How Much Better?

I promise you that today was your best day. Nothing could have topped the richness of what you experienced as it was happening. I also promise that whatever high or low you may have felt will be dampened with time until something triggers a memory and you’re standing separated from it with miles of plexi-glass in between. It won’t be the same, or carry its original weight. So, in every sense, as you go to sleep at night, the closest moments which made up the day really were your best moments, until tomorrow. On the same token, everyone you’ve ever met is with you if you will them to be, in whatever capacity and in whatever way you need them to be.

The great thing about the body (your body, your only body) is that it, too, is the best body, so sleep in it as though a new gifted home, all full of grand expectations. If today was the best day, ask yourself, How much better can it get? And it will.

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I ATE WHAT YOU COULD HAVE DONE TO ME

I wrote a poem for the Journal “Thank You For Swallowing”. The journal was started in protest of a poem written by a man and selected for Best British Poets. His poem (which was not that good, let me add) is called “Thank You For Swallowing My Cum”. I wrote this poem as a part of women’s protest poetry.

THANK YOU FOR SWALLOWING

Because I liked to feel forced because force
is power and I was young enough to believe

I could swallow your acceptance. Because
I lifted thighs to the mountain. I towered

over myself, made her little, slept with men
posing as kings. We could have created

many things. I am a light inside a bush
no one can smother; Moses bowed down.

Because I had to be fed, I ate like a whale
every inch of any thing you held over me.


duckface Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her manuscript was a finalist for the Levis Prize in poetry and her chapbook was recently released by Thrush Press . She is an associate poetry editor for  The Boiler Journal . Her work has appeared in the following:  3:AM Magazine, Night Train, Versal, Sugar House Review, Four Way Review,  among others.

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The Orb Weaver

Last night, I was sitting on my patio while my dogs barked at walkers passing by. It was getting to be dark and I had my porch light on. I kept seeing a shadow on the patio fence across from me. At first I thought it was a shadow of a leaf, though it moved like a spider, but larger. It looked so real, I had to cautiously go up to the fence to check it out. It was definitely a shadow.

I sat back down on my bench and, looking to my right, I saw what was, in fact, a spider, building her web directly in front of my porch light, attaching its ends to the light-post and a tree branch. At first, I wanted to find something to tear it down. I kept looking at the spider hard at work, studied her body and movements. I sat back down, thinking, Well, if she’s not a dangerous spider then maybe I won’t. She was, after all, making a beautiful pattern. I googled common spiders in west Texas. I deduced that she was probably an orb weaver. Checking her web again, I sighed with relief that her web was a perfect circle and not chaotic, like one that a more dangerous spider weaves.

I continued to watch as she spun more and more lines. I blew a little air on it and saw her sway and clench up. Then I felt bad for disrupting her creative process.

When I came back inside, I looked up Spider Symbolism. I have done this before in the past when spiders frequented my dreams, recalling something about female power and creativity. So, taking this as a good sign, continued to read.

Part of being awake is noticing the physical world. Do I think some divine power placed the spider on my patio to “communicate” to me. No, I think nature has lives that are not at all interested in ours. But, I do think that I can choose to recognize the power of symbolism–my spiritual projection, as you will. I don’t see anything wrong with this, as our minds are constantly at work processing the world around us in order to make sense of our inner landscape.

This is what I wrote later in my journal, quoting what I had read:

Spiders allow the individual to assimilate negative experiences and use them for gain.”

Eight legs = 8 = infinity

Spiders appearance can represent one’s fear. When she arrives, it is time to confront one’s phobias.

What are my fears? Lack of control. Not finding a life partner. Financial security.

The lesson of the spider is maintaining balance–between past and future, male and female, spiritual and physical.

I just wrote about how I am trying to find all of the above.

Questions to ponder when spider appears:

*Are you weaving your dreams into reality?

Yes.

* Are you moving toward a central goal or are you scattered?

Yes, moving but still shaky, often scattered if I don’t stay aware.

*Are you becoming too involved or self-absorbed?

It’s a balance I am working out–how to seek a spiritual path without becoming self-absorbed.

*Are you focusing on others accomplishments and not your own?

Comparison is very hard for me, I admit, especially with Facebook lives that people portray. But this is what I am working on: staying grounded in my gratitude. I am very lucky to be given all the gifts I have received.

Do you need to write and are not following through?

Yes. I need to be more disciplined. But I am following through now more than ever!

Are you developing resentment because of the above?

I have taken great care to admit that I have felt harsh resentment in the past, whether that be because of a relationship or my own laziness that was the cause. But, especially after having a child, I realize A) A life not lived is a life not worth writing about and B) It is no one’s responsibility but my own to make my work happen.

Tonight, I went out there again to check on the spider. The central portion of her web was cleared out–by wind or something, I do not know. But there she was, working away to repair it. This morning I also went to check on her, but she was nowhere to be found. Orb weavers are nocturnal, I have learned.

Just went to look at her progress, and the central part is now rebuilt. She keeps going because she needs to eat. It is in her makeup to keep going, keep creating, no matter if the center has been torn away. How physical is this service. There is no thinking to be done, and no honor to be had. She keeps going without any assurance that it will all be worth it. She works, and she expects the meal to come to her. She expects, and waits.

I picked up a small book at Amazon the other day. It is called 365 Ways to Live the Law of Attraction. One must train the thoughts to expect the good, to do the work it takes to know what we desire and to unpack those desires to see if they are for our benefit. Training our thoughts to dwell on the good, and throw away the junk. As Jesus said “What you ask, you shall receive.” Your thoughts become your reality, etc.

Today, I did not eat consciously. I talked negatively about people. But, I stopped, noticed what I was doing, and banished it from my mind. No matter what form the negativity takes, even if it is warranted, it is still clouding up my energy. It is still doing my entire being a disservice to waste such low frequency, And besides, there’s a reason behind every action. I don’t want to judge. But I am human. The least I can do is become aware, and try again next time.

My web cannot be built efficiently otherwise. And I expect, if I keep working, all good things will come in time.

I will leave the Orb Weaver alone and let her live.

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In Search of the I, Or: An Introduction

At every moment you choose yourself. But do you choose your self? Body and soul contain a thousand possibilities out of which you can build many I’s. But in only one of them is there a congruence of the elector and the elected. Only one–which you will never find until you have excluded all those superficial and fleeting possibilities of being and doing with which you toy, out of curiosity of wonder or greed, and which hinder you from casting anchor in the experience of the mystery of life, and that consciousness of the talent entrusted to you which is your I.

-Dag Hammarkjold

Jung talks often about the different phases of life. One is very wrapped up in the ego and the others are more of a searching, or a coming-t0-terms with the soul. I have been experimenting here and there with going even deeper into what makes me tick lately. I want to elevate my level of consciousness when it comes to terms with all that is surrounding me, and all that is going on internally.

I used to be very good at recording my dreams and spent a year and a half in Jungian Analysis, dream work or creative dream work, as we liked to call it, the analyst and I. At first I went into it so that I could have a more knowledgeable guide to what I was trying to trace, mostly to unblock my writing. But I left understanding that it serves a deeper purpose than that.

Lately, I have started taking little baby steps into what I hope will be a more awakened life-style. It began by taking note of my eating habits. Emotional eating has become (or perhaps always was) a problem with me. I’m just now starting to understand how necessary conscious eating is. Conscious so as not to over-eat. Conscious about the contents of my meals–is it necessary, is it healthy, am I actually hungry, or am I thirsty, or am I trying to numb an experience in my mind?

After having a child, my opportunities to take part in alcohol have lessened, mostly due to the fact that any time I would allot myself to partake have been cut down dramatically. This has helped me realize just what kind of poison it is to my body. I am not, nor ever was, an alcoholic, but abstaining from it for so long made me more sensitive to the effects of it on my mind, body and brain. It no longer serves any means to an end for me. I’d rather be clear-headed. I’d rather give up the extra weight it puts on and the sugar crash it induces.

To be awakened means to become sensitive in a way that is almost raw. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes we want to go back to sleep. I am understanding even more now why I have had the impulses I’ve had in the past to escape, whether that be in forms of internet use, food, alcohol, shopping, or even studying. Yes, even intellectualism can become an escape.

I have always loved the song by the Eagles called “Learn to be Still”. Stillness for me can drudge up restlessness, anxiety, depression. I feel anxious or depressed that I’m not doing something. I feel restless. But I’m realizing that stillness can, if used consciously, bring us to a place of accomplishment further than anything else in movement can.

I want to know who the real “I” is, underneath the years of accumulating practices which shut her down, silence her, or numb her.

I want to reach a higher level of awareness.

In the end, if this means giving up whatever is necessary to do so, I will. Finally, I want to.

Never have I struggled with the typical type addictions that most people think about when they think about addictions. Rather, I have been addicted to drama. Drama in my head. Over the following: weight issues/body image/control/worry/anxiety/need to perform in my skills such as writing (ie ego) and other such things.

My next few blogs, or maybe my next hundred blogs, will chronicle a journey of my path to trying to tune into that essential I by way of sifting through what I can give up in order to dig in.

I wrote last night that I want a truly balanced life. I think I understand what that means now. Once, I had a philosophy professor in graduate school tell me that I fluctuate too harshly between the mountain top and the market place, as though I can’t gently shift back and forth between the two.

The market place would be the social arena. Not living consciously. Trying to please others in an outward way (body image/working out/dieting/eating too much/alcohol in the name of socializing/looking for love from another human being.

The mountain top would be the heady stuff. Living overly conscious. Dissociative. Trying to please the ego of the spiritual self. Too concerned with overproduction of work. Ego driven spirituality. Looking too hard for a God that is already in me.

Last night I had a vivid dream. I thanked the universe for giving me a vivid dream before I even went to bed. I didn’t ask, I just knew and expected. And it happened. I recorded it as I have done any vivid dream form the past. I didn’t over-analyze or feel special for this gift. I will let it sit until such time as it is needed again.

I ate consciously today, healthy and necessary meals to fuel my body and brain but I did not over-eat or over worry about calories or my thighs. I simply praised my body by way of giving it good food in the right amounts. I consciouesly drank enough water. When I got to the bookstore and wanted to buy something sweet, I stopped, analyzed that craving and realized I was lonely. I held my daughter and made friends with other moms in the play area. I made sure to look them in the eyes. I made sure to focus on the new skills my daughter was learning. I felt full. I felt complete in that moment. Very lucky to be sitting there. No drama for miles.

When I wanted to buy a new book, I realized it was only to serve my ego of attaining another collection. I realized that in this moment, I had enough spirituality books on my shelf still half-read that could serve my purpose more than enough without me having to purchase another one.

When I wanted to watch a show on netflix, I made myself think through that trajectory. I’d be too tired to write afterward and I’d be disappointed, which would probably fuel an unhealthy choice tomorrow in food or simply in mindset–I realize that sometimes, what I indulge in isn’t a substance, it’s a thought or a “tape” as I like to call them. A negative tape filled with thoughts that cloud my opportunities to be happy and present.

Of course, I still slipped up today. I allowed myself to consider this new way of living a decision to be devoted only to this and declare a sort of celibacy as if joining a nunnery. I mean, isn’t love and relationship a distraction? But I remembered the best way to live is open to whatever the Universe wants. And my fervor to deny this area of life is only a testament to how this is probably an unhealthy defense mechanism. So, I say to the Universe: I am open to whatever abundance you have waiting for me, in whatever form that may take. I simply want to get to know the real “I”, so that I can be a better tool.

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Loneliness, Self-Care and Forgiveness.

I don’t like what I wrote earlier. It feels like I’m complaining and I don’t like feeling that way. I wish I could efficiently write about my loneliness without sounding needy. I have been able to do that in the past, but not so much now. I wonder if it’s because the loneliness has become more immediate, more grounded, tied to the dirt of life as apposed to previous times in my life.

In an earlier stage of life, I could easily escape my loneliness with selfish things. Not that those modes of escape were negative in any way, just different. I could travel, go out and socialize at the drop of a hat, or stay in and read without any distractions and enough energy to keep me awake past the fifth page of any given book.

Now, I have to relegate my loneliness to certain blocks of time. My loneliness is the victim of the assembly-line day.

I can’t stop everything and just feel. Well, I suppose I could but that would make me a bad mother and cause more problems than it’s worth.

Now, I can’t think or feel until the baby is put down, the dishes are done, the house is picked up and the dogs are fed. And even after all of this is accomplished, I may want to simply tune out and watch whatever is on Netflix, or paint my nails, or take a shower.

For a writer, this can be difficult, because the more the reflection and thought-roaming is put off, the more pressure builds and builds, until one day you’re looking at your computer screen at the office and tears start to appear in your eyes for no good reason.

I have been trying to focus on staying off the screen as much as possible outside of work, where I am forced to be in front of the screen. It’s easy to shut off at the end of the day and click random video posts from clickbait or whatever website that churns out mindless, time-wasting content. However, the less I am in the present–in what little time I get to be alone with my thoughts in the present–the more the suppression builds and builds and the less I am in tune with my inner-workings.

I am trying, also, to remember my dreams. The mind does not shut off during sleep and there have been many opportunities presented to me in the past to take notice of my dreams and understand what they may be trying to tell me. I want to be efficient again at staying in touch.

So, what is this sadness/loneliness really about? If I take an honest look, it may have more to do with feeling separated from myself, from lack of self-care, from missing out on quality time to sort through the complicated emotions that are sure to be alive in me after the past year I have had.

My daughter turned one years old yesterday. It was an emotional, fun-filled day. I am so proud of my ex and I that we were able to have a lovely party for her, together. But I did have a head-butting-againt-the-wall moment when, pulled into a long conversation about the safety of our child in his care, it turned into our marriage. Our history. I think, for the last time, I tried to get him to understand where I was coming from. I don’t think he got it. And that’s fair. But so frustrating. He did, however, reiterate to me how I made him feel two inches tall, all the time, every day. How my anger toward him rose and had no where to spill over. Anger over what? I asked him. Where do you think that anger came from? The fact that you never told me the truth. Never trusted me enough to be real with me. I was the invisible wife.

Every relationship is a two-way street. I understand that I could have been more loving. But where I take a break and stop myself from bashing myself against the guilt wall is when I remind myself of this simple, and honest, fact. I did not feel safe. I wanted and I pretended and we created an illusion of safety, but where there is no honesty, there is no safety.

I hope that wherever I find myself in the future, I will give myself permission to feel safe, or leave.

I guess, in the end, I did.

Where forgiveness comes in is where I hope and pray for his sake and my daughters sake that he can one day find someone who he, in turn, feels safe to share the real person with. I can only forgive someone to the extent that I want to be forgiven, and I can only wish upon another person the contents for which I wish other people to wish upon me.

And there it is: at least an hour of time where I have given myself the gift of time to write. It feels so good after so long. Twice in one day! A record since graduate school. Congratulations, Shannon. You’re getting there.

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Protected: …an email box full of old ghosts and the need and desire to turn away

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Protected: a Way to Find Yourself Again After Infidelity

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