Listening to a podcast recently, I suddenly heard someone read aloud this poem. Haven’t heard it in years and her querulous voice reminded me how evocative Veronica Shoffstall’s words are:
“After A While”
After a while
you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t always promises
and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and and your eyes ahead with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
And you learn that you really can endure, that you really are strong and you really do have worth and you learn and you learn
with every good-bye you learn.
Author: Veronica A. Shoffstall
I shared it with friends and was surprised at the outpouring of sentiment. Clearly, this hits a nerve.
I’ve begun work with someone recently who has a legacy of grief and loss to wade through. Theirs is the bereaved kind. There is such deep sadness when someone is lost too soon – a child, a younger sibling, a youthful spouse. And sometimes, death is not the most painful of losses. Sometimes it is the piling up of smaller ones that tips the balance. Constant moving, a pet disappearing or being given up as a result, friendships ever fleeting, injury or illness, financial insecurity with its resultant lack of choice – all these create a depth of inner dissonance that can have us numbing out or overwhelmed with sadness.
What I love about the poem is the sense of taking responsibility for self. That with every small loss or disappointment we have a choice about how to respond – do we sink, or do we swim? Do we raise our eyes to the horizon and see the possibilities ahead, willing to ask for help and support to get through? The poet says it’s about accepting and building and planting. That we are stronger than we know and have the capacity to endure, to be strong, to recognise our worth. I agree, and I think it’s also about choice. That we can choose – we may not be able to change what’s happened, but we can surely choose our response to these events.
If what I’ve said here hits a nerve with you, gets you thinking about something you’d like to shift and change, please call or email me – perhaps I can assist.