Recently our church challenged us to let our pain be used to breathe life into other people’s pain, to invite others into our pain so they may see hope and healing. This piece of poetry (if you can call it that) is what I offer in response to that challenge. This piece is a piece of my pain. May you seek the face of the one whose name is Peace, the peace in my pain.
It’s dark. Eyes closed. My lungs are empty, my mouth full of water. Open my eyes. Burn. Blur. Light? Dark? Up? Down? Be still. Be still.. Be still…
Gasp. Cough. Exhale water. Breathe in air. Bright light. Close my eyes. Open them. Waves. Burn. Breathe. Swim.
I’m naked. The clothes must have gotten too heavy. Swim. Where? In front of me as far as the eye can see, water. To my left, water. To my right, water. Behind me, water. Which way? Stay? Drown. Swim… drown. How long have I been swimming? How long have I floated? I’ve lost count of the days, the months, the years.
To my left, water. Right, water. Ahead, water. Behind, water. Swim. Which way? I don’t know. But I swim.
In the clearest moment of my castaway journey I decided to swim. We decided to swim. To swim apart. Was it the right way? I don’t know. To the left, water. To the right, water. In front and behind, water. I didn’t know. I don’t know. But I swam. I’m swimming.
I’ve been on the couch. She’s been on the couch. I’ve taken time. She’s taken trips. But on this day my bags were not packed with the intention of returning. It wasn’t a trip. It was a move. The right move? I don’t know. Left, right, forward, backwards… water. Float, drown. Swim, sink. I chose to swim. Swim to a shore? No. I can’t see a shore. Swim to avoid floating. Because after you float long enough you begin to drown. So I swam.
The hotels were cold, lonely. The goodnight phone calls to the kids were unbearable. I can’t imagine what it was like for them. I left. Do they hate me? Does she hate me? Do you hate me? Do I hate me? We split. But I left.
I’ve heard that relationships have anchors and ropes that hold them together. Healthy relationships would have many ropes connecting them. Struggling relationships are sometimes, well, hanging by a thread. Why? Why cut the ropes? To the left, water. To the right, water. Forward, water. Behind, water. Float, drown eventually. Swim.
The last thread was cut. Earlier on it was a strong rope, a steel chain. Let’s stay together for the kids. Really? Let’s live a lie for years only to one day tell them that we lied to them their whole lives? It was a string in chain’s clothing anyway. We cut it along with all of the other strings. We swam. We are swimming.
Have you ever done the walk of shame? For me the walk of shame is a concept I learned from the television. It is when one person unexpectedly stays the night with someone else and they have no fresh clothes or toiletries for the morning. So, when they wake they sneak out past the roommates, down the apartment corridor, into their cars and off to work in wrinkled clothes.
By now I had moved from hotels to friends couches.
One night we talked. One morning I did the walk of shame… from my own house. Kissed my wife as she lay in bed, sneaked past my sleeping kids, out my front door, off to work. Was it the right move? I don’t know. We had cut all strings but now a thread was born. And one string led to another. We’re swimming.