Monday, August 30, 2010

With a Head Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

So I woke up yesterday morning and found a little sore on my tongue. In two seconds I was wondering which cancer center I should go to, then I tried speaking without moving my tongue, then I asked myself: Do I want to do chemo?

No wonder I used to drink so much, with a head like this on my shoulders. A guy I know likes to say, "My head might be attached to my body but that doesn't make it my friend."

My friends and I call this kind of thing "disaster thinking," the phenomenon of immediately assuming the worst. It's a bad habit we have. Catching myself in disaster thinking mode is the only way I've found to combat it.

Too bad they don't teach this helpful stuff in school: reading, writing, and right thinking.

The poet Karen of the blog Keeping Secrets has ordered the Poetry Bus riders to ponder school this week. Like a good student, I did my homework so's I could catch the big yellow bus around the world. (The "U" that follows stands for Unsatisfactory Citizenship, if you're not familiar with this form of grading.)


After you died, I opened a cupboard.
I found an envelope addressed to me
at the house where I lived in first grade.

Inside was a chronological stack
of report cards, my education saved,
possibly prized through every journey
you took in your life.
You took it with you to your death.

I fingered through the leaves
of this sacred record, leading me
from Arithmetic to Algebra,
from Spelling to Literature,
a mostly satisfactory citizen,
growing up on paper, gifted, flawed.

One among them was much creased,
yellowed, worn: On the back,
a note, scrawled in red ink
in my fourteen-year-old hand:

One among them was much creased,
yellowed, worn: On the back,
a note, scrawled in red ink
in my fourteen-year-old hand:

This is a good report
card even if I did get
a U and I’m on the
honor roll so please
don’t hit me.

I remember the battles
and they suddenly slip
through my fingers
like leaves.

Catch the other riders here.


Elisabeth said...

Oh so poignant. I know that tendency to expect the worst, but your poem here exemplifies so much of your struggle, 'Please don't hit me'.

the watercats said...

wow!.. this poem actually is awesome, seriously moving stuff!
This has ripped my heart right out..

Rachel Fox said...

We really do have quite a lot in common! Disaster thinking... done my fair share of that... it's such a stupid waste of time!

the walking man said...

Really isn't much point in remembering, holding on to the battles, unless of course you belong to the VFW.

Syd said...

Chris, what a cute photo. My mother saved all of mine as well. They are packed away someplace here. I remember one teacher writing that I was finally getting a personality--in seventh grade! I wonder what I had before that. Oh well....

Marion said...

In AA, we were warned not to go into our heads alone, that it can be a very scary place. I can indulge in disaster thinking so quickly and easily...sometimes it takes awhile before I catch myself. I can go on with it for quite some time, heh!

My mother also kept my report cards. I was astounded when I found them after she died, amongst her stuff. I didn't even know she liked me that much...she certainly didn't show it. So your poem meant a lot to me..

Brian Miller said...

dang. you took my breath away a punch to the stomach...

Anonymous said...

Touching poem. My Mom kept all of my report cards and gave them to me a couple of years ago. She had them all nicely filed in an accordion file. - G

Gabriella Moonlight said...

"please don't hit me" this definitely stood out for me, I was much in the same manner with my mother, wanting to please her and not raise her ire. she too kept these momentos that somehow had meaning and yet the meaning attached for me was lost on the anger and the sadness she felt.

oh, the stinking and catastrophising is so hard...i always say, "my best thinking got me to aa..." what's that say really LOL!

Love you,

Magpie said...

I like your term for it better than mine...I just say my husband is a doomsayer...always thinking the worst. What is this love/hate relationship so many mother and daughters have? I'm trying hard to break that cycle in my home.

Tari said...

Oh Chris! Like Rachel said, I feel like we have a lot in common too.

I am so often in "disaster thinking" mode, and sometimes it gets the best of me.

So sad about the report card and the note. I hope your mother listened.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Just ticking along like any good poem should and then POW!The last four lines elevate it to something special.

The Bug said...

Definitely a poignant poem. There was that little expulsion of breath when I read "please don't hit me" - like I had been waiting & there it was.

Oh I am a disaster thinker of the highest order! And I have lots of experience talking myself down off the ledge, so if you need to have someone speak truth to your (perhaps fatal!) pain, just call me.

Peter Goulding said...

What an original take. A life categorised on paper...

Scott said...

wow Chris, as usual... right to my core :-) Thanks!

(I too can relate to the disaster thinking model lol)

Argent said...

My mum gave me all my report cards and I have them still (not sure what that means). Don't hit me - that sent a frisson down my spine.

Doctor FTSE said...

Must be difficult to be "unsatisfactory" when you give us poems like this!

e said...

Hi Chris,

Your poem is fabulous. I have my last grade report from high school...So long ago and with such hopes for the future...Sometimes I wonder where that optimism and hope have gone.

How are you doing today?

Thanks for the e-mail.

Monkey Man said...

You're awesome.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

A very sad commentary - but a unique take. Skillfully written.

NanU said...

What a turn at the end. People are so complicated. Love and hate at the same time.
When I look back at school pictures, it's like it isn't me there, but some kid I don't know. It'd take a lot to prove I was ever there, standing in the living room for a dressing down for a B, though I know it must have been me.

Lydia said...

What you have allowed us to discover here makes your caring for her at the end all the more powerful. You are working through so much soon after her death that it appears you are making your future a very safe place in which to live, love, purge, and regenerate.

This poem is great.

izzy said...

Oh yeah, those little pieces of aged paper ! I saw some after Ma died-
such a motley collection... seems the old way -writing comments- was so
much better. Then they stopped. Potential was the deadly word- Thanks!

Jinksy said...

I asked my kids if they wanted their old reports, but they declined, and the lot got shredded, as did mine, after I'd had a good laugh reading them! Live in the now, says I...

Karen said...

I like Jinksy's comment - live in the now - but not so easily accomplished, I'm afraid. I wish we could remember only the good. Wish we could live only the good.

Your poem really moves me.

steveroni said...

U are exceptional.
Your writing is exceptional.
I'm wondering where have I been?
I LOVE it here...

And all the horrors now slip through my fingers like autumn's fallen leaves...Ohhhhh!