When I was a “tween” and into my teens I had exactly three things that I loved:
1.) re-arranging my room
2.) the Point Place library
3.) typing and writing
On any given perfect evening, I would have been sitting on the floor in my newly-re-arranged room typing out a poem that I had just read from a borrowed book from my library. My white brother type-writer clicking at a rate that I’ll be honest, I was proud of.
Re-arranging my room meant a fresh and new beginning. Perspective. When things got a little messy, a little overwhelming — I’d re-arrange. Clean out and re-arrange. Even today, sleeping with my bed in a new place within my room, with fresh sheets and everything newly placed, fills me with contentment. Sure, it’s the same old room, but when you go to bed that night, you’re looking at a different corner of your ceiling. Your noticing new shadows dancing from beside your dusty rose horizontal blinds.
And then there was the library.
When my little sister was small, I’d walk her the 8 or so blocks to the library or I’d pull her in the red Radio Flyer wagon. She’d do storytime on the lap of the librarian, Miss Nikki, while I’d DISCOVER.
The autobiographies were my favorite; true life! Better than a t.v. show. Then there was the poetry books – as old as Bibles, or so they seemed. AND then the sheet music books — so many nights did I play Guns ‘n Roses’ “November Rain” on my piano from a borrowed sheet music book… And then there were the tapes and CDs. This is when I discovered Carole King and the Beetles and James Taylor and so many others… But there was also my absolute favorite: the “free magazine bin” just outside the door that would beckon me to fill my backpack to overflowing with magazines like “American Photography,” “Rolling Stone” and more — all valid fodder for locker decor.
And waiting for me at home was the typewriter I begged for. This was before computers and I would wile away my time copying songs and poems and meaningful quotes and words to memory by typing them…
Khalil Gibran’s On Children resonated with me because I was just starting to discover who I was and his words backed up my theory that I was my own person; with my own thoughts.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
And today, I specifically remembered Paul Laurence Dunbar’s, “We wear the Mask.” Another poem I transcribed on a piece of typing paper with my white Brother typewriter that is probably somewhere in my storage unit, 3-hole-punched and in my special binder:
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
This poem is just as relatable at nearly 35 as it was when I was 12… and I think it is for many people.
I’m so sorry to hear that at this moment we think comedian Robin Williams took his own life. I think of him; of the mask that he must have felt that he had to wear and it saddens me beyond belief.
While I don’t think his life should be about the manner in which he died, I think his life should remind us that mental illness is not to be taken lightly. Depression is real. Sometimes the masks are virtually unbearable and trying to fit in; trying to pretend – it’s just too much.
Maybe in his passing we all should remember to be a shade kinder; more understanding and more loving. Sometimes life isn’t so easy that re-arranging your bedroom makes you feel better. It’s deeper than that.
As I’ve been reminded over the past year, and again last week, life is far too short.
Much love to you all.