A Collection of Poems from a new book, “Five Friends on Sunday Afternoons”

Book Release Celebration and Reading at Malvern Books – Friday Oct 5 at 7 pm

John Lee will be celebrating the release of, and reading from, a new collection of poems, “Five Friends on Sunday Afternoons,” along with authors, Lyman Grant, Bill Jeffers, David Jewell and John Oakley McElhenney. Please join them at 7 PM CDT at Malvern Books located at 613 W 29th Street in Austin, TX 78705.

Lee will be reading two of his poems, A Thunderstorm in Mentone and Holding On, that were written in his sweet cottage on Lookout Mountain in Mentone, Alabama as part of his way of letting go of a place that has been so dear to his heart for almost three decades.

A THUNDERSTORM IN MENTONE 

A thunderstorm in Mentone.

The wind is different tonight.

The leaves on the trees move easily.

Summer rain cleans the horses

grazing in the pasture

across the road.

I saw lightning for the first time 

in months. It looked like a ragged

tuning fork, and I felt the thunder

roll through my body.

Today, in a house a hundred miles

away I saw my father for the first

time in ten years.

He sat beside me with his bare shoulder

against mine as we looked at a map.

Years ago I would have wanted more to

happen and felt a disappointment,

but this meeting moved easily.

A part of me (the part that always wanted more)

felt cleaned. The lightning comes down in jagged

lines and then separates into its tines. A tuning

fork and a father and son

are like that too.

We talked about gas mileage; then

he showed me the peas he’s grown in his

garden.

This is the most affection I’m going

To get, I thought.

Today this amount of affection was finally enough.

HOLDING ON

There is always one leaf

that hangs on to certain trees

even in mid-January – wind

blowing thirty miles an hour.

It holds on the way a bowl holds on 

to a Buddhist monk, a Bible holds

on to a Christian; the way a cane

holds on to a blind man.

What holds on to me when it’s winter?

A poker perhaps to punch and stir the

fire, a pen that turns empty white

paper into a prayer for some company.

Every morning I sit down by

the fire. I see the poker by my hand,

the pen on the table and, outside, the

leaf still holding on.

 

Further Thoughts on Unbecoming

The young person’s task is to primarily emancipate from his or her original family. I have a chapter in my book, Recovery: Plain and Simple, titled, “Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad.” The teen and early twenties, and now, even men and women in their early thirties, focus on establishing themselves in the world, and perhaps, creating a new family. The middle-aged person’s task is to discover and express their own uniqueness as an individual and to more fully develop, expand their personality, which Carl Jung defined as, “the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being.” In other words, really start the unbecoming process, the cookie-cutter, programmed, indoctrinated human we’ve become. We start dropping the false-selves, and stop straying too far afield from the path, which Nature/God/Higher Power intended us to follow and become the person we were meant to be all along.

In the process of becoming a husband, wife, lawyer, teacher, millionaire, starving artist, and thus be able to meet the demands of careers and families, we end up abandoning pursuits and interests, which at one time in our lives, gave us enthusiasm, zest and meaning. In my book The Half-Lived Life: Overcoming Passivity and Rediscovering Our Authentic Self, I encourage my readers, clients and workshop participants to recall what their passions, talents and loves – before the bills and the babies, the mortgages and manias came – and turn and rediscover those all-but- forgotten and neglected sides of themselves. When they do, so many turn once again to music, painting, writing, poetry, drama and other pursuits that enthralled them. Once this happens, our center of gravity of our personality shifts into action, and this center might be called our “Authentic Self,” which is more capable of joy than our false selves are capable of attaining happiness.

By stripping away these personas during the Unbecoming process we come home to ourselves; we more deeply accept ourselves, and thus, begin to accept life on life’s terms. Some might even go so far to say they “made their peace with their God,” or “it’s the way life is.” We become a more receptive human being instead of a “human doing” and increase our ability to be less clingy to whatever comes and goes, surrendering what is no longer ours to hold on to and receiving that which is ready to come. We stop trying to force everything to bend to our will and stop thinking we know how everything and everyone should go and who should come back and when. All of this creates a greater ability to exist in the “now.” Once we stop turning the dials and pulling all of life’s levers, we meet the great giver of joy – our deepest Self.