I've been on this reading bender lately. And I'm loving it because I am reading things that I want to read and that are still completely out of my realm of "typical reading". Right now I am reading a couple of books by Mark Nepo. I'm only 4 poems into his book of poetry titled Surviving Has Made Me Crazy. I've never read anything like what he has to offer, never in my life have I read such pure truth learned only at the hands of difficulty. If you guys want to know more about him, you should read up on him.
I want to share one of his poems with you. It is titled "The Mistake", and it goes:
The wind had been knocked out of me
and doubled over, I looked like I was asking
for something. It was then that someone
passing by offered me something precious,
which I managed to hold briefly before
dropping. And when I dropped it,
it fell into someone else's hands
and she was so grateful.
She called me kind and generous.
She couldn't thank me enough.
But it was only a mistake.
I felt compelled to admit
that I had merely dropped
something precious. At this,
she put what I had dropped down
and took my face and said, "Don't
you see? Even dropping what is precious
is a gift." It made me cry and while
she rocked me, what was precious
rolled toward a bird who fluttered
over it. It finally landed at the feet
of a small child who hugged what was
given, what was dropped, what was a
mistake, what was let go in order to hold
someone lost. The little one just hugged it
and turned to her mother in awe, shouting,
"Look what I found! Look what I found!"
This poem is beautiful to me and I cried when I read it. There are different reasons why I appreciate this poem. From a writing perspective, I appreciate its ambiguity, there is no clear understanding of what the precious thing is and so the core of the poem, the something dropped could be so many different things to so many different people, and for that it is more resounding in its universal impact. Secondly, I love the enjambments, which is how each line ends which really effects the breath of thought and how it is spoken and delivered. But mostly, I love the message and what I get from it. It will be different for you, I imagine, but for me it was quite powerful. To me, the meaning of this poem conveys and idea that there is more to trial and loss and sorrow, even if none of that was sought out. And why would any of that be sought out? It wouldn't. I don't know of anyone who thinks to themseleves, "Self, I could really go for a life-altering downer right now, what do you say to that?!" Self, go for it and make sure it hurts you big time and will be felt for a long time. Yeah, people typically aren't like that. But stuff happens.
Things happen in life that you never see coming and it leaves you... frightened and broken, and that's kind of the point. You've heard me say it before, and I'll continue saying it, hurt/trials/sorrow grows us for powerful change that we are meant to experience. Oftentimes, it feels as though we are lucky just to survive these moments of life-altering impact. I've felt like that for the longest time, myself, that I'm lucky to have survived the soul-trauma and hurt that comes with placing a child for adoption. Outside of my life-altering placement of my first child for adoption, I've lived through some other pretty heart-wrenching experiences and the culmination of all of them together has left me quite frightened and unsure of moving forward.
This poem made me think of all of these difficult moments/experiences differently. I wonder about this "thing" that he was given and then mistakenly dropped, only to want it back, but not regaining it again, only to still be better off in a way that isn't easily expressed for having lost the thing he let go of, and that brought so much joy to the life of another, a child. I get the feeling that the voice of this poem still misses, very much, the thing he accidentally let go of. And it wasn't easy for the voice of this poem to let this thing go, but it was never fully his to begin with, and in letting it go he realized that in letting go is as much of a gift as the experience was in the first place. And what he let go of isn't just forgotten, but it finds it's place in the heart of another and the memory of the previous "owner". I think it's the combination of these understandings that the poem ends on a joyful note which gives you the sense as a reader that the voice of this poem is alright with what happened and that this "mistake" of letting go of what he initially had no intention of letting go was not a mistake, but something that just happened... something that he had no control over, but that just happened. I'm sorry if I am rambling. I get real nerdy about analyzing poems... it's why I'm an English major, truth be told.
There's another story in this poem I feel. And I believe that the other story is in the fact that sometimes it takes losing what we value most to understand the true beauty of what we had. And that sounds like a total bummer, but I think that this other narrative is followed by the suggestion that what was lost can be regained with the purity of new eyes or new understanding, as the child who claimed the precious gift that was lost by the person who let it drop from their grasp accidentally. Once this person lost what they treasured, they realized what they missed and regained it with new appreciated understanding. The "new" being represented by the child.
I could honestly keep going, but I'll stop. I just want to finish this post by saying that I no longer feel that that things we lose sight of in life and that escape our true understanding and leave us with uncertainty and fear about what's to come... I no longer believe that these moments are meant simply to be survived. But rather that they are gifts as well. The "mistakes" and regrets of life are not a curse to the one feeling them, but they are a gift to teach us what we value as most sacred. And while we experience the difficulty of this lesson, the experience is a gift in itself because, never again, will we live each moment of our life in an experience with such obvious clarity and true understanding. And it's for that reason that we should be grateful for our hardships because they make what's important completely clear. And really, what we feel in the pressure of the difficulty... it really isn't too far away from the peace. I would go as far as to say that they are one in the same: confusion and understanding, fear and peace, hurt/anger and love, sorrow and joy, despair and hope. It is in the experience of one that we find and better understand the other. And there is balance in all of it, even when balance isn't readily found.