This post is part two of a four-part series on my song, “could be,” from my album my anxious age. You can read part one here, where I describe how verse one, which relays the lifelong impact of my childhood experience with bullying, and how it is essential to know the stories of the ones we love in order to know them fully.
In 2015, I set out to share poetry with anyone who wanted to read it in order to motivate myself to continue pursuing my passion for writing. After I started teaching, I let much of my personal writing fall in priority and felt the weight of letting a dream slip. As I mailed poems monthly to those who had subscribed, I included a small illustration of a ghost, which faded monthly until it was barely visible by the end of the year.
When people ask, “Do you believe in ghosts?” my response is often, “What kind?” Spiritual realm aside, each of us can easily be haunted: by painful memories, by dreams we let die, or by relationships that end while people are still living. None of us escapes that which affects us most deeply, and often our unfinished business in this world follows us for a lifetime. As I reinvested myself in my poetry, I made the ghost illustration fade because I was finally actively pursuing my passion for writing rather than letting it become a missed opportunity that haunted me in the form of regret for years to come. Even today, I struggle to invest more energy into writing so that this passion does not remain a what-if.
In this second verse, I wanted to say something real to anyone who might want to let a ghost go, after all. My experience with bullying as a child haunted me for years, and so long as it only hurt me, I never felt the need to overcome it totally. When I found the person I want to spend my life with, I realized the error in this thinking. The kids who bullied me followed a specific pattern throughout the sixth grade: they pretended to befriend me, learned enough about me to use it against me, and then publicly humiliated me in front of all of my peers. Because of this experience, I spent my life developing an unhealthy distrust for other people. I kept my closest friends at arm’s length, distanced myself at the first sign of disloyalty, and in some instances, leveled relationships with devastating blows to avoid hurt.
The person who loves me shook this unhealthy foundation until it crumbled. We dated a long time ago, and I left her in the most difficult time of her life, because as she was struggling to see the other side of tragedy, a distance was forming between us and I wanted to lessen my own hurt. The whole story is not for everyone, but after three years apart, we found each other grown and ready. In the eight years we have known each other, her unending commitment to me as a friend and partner has proved wrong everything I once believed about relationships. She showed me that closeness to others does not always end in betrayal, and the risk of love is worth the effort to see beyond our past pain. Because of what we share, I have opened myself to other friendships and pursuits, and have slowly come to put more faith in people than I was capable of before.
When we are in relationships with others, we learn that we are not the easiest people. When we bring our past hurts into present commitments, we realize that the past hasn’t passed at all. The moments that hurt us long ago can hurt the ones we love now. Eventually we must face our ghosts, resolve our business with them, and ask them to leave. Only then can our relationships flourish fully, with our baggage unpacked and our lives open to be filled with new promises and new ways of being with each other. This is no one-time, cure-all fix, but it is the necessary growth for us to stop allowing our ghosts to haunt us indefinitely. The people who are patient, understanding, and gracious are the ones we owe our best.
What a miracle when someone loves us enough to see us through. What a joy when we recognize such love early enough to appreciate its ability to make us whole again.
You can listen to “could be” here, which features vocals from my partner, Meggie. You can purchase my anxious age here, which includes “could be” and ten other songs, along with a 24-page full color zine, featuring lyrics, stories, and poetry. Follow my blog to receive updates on the next two parts in this series. As always, thanks for reading.