I had a professor back in my college days who drew out of me more and better writing than anyone ever has. After finding that journal yesterday, I found myself picking through the numerous documents I have kept from that time trying to find some of the pieces I remember. I find it inspiring to go back and read things that I consider well done, and that professor had a talent for pulling some of the best I had to offer in a nascent and immature writing career.
Dr. Jill Larsen…. I wonder where she’s at and what she’s doing? She knows, of course, the gift she gave me then. Maybe it’s time that some of those pieces saw the light of day…. Let’s start here:
The assignment was to write about emotion emotionally if I remember right. To appeal to that very human element that makes us both weak and strong. They Flow was the result. Here it is….
They flow, one by one… and pool. It doesn’t take long, nor does it take much to set it off. All the memory. All the experience of life. Like breath. Like air passing into and out of my lungs. They just happen. They come together with a spontaneity all their own. I don’t ask for it, nor do I stop it. Not that I could. I let it flow freely because flowing is life.
As each one collects, they take form. At first, they were no stronger nor more powerful than a single atom. Then again, you can split atoms. Now they have coalesced into something even more powerful than atoms. Raw. Carnal. Sensual.
There’s a time when I can honestly say that I first lost a friend. It took about 5 seconds, maybe less. Harsh words, harsh acts, harsh results. Something was released then, and it pooled. Why must it always pool?
Pooling reaches the deepest places… forces itself into the deepest cracks where it joins with other pools until it builds. A pond… hmpf! Cesspool is more accurate. Not that the name matters. Be it alpine lake or turbid stagnation, the result is the same—loneliness. You’d think that all these pools inside of me would leave me feeling full, alive. No. The anaerobic stench of decay is lifeless. It’s always been lifeless.
Then there’s the time when I lost my first job. “What? Me? Steal? I’ve never stolen a thing in my life!!! How dare you accuse me!!!” Yeah… there went one more down into the pool. That one is called despair and hopelessness. I truly was innocent. Guiltless. I walked my own Golgotha that day. I walked that lonely road of dust, sweat, and pain. But I didn’t have any of the glory or honor that came from that first Trek. And I was truly as innocent as He.
The pool is filling up. Slowly it deepens. Stagnant waters bury and drown that which it covers. Hard to live when life is so… full.
And what of the terror of stepping into darkness? What of the voyage north? What of sleeping on the deck of an ocean-going ferry as it crossed the Inside Passage? What of leaving all that I knew behind? It was winter. It was cold. I was alone there, too. There were many that flowed by and collected then. Passed right in front of my eyes. Eyes that were so blind. Eyes that were so buried in my own puddling that I refused to see. Could not see. Would not see. Refused… to see.
Man, they’re getting thick. Heavy. I never knew that pools could weigh so much. A gallon of water weighs 8⅓ pounds. EIGHT AND A THIRD!!! So why the hell is this so much heavier? Is it the weight of its contents? Is it the power inside of it?
And oh, how I hate October. I can’t stand that month. Nothing good has ever come of October. The witching hour. My parents were thrown from the road then. Hit broad-side by the van that they, nor I, ever saw coming. It was invisible. Funny how that which cannot be seen is most often that which hurts the most. Words, Silence. Love, Hate. Courage… Fear.
And I sat there. Sat there helpless while my wife went through labor and complications. Sat there with one hand on her belly and one hand on my new-born desperately trying to keep them both on the beds. She just wouldn’t stop bleeding!!! “Nurse!!! NURSE!!! DAMN IT!!! GET IN HERE!!!” She was just barely fast enough. Rage… Helplessness… That’s what I call that pool there. It sits closest to my heart where it can bleed into my body easiest… fastest. Where it can bring out the absolute worst in me. Where it can temper my normal approaches. Where it can demonize even the purest of saints.
And the lonely nights that followed. Her in the hospital. Me alone at home. Trying to go to school. Trying to raise my week-old child. Trying to go to work. Trying… Trying… failing…. “Yes, professor. I know I missed the exam. Yes, sir… But my wife… She’s in the hospital. No, sir. I understand that it wouldn’t be fair to the other classmates.” Hard to believe that a religion professor at BYU would not excuse that test. So much for family-friendly environment. Oh, that one I call despise. Yeah… I know, it’s pretty big.
But the biggest of all… Big enough that it mingles with and through all the other pools is Fear. That one flows constantly. New additions. Reinforcements for its ever-expanding circle of influence. That piece right there is the “Not good enough” part. This one here is the “Never make it.” There’s a section over there that’s poisoned with “I don’t love you.” Unrequited Love. It tends to season a lot of things. Variety is indeed the spice of life, but Unrequited Love is one thing that I could do without.
And each of these flow through me. They flow in me and around me and with me. They are there every day. Every single day there flows a piece of this through me. They flow in search of those deepest and darkest places. And they pool. God, how they pool. And they build up… And they suffocate. And they cover, and choke, and cut off and cover and destroy and bury deny burn ANGER RAGE HATE!!!
And then I put my head in my hands… My shoulders slump slowly, I collapse to the floor, and the tears flow freely. The pools empty… drain away. I’m purged, it’s all gone. All the anger, all the rage, all the pain. I’m clean again. I’m strong again. I’m pure again. I’m what I really am. I stand up, reach down, pick my life up. As long as I can be purged and cleaned… As long as I can be purged and cleaned. As long as the tears… as long as they flow.