Ran across this poem again today. I remember holding onto it with dear life a few years ago, hanging on each word, after my world came crashing down. When a friend shared it with me back then, this poem was my rock – I read it everyday to remind me that life was still worth living and that life wouldn’t end just because I had failed. Today, I read it with the gratitude that I failed because I learned so much from those failures and disappointments. I learned about the suffering caused by attachments and aversions, and about how resilient I truly was, in the face of adversity. And I am so utterly grateful that, through all of it, I learned to decorate my soul.
After a While…..by Veronica Shoffstall
After a while you learn the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises,
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead,
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine burns
if you get too much, so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure,
you really are strong, you really do have worth,
and you learn and you learn.
With every goodbye, you learn.
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
Hold on to what is good
even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even when it is a tree
that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even when it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life
even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand
even when I have gone away from you.