Shel Silverstein Lied

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Where’d You Grow Wednesday Thursday?

This week I grew frustrated with the reality of relationships.

April 5, 2012

I used to believe Shel Silverstein… I don’t know if I can anymore.

I bought in to his magical world full of hilarious drawings and ridiculous circumstances.  I loved it. I loved him. I loved his use of words and imagery, his fantastic art and wit, and I would read his poems for hours.

I recieved my first Shel Silverstein books for my seventh birthday.  Look…here’s the inscription:

A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends were my first real literary experiences.  I didn’t study what he did…but I sure did feel something when I read his work.

One poem, in particular, has always stayed with me.  It is that poem that contains the lie.

Did you catch it? You know the lie I’m talking about, right?

It’s the last couplet:  “How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”

I used to read that line over and over and over again. I marked up the page with smudgy fingerprints and the binding is visibly tattered. I have fabricated my life around that line and up until recently, I really believed it to be true.

I’m growing in another direction.

That poem has its place…among children…and it is important that I outgrow my seven-year-old ideologies to come to a better understanding of how to relate to the broken people of the world.

Love doesn’t really work the way Silverstein describes. As much as I’ve tried to pour out my love into the relationships in my life, I have come to realize that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you give the people you love. Love has to be received in order to be effective.

So here is the grown-up version of “How Many, How Much” that has been swirling in my head this week.

How many times should I ask how you’re doing,

when silence is what you say?

How many hugs should I stand to offer,

when you get up to walk away?

How much time should I spend,

waiting for a call to come?

How much love should I pour out,

when I’m not sure you’ve taken some?

In my version, I can’t answer the questions in a definitive way. Love is too hard to box up in a neat little poetic package. I love that Silverstein captured it for my seven-year-old heart, but I have to understand relationships with an adult-frame-of-mind, and I’m finding more confusion and frustration than warm, fuzzy feelings.

The only way I make sense of this is through the truest example of love I know.

Easter is this weekend, and we celebrate the most sacrificial love that has ever been.

What if I loved like Him?

I think my poem would be drastically different. I wouldn’t be asking questions at all. I wouldn’t be quantifying or counting anything, and all I would do is continue to offer. It’s about semantics, but I want to move to a new way of thinking about this. So my fully transfigured poem and my Easter gift to you:

If I ask you how you’re doing, and silence is what you say,

I. will. fully. love. you. anyway.

If I stand to offer hugs, and you walk the other way,

I. will. fully. love. you. anyway.

While I’m waiting for a call to come, to put my fears at bay,

I. will. fully. love. you. anyway.

And though I loved you yesterday and you forgot today

I. will. fully. love. you. anyway.

Choosing to grow takes intention, and it is worth sharing about the experience along the way.  If you have a CTG (choosing to grow) story, link, photo, or idea, I would love to hear about it.

We are all meant to grow…but we were not meant to do it alone.

Happy Easter! (and happy growing)

Copyright 2012    Meagan Frank                                            Choosing to Grow

3 thoughts on “Shel Silverstein Lied

  1. Thank you for a lovely Easter gift – your transfigured poem is outstanding … the repeated line is a wonderful mantra.
    Not sure if I have a CTG story but I do know appreciate your sense of frustration and confusion in relationships: I often feel like I have no more room in my emotional bank for new friends (people I meet at parties, for example) because I’m trying to give all I’ve got to the friends I already have (and they only get what’s left after I’ve given all I have to my family!). That is perceived from time to time as antisocialness or snobbiness, I guess.
    Happy Easter to you and yours as well!

    • Hi Astra–
      You bring up an excellent point. I think to truly invest in the relationships we already have, we very quickly run out of energy to add any others. Those who get the best of you are lucky…and I kindof put myself in that category. I get to see the best of you poured out in words in your writing. I feel lucky for that and grateful you shared your thoughts here too. I hope you have a wonderful weekend! MMF

  2. Visiting from Astra’s blog and I’m so glad I stopped by! I love the way you’re rewritten the poem. I would go as far to say that there are friends that no matter how much you love them, they are incapable of returning the same love and affection they receive. This is also true of relationships. You, the giver, continue making deposits, but they, the takers, continue making withdrawals and no deposits. Recently, I’ve chosen to grow by preventing myself from keeping count of who loves me back. I’m decided to spread the love, come what may, and hope the universe will return it eventually. It’s all I can do or I fear I will explode from the sheer frustration of it all! 🙂

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