There were a series of mandates from my childhood that I found myself on the receiving end of as I was growing up.
It is safe to say that I heard them a couple thousand times at the very least.
To always remember where I came from.
To remember who I was.
And – never allowing anyone to define me.
However, the message that reverberated the loudest was holding the concept of family in the highest regard.
It was constantly reinforced that nothing was more important than family.
As various members of my family were apt to do, they always found a way to intersperse these mandates into the confines of everyday conversation.
But nearly 4 decades later, on a cold winter day in January of 2014, I found myself standing alone on a snow covered trail in Maryland’s Gunpowder Falls – shivering, hands numb and wondering how I lost my way.
The realization that I forgot the one thing that should have been my North Star, gnawed at me as I walked on, ignoring the pangs of the cold.
I was guilty of a cardinal sin, betrayal.
I forgot who I was – betrayal of the highest order.
At the time, I had spent a third of my life working for an organization, blindly going through the motions of corporate progression, becoming the company, losing myself within the employee handbook and in the process I became something different, something unrecognizable, something ugly.
I was disenchanted and hollow inside.
One day I woke up and I knew that I wasn’t my own person. Interestingly enough, I stopped writing altogether as it didn’t fit in the mold of my job title.
The end of my tenure with this organization was coming to a close and the loyalty that I showed was obviously not going to be reciprocated – and it stung.
I was a writer who chose to betray the very thing that redeemed my soul during the darkest moments of my life and I was ashamed.
As I stood on the shoreline of the river with my eyes closed, I was content with letting the solace of the surroundings envelope me, the rushing of the river, the chirping of the birds flying above and the chill of the air in my lungs.
I was murmuring a quiet prayer for fortitude when the silence was broken by a low battery alert on my smartphone, I didn’t have much power left, but I resolved to continue walking along the path while muddling through the morose of my thoughts.
When my battery finally gave its last chirp and powered down, I resigned myself to make the 2 mile walk back to my car, it was during my walk back that the strangest thing happened.
I had an epiphany.
I never considered myself a poet by any stretch of the imagination, truth be told I never gave poetry any thought whatsoever.
It would seem that the opening days of 2014, had something else in store for me.
It was at this moment that I began putting together what would be my first poem – which was more like a prayer for clarity.
My phone and the ColorNote application by extension was dead to the world, so I recited the segments of the poem aloud as I worked them out in my head over and over again, upon getting to my car, I turned on the ignition, cut on the heat, plugged the phone into the charger and into began writing what I had been repeating to myself for the past 2 miles out.
I called it: Make it Plain.
This was the spark that lead to me undertaking an effort to trace my family tree back 200 some odd years, an endeavor that changed my life in ways that I am unable to enunciate.
Whenever I reach a point where darkness beckons, I harken back to this piece and the place where I was reintroduced to myself.
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