Laws To Live By. {poetry}

{Photo credit: JJ Carolan}

{Photo credit: JJ Carolan}

After the birth of my first daughter, I suffered postpartum depression so deep that I turned on myself and began self-injuring.

I was suffocating in a double-boiler of all the roles women need to play, and how perfectly we need to play them just to stay afloat.  After I recovered, I discovered that I’d become invisible in my own, boring, banal life.

I began exploring through poetry and photography how a once vibrant, creative, opinionated, fiery woman like myself could be reduced to breakfast cereal and oversized black sweaters. That project, Ghost Girl, saved my soul. Here is a piece of it.


Laws to Live By


On the free side of the car window,

signs glance violently in and out of my vision

like a juggler’s knives.

A bird of prey swoops; I miss the outcome.

A bus shifts, a deep rumble as gears protest.

In another lifetime I’m on fire remembering how he was exquisitely fascinated

bore all of my body into polyphonic unison

Described us breathlessly as sine waves

And found places only a musician’s fingers know to play.

“I brought wild sockeye salmon”


My head in molasses I fight to turn it where it belongs.




Is so insular.

Husband driving

Wife daydreaming

Daughter sleeping heavy in the back of the car.


If I jumped out

Would the world stop long enough to meet me?


There are lines around our lives.

Words like engaged marriage stability career family

organize themselves,

Arrange themselves into shapes and cages that we can safely talk about.

Laws of geometry easily rise to meet the comfort of understanding what we see.


There are 3 angles and straight lines in a triangle and they must total 180 degrees.

A square has 4 lines, 4 angles, each precisely and violently 90 degrees.

Neither a square

Nor a triangle

Can be a hair more or a hair less

Or they cease to be,

And we can no longer comfortably name them.

They become something that once was a square.


Our lives are organized by details.

This salmon

The time of the party and what to bring,

How to cook a soufflé versus a lasagna.

The count of our calories,

How much to give the wedding couple,

And where are my pearls?


How do we sit across from our friends

Hear their yearning

and only offer the same laws to live by?


My body is now the nexus of our family.

Feeding, nursing, holding, kissing, reassuring, patting.

Lap arms mouth

All belonging sweetly to the little ones

(as I chose it to be).


How do we look across at the eyes of our mother friends

And pretend not to hear the constant proving of our worth

Passions pieces parts erased by the needs of family.

Behind their eyes it says:

I was once a writer.

A painter.

A runner.

I cage my family

With the same fervor I once bent words to my will.


How do we sit alone,

Lie down with ourselves at the end of the day,

And face this truth:

That if I walked across my home, someone might say,

“I feel a breeze in here. How strange”.

That I’ve become invisible in my own life.


Behind my eyelids flash mattresses on the floor and a tangle of sheets

What kind of cheese should we put out?


And someone biting my lip in a first kiss pushed up against a wall


Should we pick up a toy for the party?


I am watching his eyes burn me

I am tying a bow on this gift

I am stifling a scream under an old afghan in someone’s basement

I am preparing breakfast for three of us.




JJCarolanJJ Carolan is the founder of The One Hundred Years Project, and believes that life is long, beautifully, breathtakingly long. She is a certified coach who loves to help people conquer fear, smash past the the status quo, and live vibrant and creative lives out on the edge of possibility. After overcoming severe postpartum depression, JJ solemnly vowed to only speak the truth, and nothing but the truth, for the rest of her life, no matter what’s at stake. She lives in her lakeside cottage with her two sweet daughters and darling husband, and writes poetry while watching the light dazzle off the lake.


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