One of my favorite poems is “One from None” by Henry Rollins. I love the idea of letting go of what has previously defined me and creating a new self. When I first read it, I had felt so burdened and confined by what I thought other people thought of me. I was Asian, a child of a father who’d been in prison multiple times, and a girl (which I thought meant weaker and generally “less than”).
Here is Henry Rollins’ poem:
One from None
People get lost
The alarm clock goes off and someone loses his way
All of a sudden five years have passed
They look at themselves in the mirror
Can’t understand where it all went
A dirty underhanded trick
Someone gets lost and destroyed
People walking the streets like dumb animals
Smart enough to be cruel
Handcuffed to the television set
Another beer can opens
The sun goes down on another day
Self-destruction slow and complete
What nasty things we do to ourselves
These people try to bum me out
Calling me shit
They’re not telling me anything I don’t already know
When they talk shit
It’s lightweight compared to what I say to myself
They will never be as hard on me as I am on myself
So fuck them
Love me hate me, it’s all the same
I am weak
Looking to get stronger
When I open my eyes all the way
It’s all there is for me
Kindness is strength
It’s easier to close a door, than to keep it open
Hatred is easy
Frustration is life on pause
These are truths that are hard for me to deal with
I learned a lot this year
I think I am stronger than last year
Self-creation is painful
Trying to take my parent’s blood out of mine
Trying to stand on my own two feet
Without leaning on someone else
Looking to myself for total strength
—Henry Rollins “One From None”
I wrote a self-creation poem that was mostly disconnected references to other writers’ work. Then I joined a writers’ group with a poet and a playwright. I’m kind of amazed I had the guts to share my writing with them because they are both really, really good writers. Thankfully, they were also very kind and generous. They gave me wonderful feedback, which I used to write the following poem.
Mother – Child, which comes first?
American Indians write about their mothers,
their grandmothers, Thought Woman, and Spider Woman.
They know they come from Woman and are proud.
I wear the mask of a woman, but my true self is
something else. I am an alien left behind from
some expedition, by accident, or maybe on purpose.
They say Men are from Mars, and Women from Venus.
Where am I from? How do I get back?
When will I ever feel like this is where I belong?
All these words floating in my head, declaring
how I’m different, lesser, just not good enough.
I can’t do things because, well, I’m a girl.
I listen to these voices, sometimes my own,
sometimes those of my parents, or my brother.
I buy into their beliefs, agree with my silence.
I let them design me, mold me in their image.
All of their fears, their regrets, their doubts.
I give up all responsibility, shoulder all blame.
Yet within me, there lives the seed of a child.
Am I not also a mother waiting to be born?
Can I not deliver from fear a child who is me?
I am my mother, in her likeness and her strength.
I am my own Mother, in the act of immaculate creation.
I spent 2.5 years doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), learning skills to help me manage my negative emotions, communicate more effectively, and cultivate courage by being vulnerable. I had to look honestly at who I am and who I want to be.
What am I doing?
Who the hell do I think I am?
What was I thinking?
I have nothing to say.
I have nothing to contribute.
I can’t do it.
I am not good enough.
I’ll never get it all done.
I screw everything up.
I would scream but I’m not worth hearing.
I would fight but I’m not worth fighting for.
I’m suffocating but I don’t dare take a full breath.
I choke back my ideas so I risk nothing.
I press down my feelings because I’m afraid.
I don’t want to know who I really am.
If I’m really nothing, how can I accept that?
If I’m really powerful, how can I live up to that?
I can’t help feeling that deep down I really am alone.
Nothing anyone says, nothing I think can shake that feeling.
If I empty out my fear, my judging, my rage, what will be left of me?
I’m so scared there will be nothing left.
Or that what would be left would be nothing worthwhile.
What choice do I have then?
I’ve been pushing myself away, numbing myself, choking myself.
There’s something inside me that keeps crying out, “NO!!!”
Who the hell is that? Why won’t they shut the hell up already?
Can’t they feel how much it hurts for me to feel? How much it terrorizes me?
Why do they make me suffer? Why won’t they let me be?
I’m crying now. I’m doubled over now, weeping for the child I never got to be.
I’m wailing for the years I’ve wasted, hating myself and everyone else.
I’m tired, exhausted from fighting myself over every thought and deed.
When will I be done? When can I release myself for “time served”?
Is there really a well deep inside of me that knows only Love?
I can only keep digging to find out.
This blog is another draft of re-creating myself. I don’t see myself as an authority on anxiety or depression, but I’m decreeing and declaring myself enough of a writer to share my experience. I’m still Asian, but I’m also a child of a father who suffered alone with his anxiety and depression, a woman (which means I’m strong and compassionate), and every day finding more good in me and in the world, and more joy to experience and share.