This Thanksgiving: Be the Hero of Your Own Adventure

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A friend said these words to me one day when I was lamenting my dependence on someone else – likely the guy I was into at the time – for my own self-validation, and my tendency to allow myself to become the victim of others’ impressions rather than in believing in myself no matter what others saw in me.

I had quite a bit of understanding about what was wrong with allowing myself to be disempowered by others, and described the situation to my friend. (Knowing and articulating the problem isn’t usually sufficient to fix it, but it’s a start, and I had at least gotten that far.) My friend seemed to find my articulation admirable; she listened and then eagerly chimed in: “You’re exactly right! That’s what life is about, after all. Being the hero of your own adventure!”

That phrase summed up better than any other what I wanted to do in life – and what I saw myself falling short at right now, as I over-obsessed with what this guy thought of me and, to a somewhat lesser extent, what my friends, family, and the world at large did too.

There is something to be said, of course, for cultivating a good reputation. The Jewish ethical tractate Pirkei Avot says that “the crown of a good name” is superior even to the crowns of Torah, priesthood, and kingship. I do think there is something to be said for presenting a positive face to the world; among other things, the more one is admired, the more one ability one will have to influence others for the good. After all, we don’t often consider very highly the advice of those we don’t look up to. And secondly, the expectations others have for us often bring out precisely that aspect of us. I know I find myself acting better at some times than at others because I know it is expected of me. To paraphrase Calvin and Hobbes, it’s a lot easier to get by with doing less the lower you keep everyone’s expectations.

But neither of these reasons for cultivating a good name matters at all, compared to being the hero of your own adventure. Because really, if you cultivate a good name for the positive reasons mentioned above (influencing others for the good and being your best self), then the good name is just a means to an end: the end of doing what YOU know deep down is right in your life. If a good name is cultivated for a reason other than that one, than your attempt to create the appearance of good character may well create only that: its appearance. Ultimately, only you know what your hero would do if presented with the circumstances of your life – and only you can do it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a relatively empathetic person, aware sometimes to a painful degree of how my actions affect those around me, and how I come across to them. I try to use this awareness for good ends, to be considerate and kind to others and to avoid making them uncomfortable, and it helps protect me against the hurt that can be committed by being clueless.

But there is another danger lurking in too much self-awareness, and that is being too good at coming across as the ideal of others.

All of us want to be liked, admired, applauded. It’s only human, and is especially understandable in today’s age, where pictures of photoshopped models tell us we should look as not even the most “beautiful” of us can, and facebook urges us to evaluate the special moments of our lives by the number of “likes” they receive. It’s easy to forget in this era of public façades and private loneliness, that facebook is only an allusion, that the real work of being a quality human being takes place in front of crowds, yes, but also especially in those most private moments nobody knows about but you.

Holiday time has a way of feeding insecurities. I went shopping today and bought expensive make-up at Sephora, something I do about once a year. I got home, put it on, and took a selfie (also a relative rarity for me), and made it my profile picture. For a few minutes (a few minutes!) no one liked it. And I’m somewhat embarrassed to report how long I stared in the mirror, wishing I looked different – more beautiful – than I did.

And while I was staring this way, a still, small voice inside me, as it were, spoke up and asked, “Is this what a hero would do, Melissa? Because no one asked you to be a model, and if you really think about it, I don’t think you’d want to. But to be a hero – that’s what you’re here to do. If you were to make a movie of your life to show from start to finish as an inspiration to young girls of how to live a meaningful life, would this part be on it? Or would you want them to forget the mirror, go our and live their dreams, and make the world better and – truly – more beautiful?”

I think it’s obvious what I answered.

My hope and prayer for all of us this Thanksgiving is that we be grateful for all that we have, for our family and friends and for our blessings of all sorts. But most of all, I pray that we are grateful for the opportunity to share our gifts with the world, whether we do so effortlessly or through much struggle. I hope we’re grateful for the opportunity to be the heroes of our own adventure, to partner in creating through our actions a world that reflects our values and our dreams.

(And hopefully our gratitude will look something like this. :) )

 

Compassion from violence: a response to the deaths of the three Israeli Yeshiva students

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This post is on another topic entirely, the recent kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli yeshiva students. Please keep reading if it seems one-sided at first. The goal is for it to be something quite different, and I hope that’s clear by the end.

I’ve had a mix of emotions in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli yeshiva students, whose bodies were found yesterday. Deep sorrow, of course. And surprise (not necessary for the reasons you’d think). And a lot of soul-searching.

One thing was, this felt close to home, because I also studied in Israel, at a yeshiva of sorts (the Pardes Institute, in Jerusalem). I spent (brief) time in Gush Etzion (an Israeli settlement, yes, but one with a historically Jewish background, first purchased in the 20s and 30s), and at least one of my teachers lived there and had studied at yeshiva there. He and his family are peaceful, kind, loving people, nothing like the stereotype of rabidly religious settlers trying to take over Palestinian land. This hit close to home for that reason. As did learning, while I was studying in Israel, that two students at my school (a school with a student body of max maybe 100 people at a time) had been killed in the Hebrew University bombing back in 2002, or that the café down the street had been targeted in a suicide bombing not many years ago. The thing is, I could have known these boys. Or, in a sense, could have been one of them.

And two things have really bothered me in the aftermath of their kidnapping. The first is responses which have portrayed the three simply as settlers, without recognizing that they were only teenagers, learning Torah. From what I can tell, only one of the three was actually a settler (from an Israeli settlement in the West Bank; studying in a yeshiva in a settlement does not make one a settler, I don’t think). But that’s not really even what bothers me. It’s that such a description promotes a stereotype that makes it easier to distance oneself from the pain of these boys and their families, to tell oneself that in some sense they had it coming, and then to reserve one’s pain and anger for the pain of the Palestinians caused by Israel’s response.

The second thing that’s bugged me – surprised me, really – relates to the response to the boys’ deaths. As one would expect, huge numbers of my Jewish friends reacted in pain, shock, horror, anger… but I literally have not seen a single post on facebook about their deaths from anyone not Jewish. (Of course they exist, I’m sure. But I truly don’t believe I’ve seen any.)

And this led me to a lot of self-reflection. As many of you know, I have a complicated relationship with aspects of Judaism. As someone from a family that is mostly not Jewish, I’ve never bought into the notion that I ought to feel that the Jewish people is my family and everyone else is my friends, or some such. I feel close to people. Especially kind, good, curious people. To apply some sort of religious or especially ethnic filter seems deeply problematic. And I don’t think these boys’ deaths are sadder because they’re Jewish. But I feel them deeply because I know their world well enough to know something of their life, and I’m troubled because I don’t see the rest of the world mourning or seeming to notice.

I have a lot of friends who post, frequently, on behalf suffering Palestinians. I haven’t seen any of them even mention these deaths, let alone condemn them. And I think I understand why, which is where the self-reflection comes in. I’ve realized that I do the same thing. I have really felt the pain of these boys, because of the life experience we share. And I think that’s completely understandable; we all empathize most with those who share our experiences. But I’ve at times ignored the pain of innocent Palestinians killed during the conflict (or literally millions of other people whose suffering doesn’t resonate with me on a personal note or worse, challenges some of my own ideological leanings).

When we’re enmeshed in a ideological narrative, on one side or another (and I’ve been in some sense on both sides of this one, depending on my surroundings), we don’t just see pain and feel sorry. We see sorrow and pain and violence, and then we worry about really feeling it, if it doesn’t match with our view of who are the primary victims and perpetrators in the situation. We end up blaming before we can hear, and we’re wary to give voice to a point of view that would challenge our own ideological orientation, or that would support what we consider to be a dangerous ideological narrative from the other side. And in a lot of ways this makes the situation worse, because one of the most isolating human experiences is to feel deep, searing pain and fear, and feel that nobody knows, or worse, nobody cares. Such an experience only fuels the experience of being alone in a world full of enemies, and makes it that much easier to tune out the pain of others.

So my own goal in the aftermath of this situation is to feel pain where it exists. To become more aware of human pain and suffering wherever it takes place, to give voice to it, and to attempt to help. And in many cases, I think some help can come simply from listening – from trying to truly hear, as many voices as possible, and helping those who suffer be heard by one another as well. I will try to resist the urge to filter people’s stories by how well they fit into my own preconceptions and ideological proclivities, and try to help others do the same. The more we do this, I hope, the more we will be motivated by compassion, and the less we will be tempted to filter and use, rather than empathize with, human suffering.

Five minute miracles

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This is a brief and overdue follow-up to my last post, on overcoming procrastination. As is evident from the length between last post and this one, this is still a struggle for me. Yet, I know these things go in waves, that I have lessened procrastination in other areas of my life even as I’ve continued it in this one, and I’m not giving up!

This post is actually one of good news, because in the past week, through applying a surprisingly simple technique, I’ve been able to progress on and even complete tasks that had been on my plate for a long time – in once case for many months! I wrote previously about the degree to which things prey on us while we procrastinate on them. We may think we’re postponing suffering by putting off miserable tasks, but in reality, those tasks hang over our heads and weigh us down to an increasing degree until we complete them. To continue the dark cloud metaphor, we can’t enjoy sunny weather when we’re consciously turning our backs on storm-clouds on the horizon. And the longer we put tasks off, the easier it is to make that procrastination a part of our unconscious self-labeling, and the scarier the task becomes. Either we end up waiting until it’s absolutely urgent, or we may never do it.

But this week a friend suggested a technique that worked like a charm: work on things you want and need to get done for five minutes every day. I was skeptical. Five minutes is hardly anything, and I feared I’d have the frustrating experience of getting barely into several painful tasks with none of them completed. But the opposite happened. I would time myself and work on something for five minutes, and especially on those frustrating little organizational tasks that I put off so much, I was able to accomplish the whole task or nearly all of it in five minutes. And for more long-term things, like working on a paper or book, five minutes made me feel I had accomplished something, and more ready to go back to it later in the day, because I didn’t have the scary hurdle of not having begun.

The reason this works (for me, anyway) is that five minutes is a totally non-intimidating amount of time. One can endure almost anything for five minutes! So even if the task is torture, five minutes and it’s over. But as I pointed out previously, most of the time these tasks aren’t really torture. We psych ourselves up to think they’re far worse than they are; in reality, they’re not really a big deal, and getting them out of the way is pure relief that frees us to pursue more important matters. Procrastination adds to the dread of doing something guilt or shame over the fact that I haven’t done it yet. Doing something painful for five minutes gets it at least partly done and gives one a feeling of accomplishment or at least of courage. And it’s easy to reward oneself with something fun at the end of five minutes!

This really worked for me. I paid overdue bills, sent a complicated email and attachment that had been overdue for months, started practicing the guitar, did taxes, and started a study-plan on my most recent paper. All thanks to starting to tackle important tasks for five minutes a day. I hope it’s helpful for you, too!

Procrastination Part 2: The Power of Once

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Procrastination Part 2: The Power of Once

This post is a follow-up to last week that emphasizes the extent to which we (or I, anyway) do and don’t do things only partially out of motivation, but largely out of habit. We tend to conform not only to our individual habits of action and inaction but to labels we put on ourselves as a result. This makes turning over a new leaf  especially difficult. But paradoxically, our very habitual nature gives  importance and power to those times when we muster the strength to act differently just once.

In his book Feeling Good, Dr. David Burns identifies among the cognitive distortions that contribute to depression “all or nothing thinking” and labeling. These terms, whose relevance extends far beyond the field of mood therapy, refer to a dangerous yet prevalent human tendency to generalize about the implications of particular instances, assign simplistic black-and-white value to these implications, and then label ourselves as this or that kind of person as a result. (For a helpful list of cognitive distortions and ways to combat them, check out this page

For instance, imagine I’m training for a road race as part of an attempt to live a healthier lifestyle. I have a goal of running every day. Yet one day I miss one of my scheduled runs. The all-or-nothing thinker in me over-interprets this (actually rather minor) event as a complete failure to live according to the healthy lifestyle that I value. The logic goes something like, “either I’m a fit and healthy person who exercises everyday, or I fail to meet this goal once a day exercise goal and thus fail in my goal of living a healthy lifestyle.” Moreover, the over-generalization does not stop there. One who doesn’t meet her exercise goals, I tell myself, is lazy, undisciplined, a failure. In this way, a minor event (really of minimal importance in the context of an exercise routine) becomes an excuse to tell myself I’m failing at my goals because I didn’t met them perfectly this once. But even more perniciously, a one-time event gives me the excuse to label myself negatively, and that negative label has power over me: when I think of myself as lazy and a failure, not only do I hold an incorrect view likely to damage my happiness, it’s also much more difficult to convince myself to go for a run the next day when I believe deep down that I’m not the kind of person who can do such a thing.

This labeling is a big part of how habits gain their power over us. Labeling can at times work for the good; if it is a deeply ingrained part of my identity that I am the kind of person who treats others kindly, then I’m likely to do so even on days when I feel bad and smiling is an effort. But labeling very often traps us into patterns we don’t desire. Our all-or-nothing, perfectionistic labeling of ourselves limits our potential and tricks us into maintaining patterns of behavior we don’t actually value.

This explanation makes understandable apparently illogical decisions that we often make when precisely the opposite decision is the logical one. Why is it easier to stick to a homework schedule, or a plan of healthy eating when we’ve been meeting our goals than when we haven’t? Theoretically, if I’m trying to maintain healthy diet, then the fact that I binged on ice cream last night should make me more, not less, likely to eat healthily today. But I often find that the opposite happens. When I fail to meet my goal once, my subconscious mind labels me a failure and proclaims that all is lost. And this gives me an excuse to continue, not correct, the less healthy behavior. After all, if I’m an unhealthy person, who am I to think I can act otherwise? If it’s hopeless anyway, I may as well at least have some enjoyment now.

This logic is self-defeating, but it has its temporary appeal. And I’ve found that it has a major role in trapping me in the cycle of procrastination. Once I’ve labeled myself as someone who procrastinates, I’m more likely to procrastinate again. And once I’ve done that a few times, I now have a procrastination habit, hard to break because it is habitual, and also because it confirms my label of myself as a procrastinator.

However, this very power of labeling and habit also gives great power to those times when we muster the strength to do something once. We all know the proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and also that the first step is always the hardest. That’s largely because we give the first step symbolic weight greater than the action itself. When I plan a four mile run, I put off taking the first step not because I fear that step, but because I fear what it symbolizes: the beginning of a larger, more difficult task. But really, a four mile run is nothing but a series of steps. And when I think honestly about it, my actual experience of running tells me that a run is rarely if ever as bad as I imagine; if I just stay in the moment and take this step then that one, run past that tree, then around that curve, while enjoying the view all the while, it’s much more fun and less difficult than I imagined.

The same applies to doing something once. Cleaning every day seems terrible daunting, but cleaning for 15 minutes this afternoon isn’t really very difficult at all. And if doing it once isn’t that hard, then doing it other times isn’t either; it’s the IDEA that scares us, perhaps because the idea comes with a label (I’m “a cleaner” or “a slob”) that we find sometimes intimidating, sometimes debilitating.

So if you have a goal, do it once. Do a part of it. Don’t feel you have to do it every day for the rest of your life, and don’t feel you have to finish now. Becoming the type of person you want to be isn’t achieving some sort of perfectionistic essence of an elevated label. It’s simply doing what you value regularly, when you can, without stressing yourself out about how perfectly you conform to your ideal image; ultimately, the image of the person you want to be should conform to the type of life you want to live. So live as you want to, one task at a time.

Procrastination, Part 1: The Dark Cloud

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This is a post from yet another angle. Knowing that I’m far from alone in being challenged by this, I decided to share some of my difficulties and progress overcoming procrastination, in hopes that this sharing will be helpful or inspirational to some. I would love to hear thoughts or advice in response!

Given that it’s been over a month since my last post, it probably comes as no surprise that I struggle with procrastination. This has been a lifelong issue for me, I think partly because I tend to crowd my schedule with more than can reasonably be kept up with at once and partly because I tend to perform surprisingly well under the last-minute pressure that procrastination creates.

However, as for many, I think, one of my biggest underlying motives is avoidance and, honestly, a certain degree of dread. Actions that I associate with stress, boredom, or other discomfort just seem more easily put off until the following day.

I trace this issue in large part to my experience with school growing up. I’ve always been a good student; I like and value school and derive a great deal of meaning from my studies. However, especially in high school and college, I experienced terrible dread over writing papers. I was not a bad writer, and the papers always turned out relatively well. But the process of writing was terrifying. I was my own worst critic and would critique every single sentence I wrote, in a way I never would when reading someone else’s work. It took me hours to write a paragraph because I rewrote each sentence multiple times, always convinced it sounded terrible. And the process was so miserable that I would put off beginning it as long as possible. Eventually, the misery brought on by the fear of not finishing at all would exceed the misery of the writing itself, and I would start; I would write all night and produce something by the next morning before school. These were not the best papers they could possibly have been, I assume, but they were good enough to confirm to me that this method was one of success, and I struggle a fair amount trying to break this habit even a decade later in grad school.

And, alas, papers aren’t the only challenge to elicit this habit of procrastination. Another is cleaning. I hate cleaning. And because I hate doing it, I procrastinate on it, which causes a mess to pile up. And that, in turn, makes the cleaning process even more daunting, which leads me to procrastinate more… It’s one thing to choose to procrastinate, to enjoy it, even. But although I suppose I procrastinate in service of (short-lived) enjoyment, the fruits of this procrastination add stress and frustration, not pleasure, to my life.

And not just the fruits – even the procrastination process itself. This is my latest insight, and one which has, slowly, begun to help me change my habits a bit.

A second cause for my childhood (and probably current) procrastination is the fact that I have always been too busy, so busy that I had more to do than I felt I could ever complete, even if I never stopped working. So I took a temporary respite whenever nothing was urgent, despite the fact that this made the work all the more overwhelming when it started up again.

This is my recent insight, though: those temporary respites don’t work! They don’t work because they’re not truly rest, and they’re not truly rest because they are haunted by the dark cloud of procrastination hanging over my head that not only dampens my enjoyment but also drains me of energy. Because as long as I’m thinking about that unpaid car insurance, or that unwritten email, or that difficult conversation, a part of my energy is going to all of these things, remembering them, worrying about them, justifying not having done them yet, figuring out a time when I will, worrying that I’ll put them off even then, etc. And it’s a doubly negative outcome, because not only do I not do complete what I need to do, I also don’t have a moment free from it. Even when I’m not thinking about them, these responsibilities lurk in the back of my mind, ready to pop into my consciousness at a moment’s notice.

And so I have come up with a new way of approaching odious activities (or not so odious – I’m still somewhat stressed out by writing, but I also get great fulfillment from it. Many of the things I procrastinate on, I’ve realized, are not things that I hate, but things which I value, which stress me out precisely because they matter to me.). I shall no longer consider completing them a torturous task which I must avoid at all costs. Neither will I grit my teeth and look at their completion as something miserable, which I sadly must do, which “builds character” (in the words of Calvin’s dad) precisely because it’s no fun. (This latter may be true, but I haven’t found it very helpful in motivating me to actually get things done!)

Instead, I’ll look at the accomplishment of these activities as a goal and a blessing, because it finally allows me to free myself from them, to make them stop preying on my mind. Their power over me is not something that can be avoided by … well, avoidance. It can only be escaped by action, and that action is to finish them as quickly as possible and thereby free myself from them once and for all!

I’m not sure if this method will work; I suspect its implementation will not be without its own challenges. But it has been helpful to me so far, and I’m sharing in the hope that it will be helpful to others as well.

From a Life Cast Out

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This post will be a little different from previous ones, more personal, though I’ll try to steer clear of detail. I’m writing this because it feels right, right now. It’s about a recurring struggle of mine with a nightmare from my past that sometimes seems to rise up and threaten to swallow the present. I’m sharing because I think I’m far from alone in struggling with such an issue. And I hope that by sharing my own experiences I will not only help myself think and live through them, but also perhaps give hope to others who have faced similar difficulties in their own lives.

Everyone’s past is complicated, and it is possible that we each think our own past the most painful, the most bizarre, unrivaled in its complexity. I honestly don’t know how my past compares to the rest of the world’s.  I suspect most people go through life hiding their scars the best they can.  

What I do know is that, years ago, I encountered what has proved to be an almost indelibly traumatic incident in my life. For complicated reasons, I was forced to leave place and group of people in which I had previously felt at home. This may sound trivial, as if I just mean that a circle of friends and I went our separate ways.  First of all, that wouldn’t necessarily be trivial. But my position went beyond that. It was, in a sense, exile. Coldly, and with no sign that they cared if I lived or died, a small group of people whom I had trusted and even loved, told me I might never see, set foot near, or communicate with them again. Moreover, their excommunication entailed my forcible disconnection from others who weren’t even aware of it at the time or perhaps ever. After I was told, I wandered in shock for days. I held onto hope for longer that this must have been a mistake. It wasn’t that I thought the banishment itself inconceivable – it was the way it was done. It was the way people with whom I had felt close, with whom I had felt a bond of common affection and purpose, could all of a sudden, without even looking me in the face and saying they were sorry or wished me  well, tell me they never wanted to see or hear from me again.

The point of this post is not to attack or defend anyone, to explain or to acquit or to blame. The point is to describe how this incident has affected me since, how I have continued to struggle with after-affects, and how I have grown.   

It is years later. I rarely think of this incident consciously. But I live, in most close relationships, in fear of cold abandonment. I have rebuilt my life. I would have been in a difficult state even if it weren’t for this experience, in the months that followed it, and making the journey to where I am today required a reconsideration of almost everything. I moved around, worked jobs I didn’t like but which taught me to appreciate what came next, and finally have ended up in a community rich with well-meaning people with whom I have things in common. I have great new friends, reliable mentors, and I even think I’m beginning to love… And I very often feel loved and appreciated for who I am, despite my inevitable imperfections. After years of worrying I might never have one, I’ve begun to feel at home.

But recently, practical circumstances forced a loved one to temporarily turn away to focus on other things. Despite practical knowledge of the circumstances he was going through and the fact that all previous information suggested that I remained important in his life, I went into mourning mode. Or my emotions at the time did, anyway. And this may sound crazy – in fact, I think it does – because I had every reason to reason through the situation and realize that there was nothing to fear. But it’s important to understand, once you’ve gone through an experience where multiple people you admired and trusted cut you off without warning or sign of caring, it’s easy to believe that people are triggerable – that once you do something wrong, something a little over the line, they will close down, and hate you, and never speak to you again. And I was afraid of that then, and stared at what seemed like a bleak future with a face that was sure I had just been abandoned again.

But ultimately, this is not a post about my traumatic past overwhelming the present. On the contrary, it’s about hope and rebuilding, and a slow acclimatizing to trust in the enduring nature of love.

Unlike some people I know who’ve been hurt significantly by others, I tend still to trust people and to see the good in them. I’m lucky in this regard. It has always been a part of my personality to see the best in people and to empathize with them. And despite this one incident, most people in my life have responded to my trust with kindness. However, those people I had trusted who cast me out seemed kind, too – certainly I knew they weren’t evil or heartless. So, rather than learn not to trust others, I’ve learned (or perhaps relearned – I was never the most self-assured of kids) not to trust myself. I trust my ideal self, the self I aspire to be, but my real self lets that self down, quite a lot. And, while I don’t think they should do it or that I’ll be entirely to blame if they do, a part of me fully expects  others to abandon me when they see my failure to live up to my own aspirations and, perhaps, their image of me.

So recently when this loved one acted distant, I thought that was the end. But he’s smart and knows me well, and even in the midst of the distraction and altered focus, managed to tell me that I was wrong – that this was temporary, and not to be feared. I calmed down temporarily, but I was still stooped and trembling as I headed home. And when I got there I started crying. Because I realized I was vulnerable. I loved again, and therefore, I could be hurt. But I don’t think that’s why I cried. I cried because I saw I had found something that would outlast my past’s pain and fear: someone who saw my reaction, felt for me, and took the time to reassure me, even by jeopardizing priorities that were important in their own right. And I cried because I thought I had lost and then realized I had not. And somehow that experience made me realize that slowly, through exposure therapy, as it were, to the uncertainty of life coupled with the compassion and dependability of those who love me, I am learning that not every averted head means hatred, and not every frown is directed at me. I’m learning again to see life on its own terms, and not in the light of my most painful past. 

a poem by me

Aside

I have recently begun reading and trying to write poetry for the first time in a while, and I wrote a new poem today. Poetry takes practice, obviously, as does the courage to share creative work, so I’m going to share this poem here. I welcome your comments! (Constructive is great, but mean is not.)

Seaside

I wish to be made vivid by the sea,
To grow my fins as Ariel grew legs,
To frolic in a world cornerless
And weightless where my own companions fly.

A child’s wish I know and only mine.
Sophisticates would sniff and swallow scorn
And realists would wince and, grim, regard
The sea and all its waves and wish it dry.

But I have always stumbled on the land
And wrapped my soul’s garb tighter with each fall,
Grown harder, brusquer, squarer on the shore,
But never quite without a backward glance.

And when at night I think I’m all alone,
I walk until the tide laps round my waist
And nearly carries me in its embrace
Away to where the water calls me home.