Finding words. (A series of poems.)

Hello, Wanderers.

So, for those of you who don’t know already, here are some major life updates–I quit student teaching. I temporarily withdrew from Northwestern. And on Sunday, I moved back home for the rest of winter quarter.

All of this has been a pretty big shock to my system, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about it all–a letter to my students, an explanation of why I left, a journal talking about what I went through and how I’m doing now, a list of all the reasons I knew leaving was the right thing to do. Something satisfying, something neat, something that I knew would make sense to everyone.

But instead I wrote poetry.

Because none of this is satisfying, or neat, or sense-making, and there were so many different things I wanted to say. I wrote a total of five poems that I think capture what the past couple months have been like. The first is sort of an exploration of how so much of what I think and feel gets lost when I try to capture it with written or spoken word. The second is a description of the crippling anxiety problems that characterized my time in student teaching, and how it affected my relationship with God.  The third poem is about the hard questions I asked myself in making this decision to quit. Poem four is about how God shows me the most grace in the areas I am most flawed, and the fifth is a piece about the anticipation and hope for a new start that comes with this new period of being at home to rest. To listen.

Throughout this whole ordeal, I have experienced grace that can only be described as miraculous. I am so thankful to all the people who made me feel so loved and supported in my decision. There were many of you.

I hope you will read, and understand a little more.

–Erin

I.

There’s always something
Lost in translation
A red cheek
Bitten nails

Breathe slow, breathe slow

Drink of water
To find the quiet
The space for new words
To stretch their limbs
Work themselves out
On the tip of my tongue
And make a leap

Breathe slow

Begin to speak
Do not worry about lost things
For what flies away
Will circle home again
Or else was never meant
For keeping

II.

On January Sunday nights
I would crawl into bed
At one a.m.
Flick off the light
Lay my head on the pillow
And quietly as I could
Release the tears
That daylight hours
And company had suppressed

I cried because
Tomorrow was Monday
And I was getting up in four hours
And my stomach hurt
And my mind was numb
And once again, I did not know
What I could possibly teach them

But mostly I cried
Because I had not felt Him in a while
I felt unseen
And unloved
And just needed, more than anything
To be held

On the worst of those Sundays,
Where everything felt wrong and grey
And I did not recognize myself
I would beg Him for a way out of it

Some Sundays
I would pray that they would not see me cry
I would pray that I could breathe normally
I would pray that they would forgive me
For not being enough
I would pray
For the strength to get out of bed
And get on the train
And walk to school
And climb up the stairs to the third floor office
And fail, spectacularly,
Over and over
And over
Again

But mostly on those Sundays
In my delirious grief-sleep
I would simply ask
For words

III.

She told me that my trouble
Was asking the right questions
To get them where I needed them to go

And day after day
I would apologize to her
And stare at my notepad
Tapping my pen on pink and blue perpendicular lines
My frantic scribbles and crossed-out sentences
And the only questions I could think of
Were the ones I could not write down

Why is this happening?
Is this Your discipline?
Or is this purposeless self-punishment?
Should I leave?
If I leave, am I giving up?
Am I giving up too soon?
What is “too soon”?
Does leaving mean I am not trusting You to carry me through this?
Is it okay to admit that I am limited?
Am I being realistic about my flaws?
Or am I stubbornly refusing to change?
Is it ever okay to say “No more”?
Am I just lazy?
Am I selfish?
Am I weak?
If I leave, does it mean I don’t love them enough?
If I stay, would I even be capable of teaching them, loving them?
Should I stay?
Will it get easier if I do?
Does staying mean I am not trusting You to lead me to something better?
Is there something better?
Will I ever be able to give of myself for others?
Will I ever stick with anything?
With anyone?
Will I be okay?

Now I see that the trouble
Was not in the questions themselves
But in who asked, who answered

And day after day
Question by question
I realize I am no longer sorry
Because He is getting me
Where He needs me to go

IV.

In the past, He’s used the years to show me the who-I-ams

(A writer with a million stories ready to burst out. A singer with songs living deep in her bones. Empathy. Expression. A counselor, a sister, a nurturer. Vivid imagination.  Lots of optimism, an old soul. The capacity to see and appreciate and make beauty. Forgiving. Wide open, romantic, spilling-forth heart. A craving for adventure and travel. The desire to love, to be loved. His Daughter)

But lately, He’s been showing me the who-I’m-nots

 (The perfect child. Organized. Thick-skinned. Diligent. Logical. Realistic. A multi-tasker. Humble or selfless. Practical. Secure in herself. Perfect. Always kind. Always thoughtful. Someone who thinks before she speaks. Disciplined. A ladder-climber. A tomboy. My sisters’ mother. Athletic. A hipster of any kind. A good actress. A good dancer. And most recently, an English teacher)

And as bitter as this lesson goes down
Its aftertaste is sweet
Because in learning about the who-I’m-nots
I am learning to cover these things
With a soft blanket of His grace
And rest
In Who-He-is

V.

I went home, took a walk to clear my head
To give myself some space, some time
To simply listen for a while
Or perhaps remember
What it was that I forgot

There are wild trees and forests here,
And stark white virgin hills that plead
For footsteps in the snow, for laughter
In the season that swallows every sound
Except for one

In this place, I can hear God
On the blank white paper earth
And know that it is here that
He will write out my past and future
He will compose a great symphony

Spring birdsong, the chatter of old friends
Glasses clinking, violins soaring
Snow melting and dripping onto pavement
The honk of car horns on city streets
All the tears I’ll cry and the quiet rhythm of trees growing

The frantic thunder of my dancing feet
Murmuring my most secret wishes
The guitar strumming, us together singing
Glory to our Savior
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

This is His creation’s chorus
Written into its deepest recesses
I am only one voice
And I don’t know all the words yet
Nor do I know how it ends

But in this winter
In this place of silent white, I know that
He will teach me how to sing this song,
How to listen,
How to walk into the wind

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4 thoughts on “Finding words. (A series of poems.)”

  1. It is 3:30 in the morning, I have been drawing for the last six hours, and somehow your five poems collectively express something that my weary heart could not. Thankful for all the things you are and aren’t, my love.

    Like

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