Resilience (or Lack Thereof)

Resilience is the “ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change,” according to the Mariam-Webster Dictionary. Many see it as a bounce back from something bad, like a tennis ball striking the ground and flying forward.


Even tennis balls go flat, though, and lose their bouncy potential.


I know there’s been times in my life where I didn’t get up quickly from the things life punches me with. I’ve struggled with depression for many years. It was hard to not be able to do the “pull yourself up and think positive” routine for a while. It was difficult enough just to get out of bed. So, I was not always resilient. Even when I did push myself forward, there was an anxious blowback that would incapacitate me for hours.


Resilience is only good if the misfortune is aired out. Releasing the pain from its infernal grip, talking to somebody or journaling, and practicing self-care relieves some of the sting.


It also helps to understand the trauma. Be it childhood abuse, stress from work, financial woes, or shellshock from war—these require different types of caring. It’s one thing to commiserate over a lost job; different than losing a beloved person or pet; still another to wash away the vision of killing a child because they were trained to kill you first.


These things take compassion, from others and from oneself. Most people know where their breaking point is. What do you do when you received the short straw? What do you do when the last shovelful of dirt hits the grave? Can you walk away and go on with life? Not easy, isn’t it?


There is no set timeframe for grief. There is no expiration date to suffering. It happens when it happens. Let the pain roll through.  I breathe it in and breathe it out. Then I pick up the pen or open that document. Let it all out. Write until I’m exhausted. Then pick up the phone and call or send a text. Find a pair of listening ears. Someone whose eyes can digest your words, and give a thoughtful response.  Even if I have to pay for it, find them.


Then look around. The birds are in the trees. Another car goes by. The dog barks, the people walk to their destination. Life is still happening. And I’m still a part of it.


I had years of therapy and dozens of medications. I practiced talking and drawing cartoons of my suffering. I am still working on that inner peace thing. Memories emerge and I wince, shaken out of my body. It’s hard to be doing dishes and suddenly I’m back to the abuse. I realize I’m not there now, that I am safe. Focus on the plate, the bowl, the fork. Focus on the warm water and the suds from dish soap. Being in the present. Finish and take the time to process it.

Put it down in words. What is it saying to me? I’m not stupid or dumb. I’m not a loser. Another rosebud of compassion falls on my lap. I did the best I could. It’s not all my fault, or none of it is my fault. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to stand still. Breathing in, breathing out.

I’m becoming resilient. Step by baby step.

At the Desk

Silent flowers fall in time

To the heartbeat of this planet

Letting go and aging to loam


My heart keeps a steady rhythm

To their ups and downs with care

Their fragrance picked up sweetly


The machines make a metallic hum

With beeps, chirps and whirring

A constant white noise to scratch the brain


This room is currently cold

And I struggle to breathe deeply

As I’m ensconced in my jacket


I need to refresh my dulled senses

As clouds burn off into sunshine

And the room fills with daylight


© 2017 Valerie Hathaway

Words Sprang

Words sprang from fatal arrows,

Killing the victim from the inside.

Words sprang from early flowers,

Showing beauty as soon as they can.

Words sprang from the soaring birds,

Looking for a firm place to land.

Words sprang from my foggy mind,

Twisting and bending in shapely swirls.

Words sprang onto paper and left to dry,

Hoping a feeling will somehow shoot forth.


© 2017 Valerie Hathaway


She stands at the doorway of Heaven

She has not seen this presence before

Just a moment before she fell asleep

She prayed for peace and forgiveness


She stands at the base of the pearly gates

She didn’t know that her time was up

She had so much to accomplish yet

She fears she cannot go back


She wakes up in her bed, alone

The sheets were twisted around her

If she looked carefully enough

She could discern the presence of an angel


She sighed, giving thanks for the day

As she readies herself for church

She has a heart full of gratitude

For she was given another chance


She sees her doctor tomorrow

He will tell her impossible news

But for now she walks with the Host

And she has peace nestled in her heart


© 2017 Valerie Hathaway


I May Not Be Famous

My works may not fill a greeting card,

Or be published in a magazine.

But I wrestle words out of my mind,

And that’s alright by me.


I may not be a Poet Laureate

For an institution of any kind.

But I pour gems out of my heart,

And that suits me just fine.


I may not be a famous author,

Best seller on some paper’s list.

But I mine jewels out of my soul,

And I don’t mind being missed.


I may not teach in a noble school

Or make workshops online.

I just tumble with the mumbles

Until my text starts to shine.


© 2017 Valerie Hathaway

Waiting and Watching…

My husband had hernia surgery on Monday. It was a long wait as I was forgotten by the staff and had to call back to the recovery room to see if he was okay.  I spent most of the time eating, watching HGTV, and scouring the Facebook feeds.

He’s been laughing and groaning as the abdominal muscles that were cut make their presence known. He’s been sleeping on his back, not a normal position for him.  Bending and twisting are limited for the moment.

I’ve been doing the driving, cooking, and caretaking. It’s unusual with the roles being reversed. He finds it weird that I have to tell him to sit down and rest for the umpteenth time. He has to lie down and sleep when the pain killer kicks him down.

Mostly it’s me who goes to the hospital or the doctor for something healable or manageable. My moods have been lurching from one side to the other, the pendulum of bipolar swings wider until it settles down to a mere rocking side to side. I can’t afford the depression; my wariness now keeps tabs on various stages and players.

He’s getting better, slowly. It should be about three weeks before the Steri-Strips fall off and the wound heals. I keep my vigilance. Like a solder at the gate I watch and wait.


There must be an evolution of numbers

When it comes to paying taxes.

Some mere figures don’t make it.

Others are forced by natural computation

To fit in another block.

What does it all mean,

These strings of numeral self-worth?

The software says it’s okay.

The tax preparer says it’s fine.

But do these digits encompass a life?

Do all the forms and worksheets

Spill decimals like one’s blood?

Do they signify the sweat and stress

Of the previous years?

Or are they merely placeholders

Of some governmental plot?

Nevertheless, they’re done

And they have migrated to the IRS

For more selection and mutation.

Until one number remains,

The apex of all the amounts.

What I see is the last figure,

At least until next year.


© 2017 Valerie Hathaway

I’m Sorry

I’m sad and I’m sorry

I could do more for you

But my body is now aching

From its loss of youth


I’m depressed and I’m sorry

It’s hard for me to bear

These acts of compassion

Are getting harder to share


I’m upset and I’m sorry

I can’t plaster a smile

My pain intensely grows

And my heart’s gone for a while


I’m morose and I’m sorry

There is nothing more today

I will try and soldier along

But all I can really say


Is I’m sorry



© 2017 Valerie Hathaway


She shudders in pain

As she plants her feet

The agony is real

But not in retreat


Gingerly she steps

To the tile bathroom

She puts herself together

In moderate gloom


She lives for today

That’s all she has left

It’s definitely not much

But it’s her own gift


She’s now in the kitchen

Sipping a cup of tea

She smiles so wanly

Her day yet to be


Her joints creak loudly

As she puts on clothes

But still stands proudly

Off to work she goes


It’s torture for her

But only she knows it

She wears her smile

Everybody loves it


She comes to a room

Back in her own space

Cries in bitter twilight

Being put into its place


She eats gradually

Her mouth still dry and sore

She sits at the TV

Her lover forever more


She goes to her bed

And turns out the light

Her sleep is dark and heavy

Like the shadowy light


She dreams of amber pale

And gentle “I Love You”

Another lifetime ago

When she knew life anew


There’s no one for her

They’ve all left and gone

But like the climbing sun

Her black days go on


© 2017 Valerie Hathaway


The clock on the wall marks the slow pace

The TV blares banalities along with the weather

People wait in antsy anticipation

For their loved ones to pull through.

Hours pass like softened butter

Sliding slowly across the day

I purchase another coffee

As I stay tuned to the eerie glow

Of fluorescent lights in the room

They sit, read, or watch the screen

As each second is ticked away

Eventually, they go back to see

How the patient fared under anesthesia

And how to take care of the wounds

And how to give them their pain pills

The beloved is carted away unhurriedly

To another room or to an awaiting car

To recuperate for a few days

Or a month, or a lifetime


© 2017 Valerie Hathaway