National Poetry Month: 30 for 30 (Kind Of)

Even though my output is kind of ridiculous at times, it so often would happen that I would start the 30 for 30 challenge to write 30 poems in the 30 days of April for National Poetry Month, and get to poem 2. Or poem 1. Sometimes none. Then I would stop. Life always seems to have something in the way when it comes to April and I have never actually finished a 30 for 30 challenge.

With April just around the bend, I questioned whether I would attempt once more to finish this challenge. In the end, I decided to to complete it, but not quite the challenge that’s intended.

This year, instead of writing 30 poems in 30 days, I am going to review 30 chapbooks of poetry in 30 days.

National Poetry Month: 30 for 30 (Kind Of)

But wait, I hear you say, isn’t that more work than just writing 30 poems? And yes, it probably is. But with the way I am rolling on my newly-rediscovered reading abilities, I am going to have a lot fun finding out if I can complete this challenge!

I started by carefully selecting chapbooks on Amazon, my own personal stash, and 2nd & Charles. By that, I mean I found the cheapest chapbooks available. As much as I love poetry, spending $20 per book on 30 books is going to add up entirely too fast for my taste.

I ended up with a blend of local poets and national ones, all sorts of form and meter. Some self-published, most published through presses. Some books were published last year, others were copyrighted in the 1970s.

National Poetry Month: 30 for 30 (Kind Of)

After adding all of the books and their info into a spreadsheet, I am ready to see where this adventure takes me in the month of April. It’s going to be fun, regardless of whether I make it or not. As always, that remains a part of the challenge.

Here is my reading list:

  1. Inspiring Words for Ambitious Hearts by Ayo Morakinyo
  2. An Almost Pure Empty Walking by Tryfon Tolides
  3. Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek
  4. No Sins of Omission by Myra Binns Bridgforth
  5. Chicken, Shadow, Moon & More by Mark Strand
  6. Poems Told Twice by Jay Macpherson
  7. Inspired by K: An Inspirational Chapbook by Kenshae Westmoreland
  8. Life on Dodge by Rita Reinstein
  9. This is Still Life by Tracy Mishkin
  10. Moon With the Sun in Her Eye by Nana Lampton
  11. Sparrow by Carol Muske-Dukes
  12. Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop by Saul Williams
  13. Emoticon Poetry by Cam Kalra
  14. Cocoa Blues by Taz Weysweete
  15. Numinous: Being both fearful and awed by what is before you by Walker Larry Jor’Dayn I
  16. Live Feed by Tom Thompson
  17. Universe: A Collection of Poems, Vol. 2 by Victoria Brown
  18. The Cradle Place by Thomas Lux
  19. Half a Man by Bill Glose
  20. Pinion: An Elegy by Claudia Emerson
  21. Suburban Hermeneutics by Ian Cappelli
  22. Poems of Joy (From the Salesian Collection) by Various Contributors
  23. LRPF3 by Don “Bent Spoke” MacKellar
  24. Thrall by Natasha Trethewey
  25. Book of Night & Waking by Clif Mason
  26. Fire in the Earth by David Whyte
  27. We Go Wandering: A Bard’s Fireside Tales by Jess Naomi
  28. Creative Tongues: Teens with a Purpose, Anthology I by Teens With a Purpose
  29. Love Comes First: A Collections of Poems by Erica Jong
  30. Hieroglyphics in Neon by Sue William Silverman

Come back soon for my chapbook reviews! You can sign up for my newsletter which will keep you updated about what I’m reading and which reviews are out.

Why Do I Feel Like I Don’t Deserve Happiness?

Why Do I Feel Like I Don't Deserve Happiness?

I had an unsettling realization several months ago: I am happy. This turned into a domino effect of wondering why I’ve never felt as though I could say I was happy before now. Why I try to dismiss my happiness when I talk to people. Why I feel embarrassed to admit that I have reached a point in my life where I am no longer surviving, no longer just getting by, but thriving. Even why I could only admit to myself that I was happy after I ran down a list of things in my life that aren’t completely perfect.

As if everyday annoyances matter in a discussion about happiness.

Why Do I Feel Like I Don't Deserve Happiness?

Double Depression Baseline Limbo

Double depression occurs when someone who experiences persistent, chronic low-level depression, has an episode of major depression. In a sense, there is a baseline depression that is always there, mainly lurking in the background. Then a major depression happens and there are essentially two depressions happening at the same time.

For me, this means I have constant low-level depression and then experience bipolar depression on top of it on occasion. It’s about as much fun as it sounds.

I realize part of my problem with contentment is that I have long viewed the world through a veil of mental illness. I don’t know what baseline, just feeling okay, looks like. I also tend to associate feelings of happiness with my other extreme: mania. It’s hard to feel joy when you’re suspicious what you’re feeling is actually a warning sign of a bipolar episode taking hold.

For years, I have been on a roller coaster of medications, treatments, and therapies. Stability was a foreign concept for me and now that I have it, I spend most of my time looking for cracks in the walls that keep intruders at bay. Being happy has been my goal for as long as I can remember, but survival has been my mission for so long it seems like I don’t know anything else.

Why Do I Feel Like I Don't Deserve Happiness?

I Didn’t Earn That… Did I?

I don’t understand quite why this is the case, but I feel I have not earned happiness. I feel embarrassed by it. Like I’m hogging all the prosperity for myself and there are more deserving people out there. I feel ashamed to say I’m happy. Confronting these feelings makes me want to panic.

I keep telling myself over and over again that my privilege has afforded me this happiness. To a certain extent, that is true. However, if no one was allowed to be happy if they held a modicum of privilege almost everyone would have to be miserable.

It doesn’t seem fair to say only someone with absolutely no advantages whatsoever in their entire lives gets to claim happiness. In all the ways an identity can intersect, there are those who end up with more detriments than benefits.

But also when held under a microscope, does my life as a fat, mentally ill, pansexual, atheist woman, really make me so insanely favored that nothing I could do on my own would ever matter? Of course not.

Why Do I Feel Like I Don't Deserve Happiness?

The Problem With “Earning” Happy

Sometimes I talk about bliss as if it is located on a map and I found my way there with my backpack and my hiking boots. But happiness is an emotion. I feel it without really wanting to, and it surprises me how much I don’t want to. My argument devolves into thoughtcrime if I press it hard enough.

And I press it until it swells like a balloon.

It also occurs that I challenge every feeling of happiness that appears inside me, yet the insistence I need to feel shame and stigma, is never questioned. I fight against my own discomfort to insist I am allowed to feel what I feel, no matter what my brain’s fabricated criteria for happiness was supposed to be.

Why Do I Feel Like I Don't Deserve Happiness?

Is Happy My Ending?

I always looked at happiness as the end. I didn’t know what I would do when I got here. When I got to happy, I would simply be and I would be so well, it would never be a problem.

Perhaps that’s why I squirm so much about it now. I never let myself think about what happy would be like if I got to where I am now. All I could focus on was getting there. Which was fine, at least some of the time. But now I find myself in this strange place with no idea what I’m supposed to do while I’m here.

How do you be happy when happy isn’t the summary sentence at the end of the story?

Why Do I Feel Like I Don't Deserve Happiness?

Isn’t This All Just So Silly?

I imagine my husband shouting up to me while I’m writing in my office. He asks me what I’m doing. I shout back, “I’m upset because I’m happy!” He responds, “….. What?”

This might be a silly problem to have. But it’s also a problem that I have. One which doesn’t seem to be fading into backdrops for me to remember years later with a bemused smile.

But dismissing the problem like that also seems to be part of the issue. If I never feel comfortable being happy, what kind of life am I agreeing to lead? The easiest thing to do would be to assure myself I’m just being ridiculous and continue feeling awful.

But if I’m going to be happy, I want to do happy right.

Why Do I Feel Like I Don't Deserve Happiness?

Where Do I Go From Here?

I don’t know.

But I’m going to find out.

To help me along my way, I’m going to be writing some poems, examining long-held beliefs, and making a difference in my own life and hopefully someone else’s, too.