Poetry Report: November Poems + Ann’s

I’ve written that the best thing about August is September. Not this year. September brought several personally stressful events into my normally complacent private world. October was a month for healing and action. Gradually, recovery unfolded as those things apparently changed to my favor thanks to the efforts of a few loving people.

I did not win the lottery, but I began to relax. November was the best of the three months—not exactly perfect, but the worries from two months earlier seemed controlled. I’ll take it.

Thanksgiving Day is the traditional time our immediate family gathers. It is our time. Indeed, we had a house full, but I put in my notice for next year. We’re too old for that shit. It was fun and we are all grateful for how things have turned out so far. But there are people out there trying to make a living fixin’ turkey, giblet gravy, cranberry whatever, and all that stuff. I should help.

This poem was written about me writing a poem each day by a friend from my writers’ group. After Ann, who I like to call Barbara Ann (not her real name – long story: Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann and the Beach Boys), read it during one of our poetry sessions. I requested, and she gave me, permission to post it here.

One Poem A Day?
By Ann Bordelon

“A poem a day?” That’s quite a task!
I say that’s wa-a-a-a-ay too much to ask.
One a week might be realistic,
But one a day is too optimistic.
They don’t have to rhyme, you say,
But still, one every single day?
There aren’t that many words in my brain,
I’ll run out in a month, what a strain.
Please tell me that this is a sort of a joke
And the reality is that you misspoke.
Instead of “one poem a day” you meant,
“One poem a week is what we should invent.”

Thanks, Ann. Wonderful poem. I’m honored.

I don’t know if I could cut back to less than one poem a day, much less to one a week. On this coming New Year’s Eve, I will complete my mission of composing at least one poem each day during 2019. After that, who knows?

The titles/topics of the daily poems I wrote during November were:

  1. Dying Dignity
  2. Ineffable
  3. First Reading
  4. Finding Treasure
  5. Poets are Dying
  6. Editing
  7. Don’t Bite Me
  8. Natural Brutality
  9. Liminal
  10. Some Cussing Required
  11. Precious and Rare Days
  12. To PC or not to PC, a Question
  13. Thoughts
  14. Imagined Solutions
  15. Muse Berries
  16. Draconian
  17. Up Your Rolex
  18. My Colorado Morning
  19. Extraordinary Knowing
  20. Lie to Me
  21. Dear Deer
  22. The Gap is Gray
  23. I Hear You Died
  24. The Final Week
  25. My Twilight Swim
  26. Ignorance is not Bliss
  27. Expectations
  28. Cowboys 2.0
  29. Body Gremlins
  30. Morphology

As we enter the last month of the year, I look both ways—to future months
as I wonder what’s next with a curious fantasy about the advent
of a new time and age. I think about past months
with more satisfaction than I’m entitled.
I shall mind the gaps in my life, one day at a time.

Poetry: Recovery (NaPoWriMo) Day One

The first prompt was to write a poem that provides the reader with instructions on how to do something. I am sick and recovering from a cold, so that’s my poem: how to recover from a cold.

Recovery

Illnesses, colds and flu and some others,
oddly part of a healthy life. It’s normal
for us to suffer. I never get sick.

Until I do, because some germ has taken
to my body as a nice B&B place for a week
or so, and my body begins evicting the visitors

causing displays and loss of sleep and feelings
for which miserable is the visible coughing,
sneezing, and blowing snot. Need more tissue.

Head and body aches and pains and all form
of physical and mental malady, but the torment
and discomforts are symptoms of recovery.

Wash hands often, save others from you, take
meds to dry, less coffee and no beer or wine,
this medication and that – take them all

as directed by a bottle or doctor, but mostly
drink water, juice, tea, and ask doctor Google,
the answer is always the same. Wait.

Like most problems in life, illness will pass,
but another will replace it someday, a cold
or allergy from pollen, or some flu. Make feelings less bad,

medicate and wait, be miserable for days or weeks,
but recover you will. And the tiny viruses in you
will leave you only to return one day to the B&B.

©Bill Reynolds 4/1/2019

Look both ways for avoiding sickness. But mind the gaps of the already ill.

Poetic Recovery

I am atheist. I groan when I read, “as an atheist” before people make a statement. Well, guess what? I owe lots of apologies because….

As an atheist, I have been asked how we handle life when it sucks: sick kids (or grands), lost jobs, death of friends and loved ones, financial trouble, or any disaster. They rightfully ask, “How do you get through those tough times when even heavy-duty doubters pray for relief?” We do manage without god. Not only are there atheists in fox holes, some of us have died there.

I’m dealing with a cancer diagnoses and some of my doctors ask me how I feel about it. “Well, Doc, this is one time I wish you were wrong. Now, let’s do this.” I want action, science, and medicine; not prayers.

Here’s what I got for ya. Franky, baby! I love the song; both the music and lyrics of That’s Life, by Frank Sinatra. Some say, this too shall pass, but the song puts that theory on another emotional level, and I love it. I hope you do too.

Here are the lyrics. Below them, I also posted a youtube video with music, singing, and the words. Now, let’s get back up, brush ourselves off, and have a wonderful July.

That’s Life

That’s life (that’s life) that’s what people say
You’re riding high in April
Shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June

I said, that’s life (that’s life) and as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks
Stompin’ on a dream
But I don’t let it, let it get me down
‘Cause this fine old world it keeps spinnin’ around

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate
A poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race

That’s life (that’s life) I tell ya, I can’t deny it
I thought of quitting, baby
But my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try
I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate
A poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face
I just pick myself up and get back in the race

That’s life (that’s life) that’s life
And I can’t deny it
Many times I thought of cuttin’ out but my heart won’t buy it
But if there’s nothing shakin’ come here this July
I’m gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die

My, my

Songwriters: Vernon Duke / E. Y. Harburg

That’s Life lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Music Sales Corporation, Shapiro Bernstein & Co. Inc., BMG Rights Management

Look both ways for life’s ups and downs. Mind the gaps, as silly as it sounds.

Frat Friday (12 Step Programs)

12 step 7

I’ve experienced much of life. Part of that experience included years associated with, learning about, and practicing aspects of a 12-step program. While I wasn’t trying to recover from chemical addiction, I wanted to know if this was a viable option for friends and loved ones. The experience was beneficial.

The aspect of the human condition that allows us to be overcome by addiction or related problems (eating disorders, sex, food, etc.) is an interesting and frightening mystery. Loss of control is one of our shared basic fears.

I attended numerous Al-anon, AA, and NA meetings. I’ve talked to people who support “the program” and some who don’t. I have read about the successes, failures, and marketing deceptions (or just lies) of recovery treatment programs.

I loved this movie.
I loved this movie.

Critics and supporters of these programs abound. While I don’t take a position for or against, there are several pro or con issues that should be pointed out. I want to write this for two reasons.

Disclosure: I have not actively participated in a program of this nature in more than four years. But I did for over 16 years.

First, 12-step programs are generally religiously or godly (“higher power”) based. While many members will take issue with this, many others will not. Furthermore, steps 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, and (to a lesser degree) 12 are based on involving or invoking a god. Meetings within the USA usually  are specifically of a Christian nature and theme. Because Christianity is the predominant religion of America (and much of the world), it brings a clear religious bias to meetings, groups, and fellowships. However, at least initially, groups are generally open and accepting of members who are not Christian. They are supposed to be. However, the discomfort level experienced by non-believers at such meetings is understandable.

Second, I’ve been asked about, and I have wondered about, how non-believers manage a program that is so obviously in opposition to their core beliefs, or non-beliefs. I recently read a blog by a former meth user, Jerome. He got me to thinking about ‘the program’ again, and about this question. His view of NA is rather caustic. Based upon what he told me, he has a point – several, actually. It was not just that it was based on god or religion that was off-putting for him. It seems to me (and he may correct me) that his biggest problem was the negatively obnoxious “this is the only way” attitude of the group leadership he encountered. In my experience, this is one of the unfortunate problems with AA and NA. Less so in Al-anon, but those members are not trying to overcome addiction.

12 step 5To be fair, when I was in a leadership position with a 12-step program, I told members that they either worked the program, or they did not. It was up to them. However, them telling me that the program was not working when they were not ‘doing’ anything but attending meetings indicated other issues. I was taught, and I have always believed that we each have a right to our own program. If that program is not working, something should change. Recovery is too complicated to go into all of that detail in one blog.

I think many aspects of the program provided me with a path to better things in life. Criticising the program for its faults is fair enough, but I prefer not to throw the baby out with the bath water (cliché, but apropos). Twenty years ago, the program helped me to deal with ‘me’ and how I felt mentally, physically, and spiritually.  Eventually, because of my experience with ‘the program’, I decided that life for all of us is really all about how we feel.

12 step3

The following short list of adaptations reflect my program. I think everyone can benefit from this approach, addict or not, believer or not. It reflects what many program people might call Bill’s (me, not Bill W.) ‘experience, strength, and hope.’ In parenthesis, I credit the AA program step I adapted for my personal use.

  1. People die from denial. When we have a problem, we need to admit it. (AA step 1)
  2. Do you know you? You can do your own self-analysis (or get help from a counselor, shrink, or knowledgeable friend). It’s fun and rewarding, but it can be difficult (took me about a year). In past blogs, I’ve written about three questions I came up with while teaching a secular recovery program. I consider them helpful: What do you want? How do you want things to be? If you could change anything about the future, what would that be? There’s a lot more to this ‘self-inventory’ and discovery process. It could be a whole program unto itself, but I think it’s worth doing. (AA step 4)
  3. If you do harm to someone, apologize for it (if you mean it). If you owe a debt, pay it. (AA step 9). Sooner is better, in my opinion.
  4. My favorite is when you are wrong and you realize it, admit it quickly – to yourself and to someone who cares. I don’t know how much drama this removed from my life. I suspect even more of my drama was removed for my friends, family, and work-mates. (AA step 10). I personally don’t advocate apologizing for error, if no harm is done. I have been called arrogant for this. It’s a personal choice. We are all often wrong and that’s okay.12 step6
  5. I think there is something good and symbiotically beneficial in helping others. We should help people where and when we can, and we should be open to receiving help. (AA step 12)
Seriously.
Seriously.

 

This is a limited list. In many ways, living a healthy and happy life is much more involved than what I have said.

I suggest we each intentionally choose and do our own program in life, live as healthy as possible, keep learning, and laugh until it hurts.

If you are considering a 12-step program for any reason, I see no reason not to give it a try. As they are fond of saying, “We will gladly refund your misery.”