Unseen

To fight aloud, is very brave –
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Calvalry of Wo –

Who win, and nations do not see –
Who fall – and none observe –
Whose dying eyes, no Country
Regards with patriot love –

We trust, in plumed procession
For such, the Angels go –
Rank after Rank, with even feet –
And Uniforms of snow.

~Emily Dickinson

Maybe your disability is invisible.

Maybe your wound is not flesh.

Maybe there is no reason anyone can see or that you can explain why getting out of bed is a Herculean effort.

Maybe you are fighting in silence because you don’t have the words. Maybe you are fighting in silence because you are afraid that to speak out would bring down something worse. Maybe you are making all the noise you can but no one hears you.

Maybe you are stuck–in a place, a job, a relationship, a mindset, an illness. Maybe you cannot see a way out. Maybe no one sees you. Maybe they refuse to see you.

Maybe you have been taught to be silent. Maybe you have been threatened to be silent. Maybe you have to be silent to protect yourself, someone you love. Maybe every time you speak out, you are told to be quiet, that you’re too loud, that you don’t have it that bad, that you don’t have anything to complain about, that you’re being too sensitive, that you’re a snowflake, that no one cares.

BUT

You are here.

Maybe you don’t think you’re strong, but you are.

Definitely you are still here.

Definitely you have survived up to this point. Maybe you have come through the darkest part of the forest, the places where nameless monsters dwell. Maybe you are almost out. Maybe you are still in the middle, so lost that you cannot say where you are or even where or when you entered. But you exist, and this matters.

Definitely you are brave. Because being brave is not the absence of fear. It is being choked by fear–filled up to the brim by fear so it is seeping from your pores and snatching your breath–and still going, still seeking the way out of the dark woods.

Definitely you are worth your place in this world. Definitely you are irreplaceable. Definitely you matter.

‘Tis harder knowing…

While I was fearing it, it came,
But came with less of fear,
Because that fearing it so long
Had almost made it dear.
There is a fitting a dismay,
A fitting a despair.
’T is harder knowing it is due,
Than knowing it is here.
The trying on the utmost,
The morning it is new,
Is terribler than wearing it
A whole existence through.

~Emily Dickinson

I don’t know, Emily…

I mean, I can see what she’s saying. We can become used to the idea of something dreaded via long anticipation. It can become familiar, almost comfortable. There is a difference between the shock of sudden calamity and its long, inevitable approach.

But I don’t know. Is this healthy, this getting used to awfulness? There’s something horribly resigned about the idea. The phrase “had almost made it dear” combined with the repetition of “fitting” makes me wonder if the speaker of the poem is one of those people who loves her grief, who clings to it as if it is loss that makes her who she is. We’ve all known them–those people who love their privation, who boast of how awful things are for them. Is this what Dickinson is saying? Is she speaking for herself? I don’t know.

It’s so hard to know anything, really, about this poet. She died nearly a hundred years before I was born. We know her through fragments–the back of a recipe here, an envelope there. How do you reconstruct a life?

Afterwards–day!

II
Our share of night to bear,
Our share of morning,
Our blank in bliss to fill,
Our blank in scorning.


Here a star, and there a star,
Some lose their way.
Here a mist, and there a mist,
Afterwards—day!

~Emily Dickinson

This is for everyone who, after struggling through February, emerged hopefully into March to discover that it’s actually February in disguise. It’s below freezing here in what is supposed to be the South. The daffodils are having second thoughts. Sometimes things are not what they ought to be, or what we want them to be. Here’s to making our way through the mist into the light of day, of spring, of fresh hopes and dreams realized.