Tag Archives: therapy

I hear voices

8 Jun

I Hear Voices

By L. Stewart Marsden

I hear voices. They come from out of nowhere like seeds borne by a dark wind, down into my ears and along the canals, edging further into my head where they take root.

That’s the best description I can give when considering how I come to write a poem, or a short story, or play, or argument about something.

Mysterious; elusive; inexplicable.

I hear the conversations between characters, who verbally spar with each other in my stories or plays. I hear the rhythm and rhyme of thoughts that spin into poems about whatever I’m experiencing. I see the stages where the works take place: an ocean, a mountain, a savanna, a city street. I smell the salt air, the pungent sassafras, the dry grass, the wet pavement. I hear the surrounding sounds of the background: a wave gently crashing onto the sand, the kree of a circling hawk, the rustle of the ocean of grasses, a distant ambulance.

Sometimes the voices are therapeutic. They worm into my subconscious and attack my fears and misgivings and self-doubt. They break the grip of things that seem to want to paralyze me and hold me back. And when those things are exposed to the light — as when Mommy bursts in to turn on the light during a nightmare — there are no ogres or monsters or creepy-crawlies under the bed or tucked into my closet.

Just the words. The poems. The stories.

My tinctures and salves are as imaginary as the ailments they address. Just words and thoughts.

Not all hear the voices. It’s both curse and blessing. Curse in the dead of night when they persist to prattle on until I eventually crawl out from my covers to tap them out onto the screen of my iPad. Blessing in when the effort is complete, and awaits the next step. I can fall back into my bed, deeply exhausted, and the voices are quiet.

You might think it’s madness. I suppose to a degree it is. There’s enough to surviving a lifetime than adding to it more things to read, to consider, to mull over.

But the voices don’t care about that. They want their day, whether they are read or not; appreciated or not; understood or not.

Me? For some reason I’m just one of the many vessels through which they choose to flow.

Next time you’re on a plane, or the subway, or walking a crowded street, or lingering in the shade beside a creek — listen.

Do you hear them?

I hope you do.

Advertisements

It’s Just Music

21 May

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Just Music

By L. Stewart Marsden

At the risk of coming across very ego-centered (as opposed to plain ego-centered), sometimes I surprise myself in a good way.

Much of my married life I was told I am dysthymic. For those unfamiliar with the term, it basically means you live just below the surface of the water emotionally. Like Eeyore, Milne’s classic character of Winnie-the-Pooh fame. In fact, my Ender Wife presented me with a stuffed version of Eeyore, which I still have. I let the dog chew on him.

I’ve always thought the hyperbolic ups and downs of some people I’ve observed were good reason to maintain a more steady disposition, albeit just below the water’s surface. How they are able to tolerate the ups and downs of their emotional roller coasters befuddles me.

They are the Hare, and I am the Tortoise in that way. Yup, yup.

In addition to being dysthymic, I’ve been told I’m an avoider, and a procrastinator. But we can get to that later. None of the labels is very heartening, though.

My retreats are basically three-fold:

  1. I play Spider Solitaire and dive into imagined scenarios and conversations during play.
  2. I write and/or research for my writing.
  3. I play my guitar.

That’s it.

I get no personal satisfaction from playing solitaire other than the brief high from winning — which is not very often (I don’t play the easy versions). My mind tends to run the ravines of what I would like to say or do if I only had the courage. It gets a bit tiresome.

Periodically I write something I am somewhat satisfied with, knowing that ninety percent of writing is actually in the editing and cutting of stuff (boring as well as ego-painful). Writing is never complete, like learning.

But, when I pick up my guitar … something happens.

I absolutely lose myself either in a song I am learning and trying to perfect, or in random rifts with slight variations in notes and chords.

When I was a kid, I used to do the same sort of thing, except on the down-sized ebony Mason & Hamlin grand that was in the living room. I could sit and pluck out tunes and chords for hours.

In the flow of the music it matters very little how good I actually play. I don’t criticize myself on those counts. I am too deeply embedded in the song, whether playing my arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (Jeff Beckley did not write it); or Georgia on My Mind by Hoagy Charmichael (neither Willie Nelson nor Ray Charles wrote this); or reliving my teen years playing America (Simon & Garfunkel).

I imagine sitting alone on a stage, a single spotlight illuminating a circle on the floor that encompasses me, and all else dark. I can’t see the audience, but I know they are there. I bend notes and gruff out a lyric with an impure voice — gravelly and frayed on the edges. Every line — every word — has meaning. All I’ve ever learnt from love … Other eyes smile tenderly … “Cathy, I’m lost!” I said, though I knew she was sleeping …

It’s not a high. There isn’t any euphoria. But it’s a damn good place for me, and when I emerge from however long I’ve escaped, I am ready to face reality, and being dysthymic, or emotionally frail, isn’t the portentous thunderstorm on the horizon that it once was.

Plus this process is thousands of dollars cheaper than years of counseling, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Do you have an instrument?

Do you have a song?

Do you have a place you can curl into (not a fetal position, mind you) and feel safe and snug? One that allows you to empty yourself and to breathe in renewal?

Sounds Zen, doesn’t it?

But it isn’t.

It’s just music.