Awake! (not Greece – she is awake)
Awake, my spirit! Think through whom
Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake
And then strike home!
It seems a lifetime ago that I lived for Byron’s words, when poetry was the thing that brought me to life. I wasn’t even sure, as I sat down to write, whether this was the correct year; and it wasn’t until I sat down to write something while anticipating my 36th birthday that I even remembered the poem.
Reading Byron was like waking up from a dream. To read the start of the poem is the feel a rush of life into you – to feel something that you haven’t felt in maybe a decade – since the depression grew so deep that it drowned out the poetry. I left my books behind when I went to Michigan – no more Byron, no more Yeats. Somehow, without realising it, my world grew smaller. All that remained was Christy Brown – and eventually even his words faded and were forgotten.
And after the depression had been pushed back, I no longer cared. I stopped writing – I didn’t have the passion, I didn’t have the hurt. But it was so much better than what had gone before that I did not mourn what I had lost. I still do not mourn it – it was a more than fair trade. But until this moment, until I clicked on the Google link and read the words: ‘Tis time my heart should be unmoved, Since others it hath ceased to move:
To read those words was to feel something come alive – and yet it was a chance to appreciate the beauty and the sorrow without letting it overwhelm me. Before, when I read those words they were true, I read the poem and I became it. I read Yet, though I cannot be beloved, Still let me love! and I knew that it was true, that no one could love me, that I would never be loved. Now I know that it isn’t me speaking, it’s Byron. Then I did not know the difference.
I remember when 36 was ancient. I thought that Byron’s death was perfection – he was old enough to have lived, but still young enough to care. While it really sets into stark relief my own lack of achievements, to compare my life to Byron’s, it also serves as a kick in the ass – it serves to motivate me. But it does so in a good way, not in a hopeless way.
Turning 36 is still a big deal. I wish I didn’t have to teach. Not because I feel I shouldn’t work on my birthday – actually it’s a fine day to work – it’s ok to go to work on a day over which you feel ownership – you, Andrew Ridgely and India. What I would have liked is a little quiet time for reflection right around 11 am. Well, maybe I should take into account the time difference, and celebrate 9 am instead of 11 am. If I get ready early enough I’ll have a few minutes to reflect.
I always get an itch almost, over the first 25 days of the year. My age is the year. So to be 35 in 2006 feel wrong, and it only feel right when my birthday finally arrives and I, too, and 36. Like a racehorse, my “true” birthday is January 1. But at the same time, it’s always a little weird to get a year older.
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