Okay, this post is a bit of a departure for me. This is not stuff I talk about much, but this article reminded me of how much the act of writing changed my life. I think it’s good to share it once in a while.
It doesn’t surprise me that writing affects the writer. In fact, I think it could be an example of how magic works by changing our brains, which is really not magic at all – it’s chemistry. But that’s part of what magic is.
At one point in my life, I was in a desperate and untenable situation. At 30, I had been twelve years in a reclusive cult. Despite still living in the town in which I’d grown up, I knew no one outside of the other church members. I had been told for years that I was worthless and evil, that if I ever left, my children would die and I would end up a drunken prostitute. I was shunned, cowed into obedience, my children taken from me and told that I was a bad person. I had not worked since my marriage nine years before, had just a high school education, and no money.
I wanted out more than anything else in the world. But I wanted out with my children. A favorite joke in the cult was “there are three doors in the house. Leave by any one of them you want.” In the middle of the desert. With a deeply ingrained fear of other people, no friends, no family, no money. Just walk out. Without my children of course. I couldn’t do it.
I still had this rebellious belief deep inside me, that I WAS a good person, that I was smart, and capable of being a grown-up, but I was trapped in fear and self-loathing. I couldn’t take that first step.
Then I found an empty notebook. One of those spiral notebooks, with a pink cover (I think) and lots of empty pages. I kept it hidden, and in my moments alone, I began to write.
I wrote about the life I wanted. I described the house I would live in with my children. I wrote out my schedule, starting with rising early to prepare a homemade breakfast for everyone. I created menus and recipes for our meals. I made grocery lists and wrote about going to the store. I had daily and weekly schedules, so that I would shop on Mondays and do our laundry on Fridays and hang it up in our own back yard. I wrote about the schools my children would attend and how we would all sit together at night to do homework and read.
I wrote for months. And something began to happen. Slowly, my confidence grew. The hiding, shivering belief of my own goodness and capability became stronger and bigger. I began to notice things around me – a bag to hide clothes in, a dropped $20 bill that I could stash in my purse, an ad on the Christian radio station about a counselor who helped troubled Christians.
Gradually, I began to take steps. Little steps, kept secret from everyone around me, until the day when I was able to use one of those doors. It was impossible to take my children with me, but I knew I could fight for them and I was ready to do that. I was no longer the frightened creature held prisoner by fear and intimidation. I had written myself to wholeness and had only to take the final steps to accomplish it.
The oddest thing is that in my flight to escape, I lost the notebook. I mourned for it, but really, I almost didn’t need it, since I practically had it memorized.
It all came true. And we are all of us doing just fine.