So, today I decided to be unorthodox, and try something I’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t ever mustered up the courage to accomplish because it requires vulnerability, and a new level of scrutiny of my creative writing, which I usually only share with my… Mom.
I decided to let my friends decide the subject matter for a poem I’d write. Left it up to chance! The first person on my Facebook friends list to comment with a topic (either their name, or another idea), would get a poem written for them. If they commented with their name, the topic would be them personally, if they commented with a topic, it would be that topic.
The premise was not to make the person who suggested the poem happy, though that would be a bonus (and I’m glad I prioritized the process foremost, because the reception so far has been a little bit of a let down on that front).
So, my friend Amaria, a genuine person who has been there for me emotionally on one occasion, for which I am hugely grateful, commented with just her name, within seconds of the post. Now, I’m not known as a poet among my friends. I’m an actress and director, not a known writer, so I took her instant response as a compliment in her faith that I’d put out something worthwhile. I did warn everyone the poem would be shared, so this took some degree of trust.
I managed to take a few moments in the mid morning to draft out some notes about her– what I knew already, her hobbies (she’s real outdoorsy), and most importantly, I reflected on how she makes me feel, what I associate with her. This practice made me reflect on our friendship, truly only a budding one, but one which already has formed worthwhile memories. We’ve been in plays together, she’s one of the first actresses I’ve had the pleasure of directing, and she’s true to herself and to her friends, even me, a professional acquaintance.
The poem, at first, caused more anxiety than I had anticipated. I didn’t want to let her down, I didn’t know what she wanted. Should it be funny? Grand? Lyrical or free form?
But then, I remembered, the poem was to be about her, but the project itself was about me. The goal of this challenge was to discover the happiness derived from a creative endeavor.
I took a breath, and throughout the rest of the day I let the topic simmer– no small task, mind you, because I spent the following seven hours moving boxes out of my friend’s basement into a storage unit twenty minutes away from her house, over and over again.
In spite of the stress of the day, the project at hand popped into my head in my spare moments, answering the previous questions, but this time for myself. How did I want the poem to be? What did I want to say? What did I want her to know?
Throughout the day, hasty friends threw ideas in the comment section, two of which were too good to pass up, making for some kitschy Haiku– I wrote those in a matter of minutes, one while waiting in the parked car for my friend to arrive at our destination, and one while waiting for the clerk to reserve and open our storage locker. Those brought me instant joy, because who doesn’t feel joy pondering the praying mantis and cannibalism?!
Amaria’s poem took a little longer. It simmered all day, until I got home. Upon arrival, I took a breath, had a snack, and got writing again. This time, it came far more naturally to me. I knew what I wanted to say, how to say it, and posted it to Facebook.
Reactions from mutual friends were rewarding, one friend even asked, “Too late to get in on this?” But no word from Amaria. ‘That’s alright,’ I thought, because this challenge wasn’t about her. I went to bed feeling the reward I’d given myself of completing a poem within a day, one I felt proud of for myself. Good thing too, because the next morning bore only a single ‘like’ from the subject. And that’s okay, no matter if it’s a disappointed like, or an appreciative like, I genuinely like my poem, and I still genuinely like her. On a side note, who knew the reaction buttons on Facebook could be so anticlimactic?
The challenge today was to keep my perfectionism at bay, and to remember for whom I was really writing– myself. Later in the day, upon receiving disappointing news, getting plans cancelled for Sunday, I again, had to focus on choosing joy, even though I’d completed my happy task for the day. Fortunately, the pride I took in my productivity had not worn off completely, and I was able to handle the disappointment graciously, and keep the seething burn of being someone’s last priority (you can tell this is not the first time this has happened, I’m sure), a burn more akin to wasabi than a chili pepper, brief.
Forcing myself to think in terms of “will this make me happy,” has already had some interesting affects on my choices. The first of the day being to go without makeup to help my friend move. Typically, I head out with at least a tinted moisturizer and some mascara, but yesterday, upon asking myself that question, I realized I felt like impressing no one, and I felt like not having to go through an entire regimen of face-cleansing after a long day of lifting. This choice was arguably the most rewarding of the whole day, when a quick hot shower made me hit the hay with an audible thump, and sleep through the night.
On to Day Two, thinking I’ll keep it simple this time!
She is perpetual autumn.
Auburn hair glistens the burning copper hues of August.
Eyes that inspire like two harvest moons.
She is fire and she is earth.
Her embrace is the warmth of kindling,
Her chest the ready-made hearth by which to lay
Weary bones, weary mind, weary soul,
It sizzles and cracks, as her heart breaks with yours.
Her big black combat boots, sink deep into rich Illinois ground,
Roots that sustain her maternal bounty, every season a fruitful yield.
She is home for the smallest life to the largest being,
Not one is turned away.
Neither shrillest wind, nor most boisterous thunder,
Can shake her conviction to love.
For Uncle David
Fast food’s new boon to dining:
The “Filet o’ Flesh.”
The Praying Mantis,
Earth’s misandrist agenda:
♫ “She’s a maneater!”
(Hall & Oates, “Maneater”)