Speaking My Truth: A Journey of Pain, Paradox, and Poetry
It started with the dreams. My first lover would appear. First, for conversation. Then, for the glamorous pull of love, home, love, sex, and everything foreign. I would wake up sweating, confused, and hungry.
The boy in my dreams would ask, “Has anyone else ever made you feel this way?” The answer was silently stitched into the sleeping face beside me—the face of the man I said I loved.
I spent years running from poetry. It didn’t feel like a problem. After all, poetry was a companion for my darkness. And after that darkness almost ended me, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want poetry. I wanted to be someone else, someone wholesome, whole. I was afraid of the pain I had caused to so many, most brutally to myself, and I wanted my life to have some meaning, some purpose, some magical, happy ending that made all the conflict seem worthwhile. I could not love who I was, so I changed myself. I could not love what I couldn’t get, so I changed my definitions of love. Then, I helped other people believe my story. A story that felt nice to believe. A story that was true but not at the expense of everything I made false, all the paradoxes I couldn’t yet hold in my hands.
In came the dreams—hot, heart-wrenching, and oh-so-inconvenient. I couldn’t help but write poems about them. Where else could I run from the perfect life I had created for myself? Where else could I share the deep hypocrisy of my deepest yearnings? This was how The Shades of Missing You was born: out of necessity. I had something to say and nowhere else to say it.
No one asked me to cut art, anger, or sex out of my public persona. I did it myself, gladly. And while I shared stories about self-love, there was a hidden story behind closed doors. At first, I couldn’t see it. I was focused on another problem: the relationship I was in. The constant conflict, disrespect, and misunderstanding. And only after I gained the courage to leave did I realize that him and I were co-conspirators in the kidnapping of my truth. I was afraid of the madwoman in my veins, so I unconsciously found someone who thought she was just as ugly. We locked her up together.
Writing The Shades of Missing You helped me resurrect the narcotic, addictive passion that fueled my poetry as much as my addictions. I was on a roller coaster, a ride I didn’t have to control. I loosened my grip and let it take me where it wanted.
Naively, I thought that the years of self-awareness had scrubbed clean my emotional traumas, that this passion would lead me to what I truly deserved, to cherries I could put on top of my cemented sense of self-respect. Life had other plans.
The first order of business was to embody the opposite of everything I had written about myself, especially everything I had published. I was glad many times for The Art of Talking to Yourself. Its paradox-loving, pro-hypocrisy attitude kept me from hating my inconsistencies and allowed me to march courageously into a new world. I wrote it to help people. Turns out, I also wrote it for myself—as a springboard into the unpredictable vortex of the real. It has been my father, my mother, my ancestor, beaming at me with faith and encouragement, no matter how lost I got.
And lost I did get. I wandered through uncharted paths in my inner forest. I followed the wolves, chased them, let them rip my flesh and suck on my bones. I walked on the yellow brick road, knowing the end of the story, and still I believed and sang and danced into the arms of disappointment.
When I visited Montreal in June, I met a woman whose admiration of my first book, The Love Mindset, caught me off guard. She took me to dinner, bought a few books, listened to my sadness and my excitement, and then gently explained that the way I sometimes talked about my first book was disrespectful, that she once got into a debate with someone about how it was better than The Alchemist, and that my obvious preference for my second book feels like a slap in the face to those who loved the first one more.
At first, I found her words hard to digest. Then, I felt confused. Then, I felt ashamed. I was doing it again: flipping sides of a coin instead of spending it on a ticket into tomorrow. Just as locking up my self-loathing past had caused turmoil, locking up any chapter this self-loving past would cause just as much turmoil. I was both. I was everything. And the more I saw how many galaxies lived inside each of my breaths, the more I became paralyzed by the dark matter around the light, the void holding it all together.
I wrote poems. I wrote spoken word. I performed. I painted. I collaged. I sang. I danced. I cried and laughed and yearned and begged and moaned and forgave and raged. My existence itself shaped into a poem. Everything became a metaphor. Everything became mysterious, tragic, and beautiful.
After I experienced the world as one unified organism, I called this God sometimes. I stopped being triggered by people using that word to mean something else because I understood we were seeking the same plane of perception. Through my return to poetry, I have experienced what I keep calling the Goddess. The creative energy that births itself and then dies, makes love to itself and then cries. That strange yin-yang of beauty and chaos that constructs all the pedestals and digs all the caves.
I have written so much. And there is so much more to write. I have sometimes hated crawling back to my words, full of blood and filth and scars, begging art to make me whole again. But what must come must come. What must be written must be written. And the truth is that I have not been as honest as I could be in my writing. And if I am to receive the answers I desire to my unanswered questions, then it will only be after I have bled everything onto the page, until the lining of my heart sheds, unobstructed by all my bitter yesterdays.
The Shades of Missing You was an exciting first step. And I understand now that it is a step. I lifted a weight off my chest by speaking the inconvenient truth, and my task now is to keep writing and sharing whatever possesses me, so that I may let it go. Release is not a forceful process. It is a relaxation that allows all the built-up pressure to seep out, sometimes slowly, sometimes in bursts, and always full of beauty and pain.
Since I was little, I’ve been healing through poetry. Much of what I’ve written has been destroyed or lost. Sometimes, by the hands of other people. Often, by me. I’ve been ashamed of my emotional turmoil. I’ve tried to make it more consumable. But I’m hard to swallow, just like the truth. I’ve feared being “too much,” and for some people, I always will be. I’ve been working on accepting this. It’s painful. It’s scary. But it’s real. And I am here to leave a legacy of truth, of telling the stories we can all relate to but fear sharing. This is my task. I am as afraid as I am in awe of it.
I welcome the ripples of healing that spread each time I share the words that have healed me. I have been healing alongside you, and this is another chapter. A coming of poet story, perhaps.
The poems I have been writing lately make me uncomfortable. I think, “Can I really say this?” And each time my thoughts wander that path, I remember Yrsa Daley-Ward’s words: “If you are afraid to write it, that’s a good sign. I suppose you know you’re writing the truth when you’re terrified.” I am. I am in a cocoon weaving a new self through my memories, my pain, my unfulfilled desires. And it gets easier. When I first began to write the poems in The Shades of Missing You, I thought I’d never share them. Now, I am excited to share them, but I’m afraid of sharing something else. Courage is a daily choice for me. And I will keep making it.
I feel naked, raw, exposed. I also feel relieved. I’m finding a home inside my words, a sense of belonging I’ve been afraid to admit I desire. Now more than ever, I am grateful for your attention, your openness, your acceptance of my words and my journey. Thank you. I love you. I really do ❤️️
I’d also like to take this moment to officially announce the release date of The Shades of Missing You: November 11, 2019. I think 11/11 looks nice. Don’t you? You are welcome to check out a preview here. I hope you’ll also take the time to leave me a comment and let me know you’re still here with me. I’m still here with you ✌️