In writerly company, if it comes up, I refer to myself as a “recovering poet.” The recovering part refers to my inability to stop, but that I’ve admitted I’m powerless and blah blah blah.
Actually, though, the recovering also refers to the kind of life I lived when I identified primarily as a poet. Few people I’m close to now, aside from family, knew me then. I was (I imagine) a kind of raging lunatic — or maybe a sociopath. I wrote poems like prodding fingers into wounds: insecurity? anger? oppression? Mine or yours, it didn’t matter, I was taking some spray paint to a bed sheet and hanging it on the front porch. And then probably telling you that it’s your fault you’re mad that I hung that up for everyone to see, because if you’re mad then SEE! I TOLD YOU I WAS RIGHT.
At some point I hit bottom and realized that writing, the prodding into hurting places all the time, would probably make my husband leave and my family hate me and my friends non-existent. I moved from the MFA to the composition and rhetoric program, and began the hard work of perspective shift. I read Where Ever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Peace Is the Way by Deepak Chopra. I read Thich Nhat Han and Pema Chodron. I read The Four Agreements and The Voice of Knowledge.
Now, if someone is driving like a maniac, I imagine (earnestly) they have a pregnant woman in the back seat in labor — or some other forgivable circumstance.
And I’m so lucky to have this sort of conundrum.