sucking it up skills

The minute he called and asked, “How are you all doing?” I knew it was going to take a lot of skill to keep it all inside. The shaking voice clued him in to my true state. I could barely keep it together during the call, but managed to hold it in til we hung up. Tears creeped out from where I had hidden them. But busyness rescued me. I quickly sucked it up. Had to. Things to do.

I sat down in her office to discuss my new venture. I was determined to use my best powers of sucking it up. But they weren’t good enough. A tear fell when she asked, “How are you doing?”, sitting back to really listen. But anger rescued me – allowing me to express feelings about my present circumstances without tears. Then we moved on to the business at hand.

The phone rang when I got home. It was a long distance friend checking in. “How are you?”, she asked, full of her usual empathy and compassion. Here they come. Tears. The quivering voice betrayed me. But silence rescued me. My understanding friend began to pray as I sat sobbing on the inside, shaking and silent on the outside. Her words – and the hope that Someone besides me heard them – pried open my heart. Hanging up the phone, I allowed myself tears. Just for a minute. Til my son, looking at me with bewilderment and distress, rescued me. Mopping up the spill, I sucked it all up again and asked, “So, what shall we have for dinner?”

Crawling into bed, unable to sleep, I laid my hands on her book of poetry. “That will do the trick”, I thought. And it did.

The tough veneer I’d firmly plastered over myself began to peel, revealing a gaping hole. The one I’ve tried so hard to hide. Even from myself. I knew what was lurking there. I pulled the covers up to keep it down. I read other poems – ones that weren’t about me. But “Dread” and “Take Me” came at me like a 1-2 punch, swiftly followed by the knock out blow of “Moving On”. The geyser buried beneath the surface blew. The poet knew. Her story shared in lines did the trick.

I tried to read on. But exhausted by the geyser, or perhaps by weeks of sucking it up, I got up from the bed and turned on the TV. Rescued again by distraction, I replastered the veneer.
I awoke this morning, wind ripping at the trees outside my window, rain pelting the roof.
Outside reflecting my inside.
Tossing off my sucking it up skills, I arose to face a new day.
Outside reflecting my inside.

Moving On

From disbelief
to sadness.
A trickle of hope
begins to fill a well
then dries.
We smile the smile of the helpless,
fill packing cases with our lives
and litter today with regrets.
We pack up our wooden memories,
our celluloid and prints.
But friendship is harder to leave
and impossible to take.

And so we have
one last cocktail or barbie,
one last call,
one last time.
We live in a limbo
of tied ends and throwing out
and too many goodbyes.
Nothing happy happens
when you're packing.

The gannets descend,
And we slide down the slope
in a forest of mire.

When we step on the runway
and the end is in sight,
no pit could be deeper.
Though things will improve,
please God can you stop them
from making us move

Muscat, January 1996

used by permission
Jo Parfitt, "Moving On", from A Moving Landscape

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