Friday, March 22, 2019

Poetry Friday: The strange reason Jane Kenyon's "Happiness" feels like the right pick for this week

A cardinal, singing in our backyard this morning.

After Tuesday's post (in which I talked about the flooding around here), I thought we could all use some good news. And I have splendid news to share about Betsy's Crohn's disease.

She's been on her new medication for six months and has also been following the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet (with some food reintroductions in the last four months). Last week, after the latest round of tests/scopes and biopsies, we heard back from her doctor, and she is ...

in remission.

She is in clinical remission (feeling good), endoscopic remission (tests show healing of inflammation), and biopsies did not detect other active signs of the disease, which theoretically indicates that she is in histologic remission. (One can get dizzy trying to decipher the medical literature and jargon, and of course, there's so much about IBD that we don't know.) We've been told that Crohn's doesn't have a cure, but for right now, we know this: she is in remission.

And yet, I have chosen for today this alternately optimistic and bleak poem. Why? (Oh, Karen, you melancholic, Enneagram 4, INFJ rascal, you!) Sorry. This is me. So, let's be honest. Jane Kenyon's brand of happiness is not a whimsical, charming sprite, skipping merrily down a sparkly, rainbow path with you. (Depression, as you probably know, was Kenyon's long-time companion.) The happiness of which she speaks is hard-won, fleeting. Life is hard, Kenyon knows. It hurts. Pain is very real and weighs us down, shackles us, leaves wounds. But as real as the pain is, so is its opposite: streaming light, freedom, elegant, translucent scars that commemorate the wounds ... reminders of what we've endured. Happiness, too, then is tangible: we clutch it, touch it, hold onto it with fierce gratitude and released breath. We know it's never here to stay, not temporally anyway, but neither is pain. They co-exist and, in their symbiosis, teach and shape us.

by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

(Read the rest here, at the Poetry Foundation.)


The round-up this week is at Sloth Reads


Tabatha said...

That's great news! So can Betsy eat more things now?
Happiness is always a welcome visitor, even though we can't know how long it will stay.

Karen Edmisten said...

Hi, Tabatha!

Yes! She has successfully reintroduced some rice products (such as rice flour in rice pasta and crackers), almond products (almond flour, almond milk, yogurt), peanut butter, eggs, and potatoes. And chocolate. :) That's all huge@ She's planning to try tomatoes soon. Hopefully since potatoes (another nightshade) didn't bother her, tomatoes won't either. She is over the moon to be enjoying those foods again!

penelope said...

Weeping in the face of unlooked for joy is thankfulness! :-) what a blessing for Betsy. I am so glad for her.

Mitchell Linda said...

Oh, boy. This poem is beautiful. I've wondered about creatives many times. Creatives...even the really cheery ones...DO know it hurts and DO notice the sadness. So many creatives that are near and dear to me sort of beat back the sadness from time to time. I love the comparison to a prodigal.
Very happy that Betsy is healed. Enjoy every moment of health.

Rebecca Herzog said...

That is great news! And the poem you have shared is beautiful.

Teacher Dance said...

It is good news, happiness knocking. It does come, sometimes when least ready. I like the poem, but like your words, too, Karen, this: "hard-won, fleeting". I think we will do well if we ready ourselves to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing your news and for the poem and your own opinion.

Mary Lee said...

Hooray for your Betsy's good news! Hooray for as long as it lasts (may it LAST!!). There's a little bit of Billy Collins in those last lines, isn't there? I think I love the uncle of happiness the most. Or the boulder's. Okay...all of it. If I hadn't already had this poem bookmarked, I would've saved it.

jama said...

So happy to hear Betsy's in remission! The poem you chose (one of my faves), is totally appropriate -- as Betsy's joy at being able to eat some things again came with the price of previous suffering and deprivation. All the sweeter. Appreciated your words too, so wise. Happiness and pain absolutely co-exist. We would not truly know one without the other.

Ruth said...

So glad to hear your good news. This poem on happiness is a favorite of mine. Jane Kenyon really feels like a soul-sister to me whenever I read her work.

Kimberly Hutmacher said...

What a gift happiness was to her in the fleeting moments she experienced it. I think I would do well not to take my happiness for granted, but to really savor it and be grateful for each moment. So happy to read your good news about Betsy.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thank you all, so much, for sharing in this happiness and reflecting on it with me. :) My Poetry Friday crowd is the best of crowds! :)