When it was suggested I address the alcoholism issue that is so much a part of the foundational background of Wife of the House, I was reluctant.
In the poem, “Dream,” I created an imaginary camel ride in order to release anger about the disease of alcoholism in my family:
…grinning he humps towards a steep bank
for a drink at the bar
I pull in reins urging
don’t leave the caravan…
It was a long time before I achieved the detachment it took for me to write the poem near the end of the book, “Song to End Estrangement.”
How private pain is
may it heal and and soften
the rough grain
of our lives…
…may I be freed from that aching need…
healed from that heartbreaking pause
before I depart.
When my ex-husband was on his death bed due to alcohol induced neurological failure and before he could no longer speak, I came to the hospital to visit him. He grabbed my hand and said, “I have always loved you.” Years of pain eased in this one encounter; still, it doesn’t mean I have forgotten the terrible damage the disease of alcoholism has caused the entire family.
My personal journey consists of releasing guilt, shame and regret to a power higher than myself. From the intention to surrender and to accept the things I cannot change, comes relief and the space to practice gratitude. Gratitude was not always easily available to me, but now that it is, I much appreciate its tremendous healing power.
During the time I was writing the poems in Wife of the House, I remember a water heater accident when my hair caught on fire. By the time I arrived at a twelve-step meeting later that week, I had accumulated a long list of complaints about how much misery I was experiencing. It was gently suggested that I might try to practice gratitude. My mind did not respond well. Gratitude? Gratitude? How can I be grateful for the terrible things going on?
It took years of persistent effort to realize how my judgments and opinions about my problems were the problem. For me, to be mindful, to be a yogini meant changing what I needed to change with wisdom and also finding a way to be with what I am not able to change, rather than losing myself to reactivity.