An Essay, A Return

Hello, everyone!

I’m back. It was a crazy weekend. My in-laws arrived, my birthday passed, and I wrenched my ankle. Good times.

Yesterday (Tuesday, 18 June 2019) I asked a writing student of mine to write a five paragraph essay about a time she messed up and what she learned from it. I, too wrote a five paragraph essay, but about something slightly different. My essay is about one of the greatest experiments I have ever done and the outcome it yielded. This experiment was the Poem a Day challenge I ran from March 2013 to March 2014. It covered times of great joy, sorrow, anger, and more. It was a year long slice of my life. I decided that I needed to give myself five paragraphs about that. Here they are:

I have written over 500 poems, a good deal of which are flops that will never see the light of day. Nearly 400 were written within the span of a year, during which time I set off to write one poem every day for that year. I learned quite a bit during that time, namely that I really didn’t like rhyming poetry. My rhyming poetry was the worst, and as a result of writing nearly 350 poems that are bad, in my opinion, I learned what I like and dislike when crafting a poem. Some of these dislikes are rhyme, aggressive sentimentality, and writing without sufficient inspiration. I found that I liked “shapeless” poetry like the compositions of modern spoken word poets far better than Emily Dickinson and other Romantic era poets that I had admired greatly before composing hundreds of poems of my own. Perhaps I couldn’t get the rhymes the way I wanted, perhaps it was that I just really didn’t like rhyming poetry for its tendency to be overly sentimental. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work for me. Upon emerging from this year of poetry, I learned three things. First, I knew my voice far better than before, second, I learned the importance of making time for my craft, and third, I learned that I could rise above naysayers who didn’t believe in me.

Before spending a year writing poetry, I was content to imitate the poets I had read in class or otherwise. Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson were two of my early influences, and they were masters of the rhyme. I think that I followed them so closely because I believed that poetry had to rhyme. If it didn’t, it wasn’t poetry. I remember being disgusted with a free-verse poem I wrote in middle school because it didn’t seem like a poem, it seemed like a more schmaltzy story. I barely touched free verse in the years that followed. I went into my poem-a-day challenge with that mindset, and it shaped the outcome. I was very inspired for the first two months or so, and then it began to feel like a chore. I didn’t quit, though, and became inspired again towards the end. These months of chore-like writing felt like they dragged, but they helped me learn what I liked and what I disliked about my poetry. That was the important part – once I started writing, had a considerable body of work, and was writing simply to practice writing, I was able to have a large enough sample size to look through later and learn from it. I ended up largely disowning that body of work, but I was able to learn that I was not meant to be an imitator of Dickinson and Shakespeare – my writing was meant to be something else. I would not have known that without the daily practice of writing.

Another highly important thing I learned about was the importance of making (not just spending) time on my craft. There were days when I wanted nothing to do with poetry; it felt like the world’s biggest chore. I would write some pretty bad poems then, but I wrote. That was important. That is one thing that always trips me up with writing nowadays. I get so caught up in wanting to create good content that I freeze up and don’t create at all. I made time for my craft, I didn’t just spend time working on it. The aspect of making time is highly important – to me, spending time with something is well and good, but when the going gets rough and your task inevitably feels like a chore, making time becomes so important. If I don’t intentionally carve out time to write in any form, it never happens and the days turn into weeks without me ever touching the keyboard or pen. I learned during that year that making time was so important, even if I knew that what I wrote was going to be crap and either be scrapped or gutted later. I think that’s the genius of it all. I can let my writing sit for a year and hate every single word, but in the end, I wrote. I made time for writing. I got better.

The final thing I learned was that people’s opinions of my aspirations or speculations about the outcome of the task at hand don’t affect me unless I let them. I remember people saying at the beginning that I should start small with maybe a poem a day for a week, but the philosophy I developed was similar to that of twelve step programs. One day at a time. I wrote for a year, blowing the same people that had once doubted me out of the water. I blew myself out of the water. I gained so much experience, even fueled at times by others’ criticisms or doubts. I wrote about my life. When something made me sad, I wrote about it. When something positive happened, I wrote about it. I used my setbacks and my joys as fuel for further art. It worked, and I had around 370 poems at the end of it all. I didn’t let what people say about me or my craft bring me down. I used it as fuel.

In the end, the challenge of writing a poem every day was one of the biggest learning experiences of my mid teens. It was a lesson in dedication. It was a lesson in patience. It was a lesson in time management. Above all, it was a lesson in consistency and practice. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I revisited my old poems and reacted to them with new work that was a step above what I had made in the challenge. Without taking the time to find my voice, making time in the day to write, and using setbacks as fuel, I would not be in the place I am today.

In other words, this experiment means a lot to me and I will do it again starting today.

Thank you for reading!

Love,

Mago

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In Disassembly

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It’s nighttime here, yet night has not entirely fallen. It’s this kind of eerie twilight where day desperately tries to linger.

Here’s a graph from timeanddate.com showing the daylight times for my hometown here in Alaska. As you can see, we’re getting ready to receive the most amount of daylight we will get all year on 21 June. I think it’s safe to say that this extreme influx of daylight has been messing with my sleep schedule. For example, it’s 11:35 PM and every damn human in this house is awake and alive. My husband and I live with two roommates who are basically family to us.

My husband is a few feet away from me playing some kind of first person shooter game. I have Lana Del Rey in my ears and so I can’t hear what he or his friends in his ears are saying. I’m caffeinated up and ready to rumble on my own projects.

My cousin said that she admired how I could set my mind on things and just do them. I released the first full length Candy For Trees album and shared with the news with her. I would argue that I’m the opposite of what she said. Everything creative just happens to me and the hardest work I do is assemble the miscellany I have created, sometimes from over the course of years. I lack discipline, and I’m not fond of that about myself. This blog is one of my greatest feats of consistency I have ever accomplished, and even then I am not perfect at it.

My biggest feat of consistency is the time I wrote 365 poems in a year. I wrote every day for the act of writing, and my work SUCKED. But because I put myself through those paces, my work got so much better. I was able to look back on the project and see that I honestly didn’t like the schmaltzy rhyming poetry I had written and that breaking free of the rhyme was essential to progressing in my craft. This honesty with myself allowed me to continue and get better, honing my own style rather than imitating the Romantic poets I so admired. In disassembling what I had made simply for the act of doing it, I was able to get farther than I would have otherwise.

I also think that Byzantines and Button Downs has made me a better writer, and being semi-consistent with it has been beneficial beyond measure, both with regards to practicing my craft and in terms of self discovery. I try to write something – anything – every day, whether it is poetry, one of my many stories, or blog posts.

Why don’t I write every day consistently, you may ask?

I think it’s because I’m afraid of failing, writing something that -gasp- sucks. I forget so easily how writing just for the act of doing it improved my skills and how I can always revisit the crappy writing later and build on it.

Here is an example of one such reconstruction:

The original.
The rework, 2015.

The theme remains the same, but they are quite different stylistically. There are pros and cons to each, but in the end it’s up to personal preference.

In the end, it comes down to self improvement, dedication, and perseverance. I don’t have those down yet and I was a lot better at them when I was younger, but that doesn’t mean that I am a failure. I just have stuff to work on.

So if you feel like you are stuck in the first assembly phase, you aren’t alone. I think we all should take it one day at a time (seriously, that’s some of the best advice I have ever heard) and do what we can today, in this time. In my limited experience, I’ve found that it’s about making time for consistency, not necessarily having it already on hand.

What are you working on? Let me know in the comments!

Love,

Meg

Icarus, my love

Hello!

This poetrygram was written when I didn’t have much confidence in myself.

I never expected to have confidence in myself at all. I thought for a long time that life was just a matter of existing, not living. It seemed like I had no purpose – that I was only living to keep others happy and to keep them from imploding were I to die or mentally check out for an extended period of time. I wondered if there was anything more to life than just to count the sunsets and hang on, waiting for something to happen.

I was waiting for life to happen to me. I was experiencing it passively. I didn’t take full part in it. I wasn’t an active participant in my own existence. Everything began to change when I started going down on my meds. My friends started to say that I had life in my eyes again, and that meant a lot to me. I took this selfie

awhile back and there’s so much light in my frickin’ eyes, it’s crazy. I was the most overjoyed of people. I can’t look at this picture and not smile. I had spent so long in an overmedicated haze that I didn’t know what it was like to have that kind of light there and it kind of scared me at first. But then I realized that I have a right to that light and that I was worthy to have it.

The poetrygram refers to Icarus, the boy with wax wings that flew too close to the sun and my husband both. It’s is about both of us being flawed, but in a way where both of us are able to heal from the sun and the damage that life and time have dealt to us. He’s rebuilding his wings, and my burns are healing. He is very observant and he was able to see that I was in the haze and took steps to bring me out of it.

So now my husband is beside me playing a video game and I’m taking today to plan and write the next week’s blog posts so that I’m ahead of the game. It’s gonna be difficult, but so worth it.

In the same vein of worth it, here’s another poetrygram.

I wrote this one a bit before the other one. I had even less confidence then than with the other one, and that says a lot about where I was. I thought that people needed metaphorical safety suits to deal with me, but my husband and friends have always proved me wrong. For years, I have found that the universe/God sends me people whom I need in my life or who need me. Many times it’s both. It simply goes to show that we’re all worth it.

All of us. No matter what we’re going through or how small we think we are, we are worth it. We are worth love and care and kindness, nurturing and compassion. We make an impact, whether we see it or not. Nothing happens by accident.

I’m sitting here listening to Japanese city pop as I write this and it’s damn good. Youtube brings me the best recommendations. It’s a rainy day and I think I’m letting go of my expectations for this time. I wanted to barbecue with friends, but if that doesn’t happen due to this rainstorm, I’ll be okay. I am making my own fun.

There are going to be times when I feel like Icarus, flying too close to the sun. The sea could cool me off, but then there are times I must heal, wandering around with stubs of wings and finding love and healing.

There will be times when I feel like people around me need to wear safety suits, there will be times when I get all suited up for myself and go out into the moonscape and explore. Exploring is the best.

It feels wonderful to be an active participant in my own existence. As stated above, exploring is great, and I feel like I have much exploring to do now that I’m coming out of my haze. My mental home is in serious need of redecorating, as well.

I am happy to have light back. I have heard it said that darkness can’t exist where light is, and my mind is slowly lighting up.

So to you, dear reader –

If you’re new to being happy, do your best to embrace it. You may have a long way to go until you fully can, but it will be so worth it. You are a being of infinite worth and you are so loved. Keep being bright.

Is it okay to be sad, though, especially when I’ve been happy for so long? More about that next time!

Love, Meg

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Live in Color

I might start just writing in verse every Thursday. Verse Thursday.

I.

Starting new is the strangest

thing –

double spaced becomes something

different to me

“we won’t have to be scared”

is that really a quote, or

something closer to something

everyone screams in their lifetime?

everything revolved around college

for a time –

how’s it going?

people would ask and i would frown

wishing they would be quiet and

leave me be for once


but now things are different

i wish i had read more about

attrition rates before even going

all of my friends are graduating

and while i don’t feel left behind,

it’s something like that.

II.

here comes the rain –

it’s something we expect but aren’t

hoping for

I trust the sky a bit too much

I don’t trust the ground

I’m too afraid of it falling out from

underneath me

why am i living in the same color

green as Alaska in spring?

why is everything blooming?


if there’s spring in a place that most

would deem unfit to have one

why can’t there be spring in me?

am i forbidden from blooming?

must i understand the happiness

within me?

I wish I could help the people who

need to bloom.

my husband is in his jail of an office

doing far too much tech support work

than any human should.

he’s a bud who has been in the dark

for too long

and he needs to come into the light.



III.

I am neon pink

coming from black and white

I don’t deserve to be shot in grays

I need to live aloud,

live in color

Rain Is

red on red

not what you think

red on red reflected

on slick concrete

pitch reflected in raindrops

someday i’ll make beauty

from a burning house

and the mind on fire that my

skull contains

will be doused with rain

“beauty from a burning house”, a poem by me

This is a poem I forgot about that I had written during my short-lived Poem a Day challenge last year. I was a long way away from believing in myself then, and I remember speaking poorly about myself in poetry and everywhere, really. I still don’t believe in myself in many ways, but I am coming to accept my mind on fire.

I’ve been working my way down on some of my meds, and I am feeling…alive. I am feeling. Feeling like myself, kicking the sadness in the pants, being my intense self and feeling mostly okay about it.

The one thing that bothers me is that I am able to laser focus, laser focus to nearly the point of obsession until my project is done. That bothers me because I want my ideas to come to fruition right now and that involves pestering people a lot. I don’t want to be annoying, but I need to get stuff done! According to my brain, that is. This has resulted in a pair of pieces that are nearly album-length apiece. You’ve already read about Light Steps, and last night’s jam resulted in Benson Boulevard Under Cover of Darkness.

My project last night was getting them on Apple Music, Spotify, and the like. I was so focused that I didn’t write a proper blog post, I’m so sorry! They should be live in a few days, though!

Before that, my project was recording Light Steps to cassette, which failed miserably. I’m starting to question my cassette quest since the jams are so frequent, so I’m setting that idea aside. This is what happens when I don’t try and put out the fire in my brain, coupled with staying off social media. I’m probably going to record a few hours’ worth of music by the end of April. I feel a lot better about myself.

all these cars

in such a hurry to get somewhere

i spent the day drinking tea

and wondering what it would be

like

to be okay

the simple answer is that i do not know

maybe it’s like being so

tired you cannot sleep

seeing the thing for what it is

but being unable to touch it

or maybe it’s

something like the moment

of clarity a person

first has at the moment

they plunge into ice cold water

they feel alive, don’t they?

This poem is called “beauty from a burning house”, and that’s honestly how I saw myself – as a burning house. Nothing more. I was under the impression that that was all I deserved, to be put out by a rainstorm.

I felt for years like I had to summon the rainstorm in order to make beauty from the burning house that I was. I didn’t see that the burning inside was okay to have. It seemed that I had to moderate my emotions. I had to have a valid reason to be sad, angry, very happy, or else I’d see myself as crazy and I thought others would, too.

In hindsight, it doesn’t matter what others thought. I was so focused on “being okay” that I overlooked the times when I was “okay”, and even worse, was being my true self. These were opportunities where I should have been feeling alive, but I crushed them. I was trying to look without seeing. I was looking to feel alive in all the wrong places.

Writing this blog was the first step to feeling alive, but now I feel real.

Feeling real to me is being able to embrace who you are without fearing how others think and view you. It’s not putting on airs, it’s not doing stupid stunts just for attention. It’s being unafraid to be creative and inventive and to also care for yourself. It’s being able to say “this is who I am” and roll with that.

I know I’m weird. I know I’m eccentric as all hell. I am excitable, I am smart. I deserve far more than to be put out by a rainstorm. You don’t deserve that, either.

Carry on.

-Meg

Bright

bright

bright

it’s never bright enough here

not for them

there’s this sickly thing called moderation

that i never nurtured and instead shied from

they said i should take it in

but who am i to listen

it’s grown up where i haven’t

(it was grown to begin with)

it’s coming for me and it is armed

with broken warning words

in a language i still can’t understand

even though they held me down and tried

to make me learn


(there’s nothing more to learn here

only repetition and broken mirrors)

an excerpt of “bright”, a poem by me

I’m coming to realize that I will never be right in the eyes of some people. I have worried that people won’t accept my mental state unless I’m either 100% happy or 100% calm and collected. I worry that any kind of anger or depression won’t be tolerated.

My husband is a miracle. I agree with this – he wonders if I really have bipolar disorder since most of my sadness occurs a week before my period (TMI Friday). So he came along to my psych appointment, which was already an appointment set to determine the course of action regarding my very high doses of some meds. After much talk, the three of us came to the conclusion that I may not even have bipolar and that if this is the case, the med doses need to be decreased or eliminated entirely.

a med smiley face.

We have talked about the meds before and he was the first one to propose this theory. I was at first unwilling to even consider talking to a psych about the possibility of not having bipolar for fear of destabilizing. Then we took a rainy car ride home from Anchorage and we talked further. We got on the same page.

When I had my regularly scheduled appointment with a new psych, she was baffled at the amount of meds I was taking. This didn’t sit right with her, and she gave me some education on what was going on. One of my meds has been proven to induce hypomania in bipolar patients. Two others are at abnormally high doses. So she referred me to another psych for a second opinion on what to do.

The other psych backed us up, and it was freeing. I have spent so long being told this and having it drilled into my head, and now I feel free to be myself. We even talked about gender, and she said that that is not abnormal to feel dysphoria and didn’t judge me for it! She understood what I was saying, too!

This excerpt from “Bright” sums my feelings up perfectly. It’s also the most Mago thing to not be on Mago.

there’s some long meter stick

i haven’t found

my anger doesn’t measure up to

my sadness doesn’t measure up to

I never seem to measure up to

even though we’re taller than that

I find that I struggle with a lot of anger, and a lot of it is directed at the fact that I worried for so long about whether or not the emotion I was feeling was valid or if it was just my insanity. I’m just about done with that bullshit. I’ll keep you updated on this journey.

Love,

Meg

Your Empire

Hey, all! I’m double dipping today. I’d like to talk about a poem that is very special to me. It’s called “Your Empire”. I wrote it two years ago. It opens like so:

you are more than a princess, darling girl -you are a queen – an empress

and you are loved more than you know

there will be times when you’ll be 

punched in the gut

kicked in the ribs

tossed aside

but your true wisdom comes in

knowing whether to form a fist or

extend your hand…

First lines of “Your Empire”, written 3/6/17

I love this poem because it’s what I wish I could have believed about myself at that time and what I don’t want anyone to forget, no matter their gender or age.

I owe the empire theme to my obsession with the Byzantine Empire, which is still an obsession of mine, hence my blog title. My favorite historical character of all time is the Byzantine Empress Theodora. Someone once said I was like her, and that was probably the biggest compliment I have ever received. This poem is me telling anyone who needs it that they are noble and deserving of that title. That includes myself. It continues:

…because some battles that need to be fought

are ignored

and some battles that are fought

need to be ignored

and a true empress – like you – knows which is which

and what to do. 

“where is my empire?”

you may ask.

I will place my hand over my heart

and say, “darling, every time you are knocked

over and you stand up again, think of that as a conquest.”

“Your Empire”

At this time in my life, I was in Idaho college and I needed some encouragement. The environment was becoming toxic to me and I wanted to feel okay again. This was one of the ways I helped myself. I also sent this and other poems to friends who seemed to be in need of them. This one is by far my favorite of the bunch.

I definitely need to listen to myself in the lines about conquest. I don’t take my own advice well enough. It’s true, I am conquering. I am ruling. I am becoming more and more involved in my own life. That’s important. A ruler wouldn’t let things just…happen to them, would they? No, they wouldn’t.

Planning is hard for me, though. It’s hard for me to get up and say, “I’m gonna do XYZ today”, even when I am happy. I tend to let the day just pass without making plans. It’s important to remember that part of owning my life and empire is to plan for the future.

With my tutoring, I don’t schedule very far in advance since I’m a hired gun that gets requests usually only a few hours before the student wants to meet. I’m surprised nobody has wanted to meet in the middle of the night yet! As a result, my days are fairly open. I have my to do lists, but I need to make an actual schedule.

Part of me thinks, “Oh, but it’s a struggle to get out of bed early!” Then there’s another part that’s like, “Fortify yourself, dammit. You won’t get anywhere with that attitude. Do you want to build your empire, or not?”

Okay, okay. I’m gonna fortify myself. Let’s continue with the poem.

every good thing you do, every struggle that you

overcome, every person you make smile –

oh, my dear, those are conquests. and in the end,

the biggest conquest you can make

is learning to love yourself

and others even though they –

and their empires – are imperfect.

I am learning that hard things are essential for growth and that I can’t quit if I want to make it in life, in anything. I can’t quit on myself, either. Like the last lines of the poem say, “the biggest conquest you can make is learning to love yourself and others even though they – and their empires – are imperfect.” Self sabotage gets me nowhere. Learning to love myself is important. It’s an important step towards progress. It will require much self-fortification. It takes strength to love oneself, I am finding. Also, I feel so much happier after being off social media all day. 10/10 so far, will continue.

Update: I have actually composed music today! Yes!

Would you like for me to write YOU a song, poem, or even an album? Got a special occasion coming up? I’m on WhatsApp, so if you shoot me a message there, we can start a conversation!

Love,

Meg