How to work with the “Malaise”

Malaise: “…a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify.”

How are you coping with it? The long stretch of not being sure how to proceed? The risks, the frustrations, the doubts and uncertainties, the news, the misinformation, the truth that “no one really knows for sure.” What are the long-term consequences of getting the vaccine? How long does it last? What’s the best one for you? What’s the best one for me? Who can you go to for answers? What if you are one who chooses to wait and see before you get the vaccine, if ever? What is the underlying cause of this virus? Where did it actually originate? What’s the best preventative? Can we gather or not? How many feet apart? Wearing masks, indoors or outdoors? Double-masking? Whaaaaat?

And do we have to face more of this in the future? Is it a result of climate change and what we’ve been doing to our planet? The virus goes to the lungs…are the lungs of the earth sending us a message as we carry on with our deforestation…the trees, the lungs of the planet? A good question–is the earth giving us FEEDBACK? How are we interpreting this?

Some of my friends are trying to live their lives with business as usual. There are others who are working around the curtailments. There are others who go between the malaise and working on one or another projects. For them it’s like swimming against the currents. Progress is slow, if any. Sometimes they go sideways, detouring into a mindless distraction. Some have a new addiction to the news, their computers. And they are suffering for it. As for me, I’m trying to sort through a lifetime of writing. And to maintain the little cottage where I live better. A little garden. The goal is to bring some order to the world that immediately surrounds me. The one I think I have some control over. In incremental ways, daily. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or overnight.

What about you? How are you coping?

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I wrote this poem in March of 2012. I don’t remember what was going on in my life at the time. It was a year after my mom had died. A year and a half since my dad had died. I’m guessing I was rousing myself and redirecting my life after the challenges of their final years. The thing is…perhaps we’re always rebounding from something or other in our lives. Yes, it’s true, the magnitude of what has resulted from the virus is different because it’s global, not only us. Yet, we do know some of what it takes to rebound.

Betweenland
by Christine O’Brien

Footing is precarious
The old, familiar ledges
eroding beneath my feet
before I have something
solid in place
If trust were substance
I’d stand upon it
finding safe ground
in the midst of dissolution
From there,
I’d look out upon inner continents
–the old ones disappearing
as the new ones surface
The discontent and yearning
from which they’ve sprung
in my own sweet soul
calling more of me into being
The woman that I am
standing on this plot of land
looking across the horizon,
now so close,
to see the other one
stretching out his hand
towards me


Sonnet Two

Not that we shouldn’t desire more
of that which feeds the hungering soul
for such yearning, it seems, opens the door
as we stare out upon a distant knoll.

“Comfortable complacency” is fine
–we all need pauses in our quest for more–
Grateful for the banquet on which we dine
fingers laced, beside the fireplace, shut the door.

But when the bell tolls the eleventh hour
mustn’t we from our sedentary rise?
Step into our uncomfortable power–
this before our comforts become a vise.

The hungering soul feasts on freedom.
Quick!  They are capturing the kingdom.

 

sonnet2

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago and again tried to merge poetry with imagery.  I’m not really pleased with the painting…but I think the message is current.  Truly, it doesn’t seem like we can hide behind our “comfortable” doors any longer although we mostly shelter in place.  I think that we are asked to be activists in a way that is true to our nature.

When any one of our freedoms is infringed upon, we are called to stand up against injustice.  When our neighbor’s freedom is infringed upon, we are called to stand up against injustice.  For truly, if my neighbor isn’t well-cared for by our society, then I’m affected too.  We’re in this together.

Remember, Spaceship Earth, so-named by Buckminster Fuller?  We’re all here together riding around on this very small planet.

“How can I serve?”

I frequently ask this question of myself.

 

Yearning

now1This was one of my first attempts at merging art and poetry.  I write what has been termed personal poetry.  This sonnet was the first poem in a series of twenty-one poems that I was determined to write.  I illustrated the first two poems of this grouping.  It’s not so easy to do, I found.  This poem was written several years ago…the mood at the time.  Poetry is a great way to manage our various moods and emotions and to help us move beyond or integrate these passing energies.

I’ve written poetry for at least thirty years.  Within that span of time, there were periods when I didn’t write poetry.  The tangles that we can get ourselves into with words.  The things we tell ourselves.  As author Byron Katie has reiterated “Is it true?”  The things we say to others–did they receive it as we intended it?  The words we hear– are they fact, theory, opinion, judgment?  How do other people’s words–the media–color your own thoughts and opinions?  Where is the truth in these tangles?

That’s why I chose the paintbrush over the pen for a few years.  No words!

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This blog has become a commingling of art and words with which I feel comfortable these days.

 

 

When I was the Forest

rainbow2

 

When I was the Forest
by Meister Eckhart

When I was the stream, when I was the
forest, when I was still the field,
when I was every hoof, foot,
fin and wing,
when I was the sky
itself,

No one ever asked me did I have a purpose, no one ever
wondered was there anything I might need,
For there was nothing
I could not
love.

It was when I left all we once were that
the agony began, the fear and questions came;
and I wept; I wept.  And tears
I had never known
before.

So I returned to the river, I returned to
the mountains, I asked for their hand in marriage again,
I begged–I begged to wed every object
and creature.

And when they accepted,
God was ever present in my arms
and He did not say “Where have you been?”
For then, I knew my soul,
every soul has always held Him.

Writing Prompt:
Over the course life, there are things that we lose and things that we  find.
Perhaps we’ve been left and/or we’ve left others at times.
Is there something in your life that was “found” then lost and was there a yearning and then a returning?  Describe it in prose or poetry.

 

A Riff off of Rilke

for rilke 4

Rilke’s poem:

You Who Never Arrived
by Rainer Maria Rilke

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you.  I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment.  All the immense
images in me–the far-off, deeply felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and un-
suspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods–
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing, An open window
in a country house–, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.  Streets that I chanced upon,–
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and startled, gave back
my too-sudden image.  Who knows?  perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening…

 

my poem:

© by Christine O’Brien

An open window in a country house,
and you almost stepped out pensive to meet me.”
You, who awoke with sleep in your eyes
and brushed away the dream of me.
Whose new dawn’s light
caused me to vanish like some unborn ghost.
Whose tossings and turnings
restless night callings
of my yet unnamed self
while my whisper tickled your
slumbering ear.
Whose sweet scent was blown
through the window of your dreams
and you shuddered
as my soft footfalls in the night
sought to awaken you
to my unformed body
lying beside you
praying that daylight wouldn’t discharge
us from tactile knowing.

Writing Prompt:
Does Rilke’s poem inspire something in you?  If so, choose one line of his poem as a prompt for your own poem imitating his style.  Let the Rilke in you express itself.
Have fun!

Note:  I recommend reading Rilke’s poem aloud.  There is something in the dreamy rhythm that is captivating.