From Michelle, about the soul, as shared at the 2017 Sojo Slam
As many of you know, we just moved (shout out to my commune). As we were packing, I found a folded piece of paper that I wrote about 4 years ago during the peak of my life-changing faith crisis. It was Easter time. My oldest was in that incessant question asking phase and wouldn’t stop asking about the ins and outs of the resurrection. A giant knot started to develop in my stomach as I realized that I no longer believed any of the details I was relaying to him. And in that moment, my world fell apart. As I prepare to share this (20 minutes before leaving for the slam btw), I keep picturing the calving of ice that happens at the edges of glaciers. In an instant and without warning, huge pieces of the glacier plummet into the ocean creating a massive wave and a newly exposed surface. When I realized my atheism suddenly after a lifetime of “faith,” it felt like the calving of my soul and the wave it created wouldn’t stop reverberating through my stomach. I felt like this for months and months and months. It was such an intense and terrifying loss. Trigger warning for the following imagery- mentions infant loss: It felt like the violent miscarriage of a full term pregnancy that was torn off of my abdomen in an instant. It became so unbearable that I wrote this the day I realized it wasn’t going away and I needed to start processing my doubts openly.
I have always enjoyed poetry and writing but usually felt terrified at the concept of ever sharing it with anyone. It has been something I turn to in my worst times and usually throw away or burn in an attempt to let go. But, then I met you all. People who make me feel less afraid of that God-light within me. So here’s a poem I didn’t know I wrote for you:
My belly is a raw nerve. Exposed and bleeding
When I look at it, it pulses and bleeds more heavily
The sight sends buzzing pangs down my legs. How am I still alive?
The growth that once covered my belly is gone. I wish I could reattach it.
Life was better with the growth. Or so it seemed.
There was promise. There was hope. There was purpose.
Without it, there is little. There is only fear and pain. An abyss of unknown.
I close my eyes and imagine it’s there. I reluctantly open them from time to time when I feel the aching coming on. I look at the raw place and it sends more waves of sadness over me, so I close my eyes again.
Not anymore. I want to open them. I don’t want to be disturbed by what I see. It’s me. It’s mine.
I stare. I begin to look at it from different angles. Maybe it isn’t all pain. Maybe it isn’t all fear. It can’t stay unknown and terrifying if I look at it.
I study it. The emptiness is beautiful in a way. I feel simple. I feel alive. Each moment I look, I see the shifting of the emptiness. I can’t stop staring at it now. Where I once saw darkness, I now see colors. Deep reds and purples. Glistening flesh constantly moving. It folds over itself many times. It shifts. It writhes. It contracts and expands.
Will anything ever grow there again?
I ended the poem with that question. And I answer it with your faces. So thank you.