The Sound That A Scuffed Floor Makes

** I have a really bad habit of, whenever discussing mental health, immediately following with, “Sorry that was so heavy” or “I didn’t mean to turn this conversation into a heavy one” or “But I’m okay.” We are all so socialized to apologize for imperfect (and…human) mental states, that often meaningful and necessary conversation is avoided for the sake of the comfort of the people around us–and at the expense of the person who needs to talk. To be frank: this poem can be read in a number of ways, but at core it is about mental health. It is about the things I’ve learned from the generous students, partner, and a handful of friends whose openness has allowed for mine. And there is precious little I am more thankful for than the gift of openness, for the gift of shared silence, and for the gift of “me, too.” **

 

My mom says I’ve always been a heavy walker

That when I was three you could hear me coming down the hall

From the opposite side of the house

 

During the hardest month of my life

I ran around a track every day for thirty days

Knew my running was running away

Until halfway through it became running toward

I seemed to always end up where I started

Exhausted

And out of breath

But in better shape than when I had begun

 

At times I walked as slowly

As the three year-olds in New York City

Tiny hands enveloped by

Those just trying to get home

 

Getting home:

We either walk

Or get dragged

Sometimes it’s a little bit of both.

 

On the day we ambled down Broadway

You said that for as many

Skyscrapers

As there are in big cities

For as many steel-tipped spines

Standing a little straighter

In the shadow of the heavens

There is always building to be done

 

But that getting places is hard

Amidst constant tearing down

And building up

 

For as often as I’ve tried to get places

With my heavy step

More often I’ve been caught staring at the road

Wondering who is leaving behind

And who is going towards

Wondering whether I’m leaving behind

Or going towards

As if they’re different.

 

And I can’t stop thinking about gravity

About how the force that makes for

This heavy step

This weighted tread

This thing that announces me

From the other side of the house

Is the force that also

Brings all things closer to one another

And is precisely what grounds me

 

So when I say that this

Has gravity

That is my way of saying

This is heavy.

So come closer to me.

 

And like with most things

My delivery is not my strong suit

Too often I make known the heavy

Too often I make known the weight

Too often I show you how my shoulders sag

 

And too often I fail

To point to exactly

Where there are handles

Where you can get a grip

Much better than mine

Where you can come closer

And help me carry.

 

Too often I fail

To even tell you it’s heavy

That you don’t need to pick it up

That all we need is rest

Before we try again in the morning.

 

And once we have rested

Let us not mistake pacing for progress

Treadmills for travel

And

Walking

For abandoning.

 

I want to be a tap dancer

I want to steel-toe my decisions

And make music

Of what’s always been called

Leaving

 

But dancing is hard

When you don’t have rhythm

And have never taken lessons

 

At 25

I’m only just learning

To make music

Of my miles

 

And I just hope

That the scuff marks

Left behind

Speak not marks of ruin

But sing loudly

That on this floor

It is still okay

 

To dance.

 

Image courtesy of Dave, Flickr Creative Commons.

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