As a youth
I just didn’t know enough about myself,
and the relation of the two.
What I knew
came from my ego,
a notorious liar.
Coming to terms with the soul-truth of who I am,
my complex and often confusing mix of darkness and light
required my ego to shrivel up.
And nothing shrivels a person better than age;
that’s what all those wrinkles are about.
Whatever truthfulness I’ve achieved
came not from a spiritual practice,
but from having my ego so broken down
and composted by life
that eventually I had to yield and say,
OK, I get it,
I’m way less than perfect.
I envy folks who come to personal truth via spiritual discipline;
I call them contemplatives by intention.
Me, I’m a contemplative by experience (default).
Poetry has redemptive power,
or so it has for me.
Poetry has provided a life jacket
to keep me from drowning,
ballast to keep me from gaining altitude,
and maps to keep me from getting lost in the woods.
I write poetry, not because I’m a pro,
but because it’s been the best form of self-therapy I know.
Poetry over time, helped me find my way
back into life.
More than fearing the cost of taking risks
for the things I care about,
I fear aging into irrelevance.
I’m among the fortunate ones
who has what he needs,
so I don’t need to worry about losing things
that some folks require for survival.
the notion that old age is a time to dial it down
and play it safe
is a cop-out.
I am about raising hell
on behalf of what I care about;
freedom is just another word
for not having to count the cost.
Most older folks I know
fret about unloading stuff
they’ve collected over the years,
stuff that was once useful to them
but now prevents them from moving freely about or away from
their own homes.
There are attics and basements
where a small child could get lost for days
But the junk I really needed to jettison in my old age
was my psychological junk,
such as long-time convictions
about what gives my life meaning
that no longer serves me well,
notably my religion.
Who will I be
when I can no longer do the grief work I love
that’s helped me hang onto a sense of self
for the past twenty-five years?
I won’t know the answer until I get there.
But on my way to that day,
I’ve found questions (not answers)
that already give me a new sense of meaning.
I no longer ask,
What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to hang on to?
Instead I ask,
What do I want to let go of,
and to what do I want to give myself?
The desire to hang on to stuff
comes from a sense of scarcity and fear.
My desire to give myself
comes from a sense of abundance and generosity.
These are the kinds of truths
I’ve withered into.
Sooner or later,
withering into truth
will culminate in my death,
the ultimate form of withering
and perhaps the ultimate source of truth.
I have no idea what
I will learn from dying.
All I know for sure is that
I have no bad memories of wherever I came from
when I arrived on this planet,
so I have no good reason to fear
where I’m going
when I depart.
I won’t be glad to say goodbye to life,
to challenges that helped me grow,
to gifts freely-given,
to everyone and everything I love.
But I will be glad to have played a bit part
in making new life possible for others.
That’s a prospect
that makes my life worth dying for.