*The story is much longer than I had expected and will be split into multiple parts.
It would be easy to say that this story starts and ends with Sandra. Even though she was the one who threw the stone into the lake – the ripples went further and wider than I imagined, and they are still moving.
On January 1, 2016, I wrote a simple acrostic called “New Year” and took the most impactful action in my life. I hit “publish”.
Never have I given this part of me free reign,
Every pain and joy let loose,
Where will this take me?
You may wonder at my will
Every breath strong and purposeful
All movement leading towards
Reclaiming my lost art…myself!
That move, as powerful as it was, wasn’t the beginning, nor the end of the tale. Though not one of my favorite (or complex) poem, “New Year” holds a special place because it kick-started something I could not have imagined.
In December 2015, one of my best friends, Sandra, came to Toronto to visit for the holidays. Sandra is that friend who pushes and challenges me. She brokers no excuses, reminding you that what you want in within your grasp but YOU have to work for it.
Sandra, Janny, Jennifer and I have been friends for over 25 years, since grade 10. My dad used to call us (and my sister) “Pistas”, which in Tamil, means rowdy or troublemakers. It’s a name we took on for the fun of it as well. Sandra moved to Calgary after she got married and she came for the holidays with her entire family, so we were over at her place as much as we could be. Sandra’s home was a second home to us, and many of my memories growing up are also tied to the walls of that house.
2015 had been a traumatic and healing year for me. My father passed away Christmas eve of 2014, while I had been out of the country. As we were planning his funeral arrangements, I had been badly rear-ended by a car, which left me unable to work consistently. I had worked since I was 16, never taking a real break. I worked 40 hrs while finishing my 3 degrees and not working had a more significant impact on my mental health than I realized.
I don’t remember much of the earlier part of 2015 (a story for another day). However, I remember sitting around the table at Sandra’s family home, New Year’s Eve, talking about how 2015 had shaped up and what we hoped would happen in the following year.
When it was my turn, I expressed my frustration with not having a job, being in pain
from the accident, grieving and losing confidence in myself and my place in the world. Sandra just looked at me, in her no-nonsense way and said, “I remember you used to write in high school, why don’t you do that now? I want you to write a poem a day for all of 2016.” My friends at the table loved the idea and I remember mumbling, “oh that’s a good idea” while thinking “how is this gonna help me fix anything?” I smiled and changed the topic, entirely (100%) not intending on taking her up on the challenge. The party wrapped up, and we all went home.
The next morning I woke up to the quiet of the house and thinking something had to change. The previous year had been rough, having done a number on my mental health. I sat down on the floor in my living room and opened WordPress. Since Sandra lived in Calgary, it made sense for me to do it online, instead of bombarding all my friends’ inbox with messages. Besides, I already had a name for my site; “My Poetic Heart.” I had woken up with the name in my head, clearly formed in my mind, as if it had been drawn from the whispers of my heart.
As I typed the address into the WordPress browser, I remember thinking to myself, “I
will take on the challenge if the name is available”. If it isn’t, then it is a sign and I will go on as usual and ignore the challenge. Looking back I wonder if I would have walked away so easily if the name was taken. Luckily (though I didn’t feel so lucky at that moment) the domain name was mine.
I quickly wrote a poem and sent it to my best friends; the five people who had been at the table – Sandra, Craig, Janny, Jennifer and my sister, Manimolie.
I decided to add my friend Wendy to the mailing list. Wendy and I met in my Masters’ program, becoming fast friends. Wendy is an amazing writer and editor and I recognized I needed someone who could edit and critique my work. She and I had done it for each other throughout our Masters’ and I trusted her skills. So my WordPress site had an impressive number of 5 followers (Craig and Sandra are married and followed through one account).
They loved it and were excited that I was taking on the challenge – my low confidence warred with my pride. One side of me felt proud of my acrostic poem, while the other side reminded me that these six people were the most supportive and incredible friends I was blessed to have – so of course, they would like it. Nevertheless, I had taken on the challenge and I knew I would complete it. I hate letting people down.
That’s it! Story done! I had taken on the challenge. By Dec 31 of 2016, I would have 366 poems that would stay between the seven of us – becoming another thing I did. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that the post wasn’t the end of the story.
My very last poem that year was called “The End“.
To be continued – Part 2: Ripples
P.S. my nephew thought I would take the easy way out and do acrostics all year. So for a bit of fun (and revenge), I wrote him an acrostic for his birthday in 2017. You can read it here.
Follow my Instagram for more stories and poetry.