POEM: Take Your Fear

Dig through your chest,
take out your fear.
Shine it with your breath and cuff and
put it on your desk—
right there, in the middle.
Wait for slow-drawn Helios.
Then, the flecks of light it renders?—
take them. Gather them in the crook of your arm—
cascading bouquet of noonbeams.

Use them to build your own damned chariot.

© s.e. carson 

Why I Love St. Patrick's Day

For many a'year I've been wanting to try to explain why St. Patrick's Day is my favorite holiday (note: this title is often shared with Christmas), but knew I couldn't do it justice.

This year is no exception, but I figured what the hell; I would try it anyway.

People who don't know me well usually react one way when I freak out about St. Patrick's Day every March: a joking elbow to my ribs and eyebrows raised while giving me a slightly obnoxious grin, "You like to 'celebrate', huh?" And while I'm not entirely sure I've ever refused a shot of whiskey in my life, this couldn't be further from the real reasons, which are threefold.

Aon! I don't have an exact date when I started recovery from my eating disorder, but I mark it by this month. The first March, when I had decided to get better and was seeking some intense treatment, I (while walking into the grocery store, no less) was suddenly struck with the nearness of everything. It was like I had gone through so many years where I didn't even realize how awesome March was and then suddenly, here it was in front of me. Fresh air, vigor, and hope.

Nine years later and every time March rolls around, I feel the exact same way. Rejuvenated and unstoppable.

Dó! There was a long, long time where I didn’t like myself (understatement), a number of traits in particular. But as I began working through things, I was able to see that a lot of those traits aligned with those from this really beautiful, charming, and magical heritage of mine. And maybe that meant parts of me were beautiful, charming and a bit magical, too.

For instance, I’ve always been a bit loud and I can’t remember a time (unless I was a wee lass) where that didn’t bother me. It always seemed to happen without my noticing it and I could never understand why I couldn’t keep my voice at a normal human decimal range. Most of my life was spent overcompensating and becoming perfectly and acceptably quiet. But now I realize my loudness always comes from an exuberance of being around people I love, of being wholly happy in the moment, of being so overcome with joyous contentment that I have to get it out some way or another or I would just break apart. Of giving back, I guess. So, while it’s not necessarily the ‘gift of gab’, there are very few quiet Irishmen I’ve come across…

My temper was another thing. Anger was one of the “Bad” emotions: it was scary, it could make me say things that were unmeasured that maybe no one could love me for, it was often explosive, uncontrollable, and powerful. All of which can be frightening to me. And yet, I still happily remember the first time I let myself be angry for the first time after 10 years of my disorder: I was playing hockey, something pissed me off and, rather than stewing on the bench like usual, I skated over and all of the sudden I just broke the shit out of my stick across the boards. This huge flare of emotion and it startled me, and it startled everyone on the bench, too. But no body thought of me any differently and I still have that broken stick saved as a reminder.

Regardless, my temper can still get me into trouble and I try to keep it in check but, usually, when I am all Irish fire it’s because I’m passionate about something. And passion in life is very important to me— even if it’s about beer league hockey.

Stubbornness is a big one. I am irritatingly stubborn. After one of the daily occurrences where I had done something that prompted someone to comment on it, I responded with “I’m not stubborn, I’m just capable.” Regardless, I think I’ve always liked this about me. I know this trait directly saved me from my eating disorder because I dug my heels in and just decided I was going to get better.

I think this is why I catch myself saying, “I’m Irish” a lot these days. Because I’ve not only been able to accept the aforementioned, but because they also have become some my favorite things about myself. And that’s really really cool to me. To now love things I used to hate. To think that a bit of me might belong to this island of magical, charming, spirited people.

Trí. I love St. Patrick’s Day because it’s like a gift. It’s like a day just for me. Where my mind is quiet. And this one is the hardest to describe of three. No matter how many ways I’ve written it down, worked it out in my head, or tried to phrase it, it is falls frustratingly short. But here goes: the rest of my love for it is about being alive. Because, when you shake off all the other shit, what a glorious thing it is. To be alive. And some days I run and run across the earth as fast as I can, not caring how far or fast I go. And some days I sit on the back porch during a thunderstorm and watch how lightning can be different colors. Some days I breathe in this great, big earth and myself and the people and creatures and things I love so dearly in the world.

But then there’s this one day—this one really special day—where I turn up Irish music really, really loud and dance and dance, and I look around the room at, or think about, my most favorite people. And I am the loudest I have ever been; in laughter and in words and in spirit. And yes, usually then I will pour myself a shot of whiskey and say my favorite Irish prayer because… God… isn’t it a wonder just to be alive.

A Letter to My Body

Dear Body,

It wasn't you, it was me.

I know it sounds cliché, but I guess cliché doesn't necessarily make things less true. So, really, in complete seriousness:

It wasn't you, it was me.

All you have ever done was love me. Protect me. Aid me in self-expression and spirit. Without you I wouldn't have spent years on the soccer pitch feeling invincible. I wouldn't have gotten the closest I can to flying with gymnastics. I wouldn't have kicked Jared's ass in jousting in 5th grade. I wouldn't have been able to discover a new love for snowboarding, laugh properly using my whole self, run just to see how fast I could go. I wouldn't have been able to hug Joe before he died or take Niyadog on so many walks and adventures after waiting for her for 21 years.

It is not like we haven't had our struggles. Our other chronic illnesses are a daily battle now, I still often wrestle with my mind, and I know I get angry with you sometimes, but none of it is your fault. I think I pushed you too hard for too long when the only thing you have ever done is tried give me everything—and so much of what I asked for was so unfair.

It wasn't you. It was me. There were things about myself I didn't like, fears and feelings I couldn't handle. I wanted to be so much—everything and nothing at all. And the depression didn't help. My mind and it's miswiring. There was just so much I didn't understandbright and heavy colors or feelings or pains that built up and soon expanded or melted (I don't really know) into hatred. I was mad at you for not being what I wanted you to be, for what I thought I needed you to be. And I didn't know how else to deal with it. I thought if you and I could just do a little bit more—on the inside and the outside—things would get fixed. I thought that because I felt so ugly on the inside, that if I could be beautiful on the outside, some of that would seep through. That I would be happy.

And you tried. You tried so hard because you remembered all those summers we spent running through sprinklers and playing tennis against the chipped garage door. You tried because you loved the hike we took to the top of a 14,000 ft mountain, the boys we made swear during hockey. You tried because when we spent those nights in the backyard, kicking the soccerball against the wall, it felt like the universe had shrunk. That the culmination of time and stardust was this simple and beautiful moment: late afternoons (some laden with crickets, some heavy with the Colorado winter) dropping into dusk, dusk fading further until house-corner floodlights popped on, the constant often-rhythmic snap of grass beneath feet after a chip, or a particularly sound kick echoing against the mountains. The stars and the night and a girl and her dreams.

You tried so hard because you wanted it back. You wanted me back. But I hated you. You had done nothing but help me chase my ambitions, love me, and yet I hated you because I was in so much pain.

Even more, you tried to tell me. So many times in so many different ways, and I didn't listen. At first, gently prodding me about our limitations, how they aren't bad—how heeding them would mean we could do more together. That if we took care of each other we could take on the world. You tried so hard, prodding giving way to pleading, but I didn't listen; I didn't want to hear it. So you continued on as best as you could. Struggling to give me everything when I gave you nothing.

I am sorry.

It is a love I didn't completely understand. One I still don't. Especially considering how I spent so much of my life destroying you. And even though I have tried my best to remedy this, some days I still find myself saying things I think I mean. I still get angry or hurt or I am overwhelmed with feeling. And you wait patiently, knowing I will find my way back. Because the truth is you are powerful and so strong and maybe that scares me a little sometimes.

So, no matter what, I will fight. I have fought for 9 years and I will keep fighting just as you have fought for me. And I promise I will keep trying to listen, even if it's hard for me to hear at times, because all of my favorite memories exist because of you. As are, I know, all my favorite memories to come.


Sit Quietly...

There used to be so many feelings I couldn't handle.

As time has continued and I have focused my energy, new thought processes, and lots of practice, most have become easier to manage. To be mostly OK with and settle in to. Or, perhaps at the very least, to recognize more quickly than I used to (which, often times, was not at all).

I have to stay on top of my thoughts or else they can overtake me. Whether they revolve around self-worth, the eating disorder voice, anxieties, my penchant for obsessive thinking -- it can be any, or all, or something else entirely different. But my mind will run... and run... and run if I let it.

Even if it is with genuinely good intent: writing more, connecting, doing things around the house -- I can get so caught up in end results, what I want to accomplish, that I wind up feeling disjointed, rushed, and not present. Like I've climbed onto a lamppost to see far beyond the crowd rather than letting myself wade through it, brushing shoulders with people, stepping on popcorn, petting dogs parked under awnings waiting for their owners.

It’s not about being better – not this time – even though that is often a common theme for me. It is, for lack of a better word, tunnel vision. And I don’t think that is necessarily a "bad" thing unless you have a tendency to get 'stuck' like I do.

Since eight years ago when I started my recovery, I have worked very hard to keep myself in the moment. It is vital in helping me stay grounded, present, and not get swooped up into my mind like I so frequently can be. Sometimes I resort to sayings or platitudes to help ‘reign myself in’, but these can often be difficult for me to buy into. Especially when there are things I want, and am ready, to accomplish. Goals are not about the journey, but about the end result, aren’t they?

I wonder if this is one of many reasons why recovery can be so difficult. Because there is a place we know we want to be – we have made the choice, we have decided this is what we want to pursue and this is what we want to accomplish – and then we have to slug our way to it.

Most of the time, staying present makes sense to me. It serves many purposes that I can see and feel. But when I’m working toward something, I have discovered staying present seems less relevant. And though I have been practicing for the last eight years to bring myself back HERE, wherever I am, again and again, it is like I sometimes get so caught up in the vortex of my mind that even if I find the ground it doesn't seem like it will serve a means to this particular end.

Perhaps there is a lesson in all this. In staying present when it feels unrelated. In fighting to stay grounded even when it doesn’t make sense.

Or, perhaps, as I sit here and think, maybe what drives my determination toward more of an obsessive focus is not being satisfied with where I am currently.

But what is wrong with where I am? What is wrong with slowly finding my way to my goals? What is wrong with us being right where we are in our recovery?

There used to be so many feelings I couldn’t handle. So many I've been able to grow into. So why is moving at a pace different than what I want still one of them?

Why is it still so hard sometimes for me to sit quietly and let the grass grow by itself?

Tonight, dysautonomia is...

Tonight, dysautonomia is crying in the dark of your car outside a sports arena.

For so long you've tried to make the best of it. To accept where you are, but also not to give up. And the tangy orange glow of the parking lamp and the promise of your pups at home in slumber reminds you of how tremulously you have lived on that wire. But the blood on your knees—the aching of your muscles reminding you of all you were once able to do. As if their shuddering is not only the unending fatigue, the cries of their atrophy, but the painfully escaping reminiscence of your past life in which you could run. Run. Run! Run freely and without fear. Your mind and your body together, creating their own kind of art. Your feet carrying you, your heart. You were on your own wire then—your own goddamn golden thread. 

Tonight, dysautonomia is the dark of my car outside a sports arena. The tangy orange glow of the parking lamp. The wire now cut between me and my muscles, crying for one last sprint without prudence. To go and to go and to go. And never to stop.