off, the more the words become caught up within themselves. A full week without writing and there’s a full week of tangled thoughts that consume the space in my head. I feel confused, forgetful, and spacey.
And this week has been difficult. I entered National Eating Disorder Awareness Week with a lofty level of empowerment. I received many Etsy orders, questions from others, and I was able to share a lot of encouragement.
However, throughout this week I forgot to save some empowerment, encouragement, and love for myself. As I often do, I funneled all of my energy in making sure I tried to take care of everyone else. Tonight I am feeling drained, a little defeated, and even a little hypocritical.
I spent vast amounts of time creating Etsy orders for others, posting to social media, sharing my own story. All while consuming my time with work, distractions, and exhaustedly scrolling through social media instead of doing the things that spark joy for me. Instead of eating, resting, and taking care of me.
I have had a frantic need to spread as much awareness as I can, to lend the most encouragement, to help everyone recover right here right now on instagram TODAY!
But Olivia.. have you forgotten? You are still recovering too.
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
– Mary Oliver
Tonight I finished a full eight hour day volunteering at an event, just downing diet cokes, coffee, and half a pack of chewing gum in the small breaks I found. I had one piece of toast and an orange for breakfast. But I felt no hunger whatsoever. Zilch.
But I went to Walmart at 6:15pm when I left the church because I have no food in my fridge. I wondered the aisles, nothing looking good. Too expensive. Too sweet, sugary, bad. Too much. Too much. I don’t want to eat. Why do I have to do this?
I decided to just go get some peanut butter since I was out. I stood in front rows of peanut butter, nut butters, and jelly. I looked at each option. I noticed something new, a vanilla almond nut butter. That sounds so good. I love vanilla and almonds and nut butter. I looked at the back and the second ingredient is artificial vanilla flavoring, including pure cane sugar.
I remember walking the aisles of the grocery store when I was little, my mom telling me to check any food label before we bought it. If sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or any type of sugar was one of the first two ingredients, we wouldn’t buy it. The ingredients listed first are the most prominent ingredients, she’d remind me. Sugar is bad.
I placed the nut butter back on the shelf. I looked at it and I wanted to get it. But the sugar. But it sounds so good. But why did they add so much cane sugar? But, but, but. I wage a small internal war. I began to tear up. This is so stupid.
I grab my usual natural creamy peanut butter, grab three apples and some deli chicken and make my way to the check-out.
I knew I needed to eat when I got home. I fixed a cheese quesadilla along with the deli meat. I added some baby carrots. For dessert I ate a spoon of peanut butter.
I knew I needed to write. I need to paint. I need to get out of my head. I need to untangle all of the thoughts. I need to take care of me. Instead, from 7:45pm to 9:30pm, I sat on my couch in the dark, empty silence just scrolling through social media, wishing my roommates weren’t all out of town. Overwhelmed with the week, no energy or ability to focus.
I got up to do some laundry. I began to unload and reload the dishwasher.
I had a FaceTime call with Kristin. She gave me some tough love. Cried a little bit. Set a few goals for tonight and tomorrow.
“What can you do tonight to take care of yourself?” she asked maybe three times until I finally stopped avoiding the question and answered.
“Write. Have a piece of toast.”
After staring at her over FaceTime in silence, sitting in the middle of my empty kitchen floor with the dishwasher open, only half unloaded, we hung up.
I finished doing the dishes. I thought about writing poetry. I thought about all of the words in my head. I changed my clothes over to the dryer.
I thought, I’ll just write down whatever I’m thinking about. That will get me started on something.
I made myself aware of the little automatic thoughts immediately coming to mind, what I could type out into words.
I thought about the family eating Chick-Fil-A at the table behind where I was working today. I thought about how good it smelled. I thought about how disgusted I was that I wanted it.
I thought about the almond butter at Walmart and how I wanted to have some.
I thought about the peanut butter Oreos a few aisles down. I thought about how I considered buying them, having 3 cookies then throwing the package away in the parking lot so I wouldn’t eat them all.
I thought about the box of chocolate glazed Shipley’s donuts on the counter in the little volunteer break room, which I kept seeing every time I’d grab another diet coke or a piece of gum. I thought about how good they looked. I love chocolate glazed donuts.
I thought about the granola bars provided for volunteers, the bags of chips, the bucket of skittles and starbursts. I thought about whether the volunteers who worked next to me all day noticed that I didn’t eat a single thing the entire eight hours I was there. Probably not.
I thought about how much weight I could lose before I leave for Kansas City next weekend for my best friend’s bridal shower.
These are the immediate, automatic thoughts that came to mind while standing at my kitchen sink at 10:30 pm with slightly pruny hands from washing.
My mind is full of thoughts. Thoughts about food.
How sad is that?
Of all of the things I could be writing about, the poems I could think up, I am consumed with thoughts of food. That is so sad.
I don’t want that. I don’t want to spend every second either avoiding food, planning food, obsessing and all consumed with food. That isn’t a life. Writing about these things are redundant, uneventful, small minded. I want to be a writer that writes genuine, life well lived kind of stories.
I want to write beautiful things. Poetry that feels like music, like paintings. I want to write things that stir feelings in others.
Can someone turn this eating disorder off? Can I just have a break, please?