Posts Tagged ‘worry’

Loving Working

“We clean to give space for Art.”
        Micaela Miranda, Freedom Theatre, Palestine

Work was a shining refuge when wind sank its tooth
into my mind. Everything we love is going away,
drifting – but you could sweep this stretch of floor,
this patio or porch, gather white stones in a bucket,
rake the patch for future planting, mop the counter
with a rag. Lovely wet gray rag, squeeze it hard
it does so much. Clear the yard of blowing bits of plastic.
The glory in the doing. The breath of the doing.
Sometimes the simplest move kept fear from
fragmenting into no energy at all, or sorrow from
multiplying, or sorrow from being the only person
living in the house.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women of color – here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 


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tulips flowers stone church Cambridge

I Worried

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

—Mary Oliver

tulip magnolia tree bloom blue sky

I love Mary Oliver, as regular readers know, but either hadn’t read this poem or had forgotten about it, until my friend Louise shared it on Instagram.

There is so much to worry over in the world – the second stanza especially hits me right in the heart, these days. But there are also so many reasons to sing.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry here on Fridays this month, as I do every year.

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summer sunset view porch

“Lately I’ve been waking up at 3 a.m.,” a friend admitted in a group email last month.

It was only a passing comment; we were talking about when we find time to read, and she confessed to snatching an hour here and there during her nocturnal wakings. But the 3 a.m. comment caused a quiet thump of recognition, because for months, I have been waking in the night, too. A flurry of responses from the group confirmed it: we’re not the only ones.

I think it started for me last summer, as I switched jobs, moved to a new apartment and grieved over several national tragedies. It has continued, off and on, through the fall and winter: the election and its fallout, significant stress at work, many other challenges in my life and the lives of people I love.

Late at night, I often find myself in bed with my journal and a pen in hand, pushing my glasses up on my nose. I keep the lamp on after my husband rolls over and closes his eyes, trying to write my way toward a peaceful place, taking deep breaths so I can turn out the light and head for sleep.

Some nights I can dive into a book, lose myself in a good story or some luminous poetry. Other nights, I need to trace the swirling thoughts, get them out of my brain and onto the page. Then I can try to sleep. But I often – though not always – end up wide awake, at some ungodly single-digit hour of the night.

My friend lives six time zones away, and our fellow nighttime wakers are scattered across the country, but it still comforted me, somehow, to know I wasn’t alone in this. The next few times I woke up in the middle of the night, I lay listening to the whir of traffic outside, thinking of my friends, wakeful in their houses, in Illinois or North Carolina or Maine. It made me feel better to picture their faces, even though I knew the fact of our communal waking wouldn’t solve anything for any of us.

Madeleine L’Engle, one of my patron saints, begins her memoir The Irrational Season with a similar image: the silhouette of Madeleine herself, standing at the window of her apartment on the Upper West Side, holding a mug of hot bouillon on a dark morning in early winter. She peers out the blinds to the street that is never quite silent, the building across the way whose lights never all go out at once. She sips her bouillon, savoring her small rebellion against the tyranny of the clock. “I enjoy these occasional spells of nocturnal wakefulness,” she says. “And I am never awake alone.”

I’m not always so sanguine about my own nocturnal waking, though sometimes I can turn over and fall back asleep, or think about something comforting (including my friends, awake in their own houses). Sometimes I get up for a drink of water, walking around the wicker chest at the end of our bed, down the darkened hallway and glancing out the bathroom window, at the streetlights one block over, or a winking star. (After eight months in this apartment, I can finally walk through it in the dead of night without crashing into anything.)

“I do not think we talk enough about how every one of us / Has shuffled around the house in the middle of the night / Worried,” Brian Doyle says, in a poem aptly titled “Three in the Morning.” A few lines later, he adds wryly, “Sometimes there is zero / To be done except shuffle around wearily.”

Sometimes, I might add, there’s not much to be done except lie there a while, taking deep breaths or running the lines of an old hymn through my head. The anxiety doesn’t always dissipate, though sometimes it quiets to a background hum. But it does help, usually, to think of my friends, or of Madeleine at the window with her mug of bouillon, watching the slow nighttime life of her neighborhood. If I am awake, and especially if I’m worried, it helps to know I’m not alone.

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job angst

Another day spent dealing with the monsters called job angst and creeping, crawling, dread-filled worry about the future. I have been to no less than two dozen (probably many more) job boards and publishing house Web sites today. I have scrolled through job listings till my eyes began to glaze over. I have applied for six jobs in four different cities. And I got a very polite email from St. Aldate’s Church, Oxford, the site of my dream internship next year, informing me that they can only cover a quarter of my tuition. Do they honestly EXPECT recent (like last week) college graduates to have 1500 pounds (not dollars!) of their own, in addition to covering half their own food and all their own incidental expenses? Give me a break!

That being said, as I keep trying to remind myself, I do have the summer to fret about it…I mean, work in Abilene, not pay rent, immerse myself in community at Highland, and figure out what I’m doing next. When the lease on my little house is up, I will pack my capri pants, coffee mugs, Kathleen Norris and Joanne Harris books (among others), scrapbooking paraphernalia and beloved old journals, and move three blocks east to another safe place. Not my house, not a permanent home, but a place where I’m welcome. A place where I can relax (at least after work) and try to “contemplate my future,” as Scott keeps telling me to do. I really hope it doesn’t involve moving to a random big city without a job. I’d be fine moving somewhere random WITH a job…but steady income of some kind is a must. Not just a plus.

I do miss my beloved Abilene family, aka the ladies of House 9 and others of my Oxford beloved, who are sallying forth to new jobs, internships and adventures. My circle is slowly closing…Betsy and Jeremiah leave this week, Bethany leaves next week. But it will be a good summer…sunny and literary and somewhat peaceful. If I can keep the blanket of paranoia from suffocating me.

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Fear. Angst. Worry. I know those are all I’ve been blogging about lately (or it seems to be so). Despite the fact that it’s spring here in Abilene, and we had a rip-roaring thunderstorm last week, and I am more in love with Highland than ever, and there are some fun things going on, I’m really scared. Searching for publishing jobs is an incredibly intimidating experience. So many of these job postings require years and years of experience that I don’t have. And 90% of them are in New York, which scares me to death. I don’t want to move to New York all by myself! I don’t know anyone there! (Of course, I know a grand total of about six people in Boston, two or three in Nashville and a very few in D.C.) And they want salary requirements along with the resume and cover letter (and I’m TERRIBLE at writing cover letters). Salary requirements?!? I’d just be happy to get a job at this point!

I read something this morning that flatly denied the possibility of landing a New York City job (or any other big-city job) if you live anywhere else – namely West Texas. Does this mean I’m really going to have to move before I have a job? I’m the sort of person who likes to have everything planned out. That scares me sooo much. Of course, I’d rather not start out in New York – Colorado Springs or Oregon or even Nashville scares me less than New York. I DO NOT want to go back to Midland, or stay in Abilene past this summer, and I’d rather not go to Dallas either – although I’d be fine with either Austin or San Antonio, at least for a while.

Sigh. Three weeks to graduation and my life is still one big blank after May 14. Ideas, anyone? Advice? What did you do right after you graduated? (And don’t tell me graduate school because you didn’t know what else to do – I’ve basically ruled that out.) I could use some encouragement right about now. And a job would be even better.

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