I’ve been writing a lot of poetry lately. I don’t think I’ve produced so much content since high school. A lot of it has been about Justin, which is to be expected. I’ve found myself thinking about the three years we spent together and trying to allow myself to view those years and how I felt during them honestly. In doing so, I’ve found myself reconsidering lots of old relationships and old wounds that I had considered closed over (if not healed), and I noticed a pattern. I tend to forget rather than forgive (and I very much disagree with the saying “forgive and forget”). I think forgiveness is good and healthy and necessary for one’s growth and sanity. But if you forget, then what point of reference do you have when you encounter a similar situation in the future? If you forgive and forget, then how can you learn? How can you stop yourself from repeating the same mistakes over and over?
Writing has always been an emotional outlet for me: a safe way for me to express my emotions honestly, without fear of consequence (which is why I have pages and pages and pages of writing that no one will ever read). But I’ve never really thought about writing as way to heal. It’s a way to express, which is an important first step in healing, but generally I write something and then abandon it in a notebook or word doc. I throw the emotions onto paper and consider myself done; I forget but I don’t forgive.
When I go back and read these old poems, I remember exactly what I was feeling. I can put myself right back into those unresolved emotions. The interesting and somewhat unique thing about my relationship with Justin is that we started dating at a time in my life when I was writing poetry left and right, spitting it out daily. He was the first person I ever wrote about in present tense; up until I met him all of my poetry was a reaction, a reflection on something that had ended. Justin arrived in my life just in time to become the subject of happy love poetry. As a result, you can clearly trace the path of our relationship through my poetry. I managed to capture every part; the nervous excitement at the beginning, the idealized perfection of the honeymoon phase, the warm comfortable feeling of being securely in love, the frustration and anger that came with long-distance, the doubt and fear of the future, and the devastating sadness that accompanied the loss of something I thought would always be there.
It hurts to read these things; it still hurts to remember what I’ve lost. This is true of many things, not just Justin. So I read my old poetry and steep myself in these old emotions that I thought I had dealt with, but had instead simply tucked away for later. And then I write; not just to throw words on paper and forget, but to forgive. And to remember.
I organize my poetry into folders, each one labelled according to subject.
The ‘Me’ folder is suspiciously lighter than the others. But I’m working on that. I’ve heard this said several times: “You’ve got to love yourself before you can love someone else.” That’s probably true. But right now, for me at least, I think this is more accurate: you’ve got to forgive yourself before you can forgive someone else. And you certainly can’t love yourself if you can’t forgive yourself.
I recently found an old, unfinished poem I started my first year at Yale; it was about my dad. I was clearly very angry when I wrote it, but I’m not so angry with him now (not angry at all, really). I finished it, and when I did, I moved it the ‘Me’ folder, because I realized it wasn’t about my dad at all. Here’s the last few lines:
I haven’t spoken to you since the last time it rained.
I blamed you, I blamed you for everything.
But I cannot blame you for the rain anymore
than I can blame you for the drought.
I dreamed of you, too, while you were gone.
And clear skies or storm clouds, I hurt all the same.
I’m sorry it took me so long to see: the storm was never you.
The storm was always me.