Ten thousand times

Love isn’t theoretical.

It isn’t the words we use to describe it, the songs or the poems or the paintings we create in its honor. It isn’t the churches or synagogues or mosques, the crosses, verses, prayers or chants. It isn’t even our relationships as parents, children, brothers, sisters, lovers, friends.

It’s smaller than that, I think, ten thousand tiny things… and then ten thousand more.

It’s the angry silence of words we don’t say, and the flash of insight (or wisdom or caring) that stops them in our throat, on our tongues at the very last instant, where we can taste them, hot, cruel, bitter. And then it’s the noise of the words we do let fly because we love ourselves enough to get angry, enough to risk whatever happens next.

It’s the pitch, tone and cadence of a voice wrapped around a lover’s name, the same voice that reads bedtime stories to a rapt and precious audience, answers the phone and soothes a friend. “Breathe,” the voice says, gently, and then it says it again at night whispering to itself, to limbs that won’t relax, a mind that won’t trade thoughts for dreams.

It’s in our contact with each other, the actual, physical touch – urgent, elemental, comforting, protective – and it’s before that, in the impulse to reach out, and before that, in the ten thousand everyday actions that happen over breakfast, in traffic, across rooms and yards and streets and oceans, in the closeness of doorways and the vastness of the ether, all of it leading up to that moment, that impulse to reach out… and someone else’s decision, made in an instant, to reach back.

It’s in the yearning too, in the absence of touch, in the empty space that should be filled, the knowledge, absolute and unshakeable, that we are worthy, that we have amazing reserves of untapped joy and passion and emotional daring to give. It’s there, behind our defenses, under the  bullshit and baggage and resentments and debris, the part in each of us that can’t help believing, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that we are capable of more than anyone realizes, including (and maybe especially) ourselves.

It lies in our vulnerability, our openness, our willingness to be broken and our truly astonishing resilience. It’s in our moments of understanding, and it’s in the times when we don’t understand at all but grab hold anyway just so someone – some fellow human – doesn’t have to go it alone. It lies, I think in the tenderest, toughest parts of us… the parts we give away again and again, ten thousand times.

And then ten thousand more.

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49 Responses to Ten thousand times

  1. Clare Flourish January 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    You being a writer, and all- I do not have anything to comment on the content. There it is, love for self and other, love for all and love for one partner, love in intellect and in touch- but I have one thing to say about the writing. I have always used the word “bullshit” as one word, and I really like splitting it into two, because that gives it greater impact. Different uses of words please me. Thank you.

    • j January 30, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      It’s so funny you say that. I had it as two, accidentally. I changed it to one (because that’s right), then thought… I liked it as two. So I changed it back, but then when I saw the finished post, I decided it would be distracting. It’s back to one now. How funny that you commented on it. It’s because you’re a super genius smarty pants.

      • Clare Flourish January 30, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

        Thank you. When I get a compliment like that, I set my irony detector to zero. I love being called a genius, even if others might read something else into the words…

        • j January 30, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

          Yes, well, when I give you a compliment like there is, I promise, no need for an irony detector.

          • Clare Flourish January 31, 2012 at 9:43 am #

            And possibly I should have given it an hour or so for a few other comments, and then stuck in my compliment- that I have nothing to add, it is all there in your post, as I said- without mentioning the dung of ruminants.

  2. Pam January 30, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    I want to read this again when I’m not distracted by Monday-itis, but for now I’ll say that to me love is a feeling and it’s doing.

    I think love is in the words we use to talk about (and to) our loves, and in the words we use to talk about what we mean by “love.”

    • j January 30, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      “A feeling and its doing.” Yes. That is precisely (and concisely) what I meant to say. :)

  3. Annie Neugebauer January 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    It’s funny. I was going to comment on how this reads like a prose poem, and then I saw the category “They’re not poems.” I don’t know who you’re trying to kid, but they are totally poems. And I mean that in the best possible way. :)

    • Michael January 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

      Told’ja j. It’s not just me. :P

    • Christie January 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      Or me!

    • Estrella Azul January 30, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Prose poem, that sounds about right for this piece. And so are the rest of which I’ve said this about before ;-)

      Ten thousand times… love it, and couldn’t do it justice with any comment, so I’ll just hit “post comment” now

    • Nancy January 30, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

      Add me to the “oh yes it is a poem!” column…or at the very least poetic prose. I’ll be back later tonight with content comments.


    • j January 30, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

      Thanks, you guys. And, Annie, your saying anything I write is poetry really can’t be taken any other way but the best possible way. :)

  4. Marcie January 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I love how you’ve described love in the angry silence. Even..and especially in those passionate moments – is always love.
    Beautiful post!

    • j January 30, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

      Thank you, Marcie. I’m learning more and more how much love there can be in that pause.

  5. Cynthia January 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Wow, this is gorgeous, and so right on! Love what you’re doing here, j! Did I mention this is awesome? =)

    • j January 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

      Thank you so much, Cindy!

  6. Michael January 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    First, you need a like button. One with the option to multi-like. Zucker can’t manage that, so pulling it off would be a real coup.

    2. Your non-poetry is pretty damned poetic, so declarations of non-poeticisms seem like bullshit to me. Bull. Shit. (And that’s how I solve that little conundrum.

    Finally, or next, this – “It’s the pitch, tone and cadence of a voice wrapped around a lover’s name…” sort of messed me up for a few seconds. But in a good way.

    …and d. This is aweseomely brilliant and beautiful.

    • j January 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      I have to come back when I have more time (The Boy awaits), but this: “Bull. Shit. (And that’s how I solve that little conundrum.” just about killed me. I can’t stop laughing. <3

      *makes note: use periods in case of conundrum*

    • j January 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

      Okay, I’m back. Thank you, Michael. You definitely know how to rock my comment thread. Is it possible to be poetic and yet not be a poem? I may be striving for that. Sort of like how I’ll sing (even belt) a tune in the shower, but I know better than to audition for American Idol.

      And no matter what we call the stuff I write, if it messes you up for a few seconds… then it did what it was supposed to do.

      • Michael January 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

        I’m a shitdisturber. Shit. Disturb. Er. :D

  7. vicki January 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    my heart raced faster the closer i got to the end… thank you, this is really wonderful. vicki :)

    • j January 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Thank you back, Vicki. BIG smile.

  8. LunaJune January 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    love in all it’s forms… just fabulous j
    by now I see you see the poetic flow to your unpoem

    I too love the ‘angry silence’ lived it for many years

    I love how these words and their imagery
    sit in my heart in silence
    showing 10,000 more little ways of love

    wrapping them in starlight
    and heading to bed

    • j January 31, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      Well, I wouldn’t say that I love the angry silence, but I do love when I occasionally don’t say the hurtful thing that pops into my mind. Thank you, June!

  9. Nancy January 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    J, you’ve knocked my socks off before, but this post surpasses those. Your language is so sublimely evocative; I don’t know that I can do my love for this post justice with my language.

    The phrase that messed up Michael for a few seconds? Me too. I keep repeating it out loud, and each time I hear something more nuanced.


    • j January 31, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      Thank you, Nancy. Your comment means more than you know. In January, I decided that my focus has to be the work – the actual writing, the big, brave body of creative work – and not the stats or the opportunities the work may bring. Bringing one’s best and truest self to each piece is harder than it sounds… it’s hard to resist the temptation to chase a theoretical audience.

      So… thank you for your positive reinforcement, my friend.

  10. helen lee January 31, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    Sorely inadequate on the words front to respond to this arrow~to~the~heart piece of poetry~prose (:~]).

    ‘It’s the pitch, tone and cadence of a voice wrapped around a lover’s name’

    had me in a puddle, j.

    Cadence…oh beautiful word. Cadence!

    • j January 31, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Thank you, Helen, for reading me, and for commenting. xo

  11. Lance January 31, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    I always tell people that between my wife and I, I’m the sensitive one. My wife waits until I screw up and THEN she shows me how wrong I am and how my words are the proof.

    We always seem to hurt the ones we say we love. They’re the cloest to us. They’re supposed to be there to absorb our moods, rants, whims, and emotions.

    The problem is, we save our rough tones, gestures, and eyerolls for our loved ones. I’m trying, based on my wife irrefutable evidence (i’m rolling my eyes and hoping you apply sarcasm here) to be more kind in my speech and body language with my wife and kids. I know they know what I really mean, but sometimes, they deserve the politeness and kindess I afford strangers.

  12. j January 31, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    This is all true, of course. Familiarity means that we are not always on our best behavior.

    But one tiny little opposite point. In my relationship, Chad is definitely more gentle with his loved ones than he is with the rest of the world, while I am far more gentle with the rest of the world. I used to think that meant he was… I don’t know… better at love than I was.

    Then one day, I realized that part of what’s happening is this. People I don’t know (and love) come and go. If they hurt my feelings, it a) hurts less, and b) doesn’t matter too much in the big picture of my life.

    My family, with whom I spend every day of my life, has the ability to do far more damage. So when I stand up for myself here, when I get hurt and choose not to let it slide, it’s because here, with them, every day, I want to be me in my entirety – me valued, me brave, me secure, me willing to assert myself.

    That said, a lot of what you’re talking about is approach. I don’t have to be harsh when I assert myself. There’s a lot of space between doormat and raging bitch where I can choose to make my stands.

  13. Julia January 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Damn it, J. You do this to me every. single. time…I’m just left here with my mouth open, sleeping cat beside me, my socks way over there across the planet. You rock my world with your words and your wisdom.

    Not poetry? I’m calling full-on bullshit on that. :)

    I could quote this whole piece but that would be silly. These words, serious wows here:

    “It’s there, behind our defenses, under the bullshit and baggage and resentments and debris, the part in each of us that can’t help believing, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that we are capable of more than anyone realizes, including (and maybe especially) ourselves.”


    • j January 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

      Hmmm… Okay, but I like the category name, so I’m keeping it. Thank you big, sweet Julia. “My socks way over there across the planet” makes me more than a little giddy. xo

  14. Nancy January 31, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Ok, I have to say this. J and Julia, do you have ANY idea how adorable the two of you are???


    • Julia January 31, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      I love that you had to say that, Nancy. I’m taking the adorable comment and tucking it right in my heart-pocket. :)

      Love to you, sweet woman,


    • j January 31, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

      Me too! (Are our heart pockets metaphorical or do you have an actual heart pocket?) :)

  15. Nancy January 31, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    LOL. I think my heart has a pocket.

  16. Eydie February 1, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    ” It’s in the yearning too, in the absence of touch, in the empty space that should be filled …”

    Yes, it can be as simple as looking deeply into another’s eyes and touching their soul. We all want to be seen, heard, touched, and LOVED.


    • j February 1, 2012 at 8:23 am #

      “it can be as simple as looking deeply into another’s eyes and touching their soul.” Which, of course, is rarely simple. It requires, on the part of the person being looked into, a willingness to be truly seen and that can be so, so scary. Even as we long for it (and I agree that we do).

      • Eydie February 1, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

        I agree, it can be so,so scary to be seen, even though we long for it.
        What I was referring to, is that it’s all too often that we don’t even take the time to look deeply into another souls eyes. To stop, be in the moment, and connect.

  17. Jill Salahub February 1, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    I love this ten thousand times, and then ten thousand more.

    • j February 3, 2012 at 7:44 am #

      Awww. That is a perfect response. xo

  18. gena Lock* February 2, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    Judy, thank you for your word gifts, they’re like first buttercups on a spring touched hill – breathcatching, unexpected, & the longer one looks the more one discovers, in number, in joyous golden declaration of being.
    I so appreciate the reminder of loves existence as root and progenitor – not just overt expression. That it is so much more than conventional portrayal, it is ultimately subversive, ultimately free-ing, freedom, freely shared. That love can be wonderfully spontaneous & unconscious, but sometimes it is absolutely the conscious choice, the careful consideration and decision based thereon that show its presence and strength.
    It is also perhaps the impetus behind, the choice to Live; through despondancy & glory & flat, numb, nothingness. Heart full, heart shattered, heart open –
    to wind kisses
    to glimmers of beauty in the broken, in the chanceness
    to gratitude for every molecule of shared air
    and every interaction,
    that is possibility
    for love.

    So, off topic perhaps, but i am intrigued and interested…what Is poetry to you? What defines it (if it even needs definition as such..((i suspect my definition of poetry might be a lot more loose, a lot more based on intention & “voice”than classic delineation)) how does it sound or look, or feel? Like your post on art, it may be supremely subjective, but enlightening and even limit-dissolving to talk about. If you are so inclined =) thanks and hugs to you*

    • j February 3, 2012 at 8:22 am #

      I looked it up, “Haitch’ka,” but this is one of those rare times when the shiny Google isn’t helpful. What does that mean?

      I appreciate your sweet words about this post, and your curiosity about my definition of (and relationship to) poetry. Alas, I don’t have a definition for it. What I have is a certain reverence for the people who write it, especially the ones who hone their craft through study, practice, attention to craft. I feel that way about anyone who’s mastered any sort of calling, which is not to say that I don’t value the prodigy, just that I don’t see myself as either one.

      My reverence and reluctance to count myself in the ranks of poets would be limiting if I aspired to write poems, but I don’t. I do aspire to write poetically, to consider the music of the language when I write, just as I consider meaning and grammar, the shape of the piece. I guess I don’t think that writing poetically and writing a poem are necessarily the same thing, but, as I said in my art post, I’m evolving.

      I’m drawn to inclusive definitions of art, and I buy into the assertion of many commenters in that post that the debate is largely academic. Who cares what we call the pieces that move us? It’s enough that they do.

      • Michael February 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

        As far as the Art post on ZS, I like the perspective you talk about that says the purpose of asking the question is not to find an answer, but to have the conversation about it. Answers are over-rated; it’s the journey that (always) counts most.

        • j February 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

          Thanks, Michael!

  19. joannefirth February 5, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Oh my, this broke me open. The forever empty space gets smaller as the years pass. The smaller it gets, the less that needs to fill it. Until the day comes when it’s so small, it can only contain memories. Amazing post.

    “It’s in the yearning too, in the absence of touch, in the empty space that should be filled, the knowledge, absolute and unshakeable, that we are worthy, that we have amazing reserves of untapped joy and passion and emotional daring to give. It’s there, behind our defenses, under the bullshit and baggage and resentments and debris, the part in each of us that can’t help believing, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that we are capable of more than anyone realizes, including (and maybe especially) ourselves.”

    • j February 5, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

      Your response broke me open. I think you’re right, that is what happens. The space gets smaller because it’s just easier, in the face of repeated hurt and disappointment, to expect less.

      I think that’s what my whole love project was about. How to stay open, how to believe, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that the world is worth staying open to, and that we are worthy of its opening to us. I hate the thought of us all living smaller, being satisfied with less because we’ve just gotten too bruised and tired and afraid to reach for more.

      In thinking about your comment it occurred to me that sometimes needing less over time is okay. It might not mean that the space we fill with love is any smaller, just that we’ve become much better at filling it. It might mean we’re not grasping, not looking for others to make us feel worthy, or worse, someone who will “complete” us. It might mean that we aren’t tripping over the love right in front of us, in order to attract something bigger, or shinier, or just different.

      More conversations like this, my friend, and we will find – if not answers, because Michael’s right about those – at least new perspectives… new paths.


  20. gena* February 7, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    To write poetically with attention to detail, the effect of word choice and grammar etc. That is what comprises poetry i think. how we choose to say what we are feeling or thinking or seeing in a way that conveys the beauty or wretchedness, the textures and tones – to give others a sense or impression of something we too have had. Then you line it up in certain ways
    give it
    clever placings of commas,
    etc and it starts to explain to us readers How you want us to experience it. Poetry can be as craft-ful as the writer wants. If the words play through me like music, show me color and let me feel full body, full being, awash in their song, then it is poetry. You have a lovely voice, thank you for singing it onto your page for me to hear :)
    incidentally, Haitchk’a is a hulquameenum (coastal first nations dialect) that means thankyou in an all-encompassing, recognition and value of the universe and all in it kind of way.

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