Maybe summertime sadness isn’t just a line in a song. I feel it most intensely when I wake up on Sunday mornings, in a colorless, thoughtless fog, wanting to return to unconsciousness and drift through the rest of the week. Now, as summer approaches its brightly burning end, I do this with an eye toward the handful of days remaining until I return to school. Soon, Sundays will no longer signify sadness. But today does, because I am at home and something is missing. There’s no sanctification, no distinction between this day and the other six, no special family time. Everything is out of whack. I feel like a time traveler from the 1930s who ended up here and is standing, shocked, at the world’s sheer indifference to the states of their souls. No matter how long and hard I stare, though, I can’t seem to make the people around me care. I’ve tried and tried, and the only thing I trust that will help them is prayer.
Being human, and despite my desire not to, I fear, or get nervous about, many things. That I’m actually sabotaging my relationships and attempts at happiness. That I’m not following God’s will for my life, that I’m not strong enough to do so. That I’ll be alone for all my life. That I’ll never get to see my favorite bands in concert. That I just have so many ideas scattered around my head that I’ll never get to see them all through, or even organize them into a list with which to start. Sometimes I even feel guilty about writing, despite the fact that it might be the only thing at which I might have a reasonable amount of talent. What if I’ve been spending all these hours, all this energy typing away for nothing? What if no one ever reads a word of anything I’ve written?
T.S. Eliot famously asked in his well-known poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, “Do I dare/disturb the universe?/in a minute there is time/for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” I’ve had moments where I question my motivations and wonder if I really should say the thing that weighs on me. Is it worth the disaster that will follow? In those moments I do believe, faced with my own inadequacy, that “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”
Part of why poetry is so beautiful is its universal power. It is easy to live in our heads like Prufrock and assume that nothing we could say, however important the revelation, is worth the risk of rejection. It is easy to say that we are insignificant. Nothing we could ever do would matter. Yes, we are physically insignificant when we think about the universe. We are tiny next to the ocean and the mountains, dangerously unpredictable compared to the change of the seasons and each sunrise and sunset, imperfect next to the rhythm of nature.
But perhaps everything we do is spiritually paramount. Like flicking a finger into water, causing ripples that get larger until we can’t see them, so each action, each smile, each kind word, each prayer, darts around like a ball in a pinball machine and strikes the next obstacle. With each breath, each word, we disturb the universe, the status quo. And perhaps, even more than the risk of rejection, I fear never disturbing the universe at all. I fear never meaning more to another soul than that one girl they knew a long time ago. I fear never provoking a thought, or moving someone. I fear that I will not disturb the way things are.
So I guess I dare, with each breath.