39 Poems

You may remember that about five months ago, I posted about the book I had just written, and how it wasn’t the book I thought I would write.  This feels almost like a continuation of that post.

Earlier this week, I published a second book.  39 Poems was something that just sort of happened.  I remember the first poem vividly.  A fellow hospital worker asked me one day how I was doing, and I automatically responded with, “Fine”.  Then I wondered if the person would even notice if I wasn’t fine.  Within minutes, I had composed a poem entitled, suitably, “Fine”.

I hadn’t meant to write a second book, especially so close to the first.  But after “Fine”, I just kept writing.  And writing.  And writing.  Some days I wrote dark poems.  Some days I wrote lighter poems.  Some days I wrote both.

As the basis for the book began to take shape, I knew I wanted to have one more light poem than dark poems.  I wanted that in order to make the point that light always wins.

Depression doesn’t feel like winning.  Depression feels, among other things, like being trapped in a box in the bottom of a well.  First you have to figure out how to get out of the box.  Then you have to figure out how to climb up from the well.  And generally, Lassie didn’t see you fall in to know to get Timmy to call the authorities to help you out.  That would make the process much easier.

19 of the 39 Poems are dark, and many focus on loneliness and isolation.  20 of them focus on what brings me back from the darkness.  They examine the areas of life where I find light to guide me when depression makes the world seem bleak.  My daughters, the changing seasons, a memory of my sister’s bedroom, even a cup of coffee.  These things remind me that life isn’t all dark.

My point in writing the book wasn’t to depress people, but rather to give hope to the depressed.  When people are in that box at the bottom of the well, it helps to know that they aren’t alone.  It helps to know that others have faced the darkness and found something worth hanging on to.

I want to provide my own experiences with darkness and light for those who need it.  Not everyone experiences depression the same, and not everyone finds joy in the things that bring me joy.  But if my poems can be used as an example for just one other person, I will be happy.


I have a problem.

I mean, I don’t necessarily see it as a problem most of the time, but I’ve been told I should.

I am a bit of a perfectionist.

There. Now you know my dark secret.

I’ve been a perfectionist for most of my life. As a child, if I thought I wasn’t going to do something right on the first try, then I wouldn’t even try. That resulted in me not doing a lot of things, like sports and making friends.

In high school, it manifested in music. I expected to be the best, and I did not take it well when other people were better than me.

In college, perfectionism reared its ugly head in relationships. I wanted to be just right for people, but I never was.

Perfectionism hit hard in graduate school…each time. I’m on my third round of chasing that elusive cumulative 4.0. It won’t happen this time either.

Where I am currently struggling is with writing. I just finished what I think is my second book. It is a collection of poetry I’ve been working on for a while. I set a goal for how many poems I wanted to write, and yesterday I hit that goal. Now that I’m over that milestone, the hard part begins: revision.

Today I am giving the poems to a friend to proofread and edit. I’m scared stiff. I think the poems are good, but what if my friend doesn’t think so? I dread getting my manuscript back with comments on it. What if she wants me to change stuff? What if she doesn’t like some of them? How will I cope?

So if I’m so scared, why am I having someone proof it?

I’m having my friend proof it partly because I need a fresh set of eyes. Michael has read most of the poems and claims to like them, but he’s my husband and therefore obligated to say so. I’m trying to tell myself that someone else reading them will only make them better in the end. And I would rather have suggestions from one person than end up with problems in the finished product.

The other part of the reason is because I really am trying to grow. I know I need to let go of my all-or-nothing, perfect-or-failure attitude. Facing up to areas I can improve is something I want to do to improve myself. I cannot say I want to work through imperfections, but I know I need to.

We were not intended to be perfect. Maybe we were in the very beginning, but after Adam and Eve, we kind of turned into a race of screw-ups. God knew. He saw that his people were imperfect, and he accepted it. He changed his plans for us, sending a Savior so that we don’t have to be perfect, which is a relief because we never will be.

I will continue my struggle with perfection, knowing that I never will be. Hopefully one day it will sink in that I don’t have to be.