As a writer, a nervous and a, shall we say nascent writer, I struggle daily with the issue of writing emotional stuff that could be construed as solipsistic, all about me. I don’t like putting myself out there. I have a folder of drafts that I never get round to actually posting.
I’ve been struggling to get out of this case of “posting or blogging block” for some time now and that’s why I have my friend, publisher, writing coach, and author Jo Parfitt mentoring me weekly on how to deal with it, for starters. She’s encouraged me to read Brene Brown’s book on imperfection and vulnerability Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.
She’s always throwing stuff my way to gently coax me out of the hole I’ve burrowed myself into. One night, Jo shared a poem written by her son Joshua, which she headlined, “something that will make you think. Really think.”
Intrigued, I clicked the link and read the poem and my world came to a standstill. I felt I was on the cusp of something both terrifying and magical.
I started shaking and crying. I was shivering, but I had to compose myself because I was putting my girls to sleep and had to read them a bedtime story.
As I lay in the dark later on, listening to the girls’ soft breathing as they drifted off to dreamland, Josh’s words were stuck in my head. I was compelled to write a response, a comment supposedly. But poetry came out flowing instead as tears streamed down my face. The ghost of a forgotten past had come back to haunt and confront me finally.
My grandmother brought me up because my mother abandoned me. There, I said it.
It is a question, or a thought; I’ve struggled to understand for years. I tried writing about it because that’s the default way I know on how to deal with “stuff”. Tried but the words just didn’t come out right. At times they sounded pathetic, sometimes angry. Other times the writing was full of loathing, other times, self-pity.
At last, after several decades of heartache, I have found closure in Josh’s poem. When I stopped to read what I had written, “this wait is over” leapt out of the page and it felt like a huge block had been lifted off from my shoulders. I thought it was a closed chapter all along, but my physical reaction showed otherwise.
It has been there all this time, the elephant in the room, always looming but never talked about. It was in every threat I made to leave my marriage in times of conflict lest the other walks out on me first. It was the cold shoulder and silent treatment for lengths of time I gave anyone who has ever offended or crossed me. I’m strong, Teflon, nothing sticks. I’ve pushed it aside and never confronted it.
But Josh’s words were powerful. It brought out the wounded child in me. And that was his gift.
The following night, I slept completely and soundly for eight hours straight for the first time in years, as I could recall. That was huge. The following night, the same thing happened, deep slumber.
But the other gift he’s taught me as a writer was that in moments you doubt yourself if anyone cares about what you write, your words could make a difference in one person’s life. It can heal, empower, and inspire. Even to just one person. That’s all it takes.
I’ve come to realize how immensely helpful and cathartic a piece of writing can be and why I must start to ‘dare greatly’ and post my work.
So thank you, Josh for this gift. And thank you Jo for the writing angel in you that has mentored me through.
Here’s the poem I wrote in response to Josh’s:
His word’s a single jab punch to the diaphragm,
constricting, crippling, gasping for air.
His word’s an ice pick stab in the heart
paralysis takes over;
scared that even just the slightest shift
will unleash an uncontrollable stream of gushing blood.
So I sit, immobilized, frozen, unmoving
to a time resuscitated by one question:
“Could I swap it for having mum back then?”
A dormant pain comes to life
That one question asked a thousand times over
a little girl, a distant childhood, etched pain
too scared to scrutinize:
Will it bring her back?
Will she ever come back?
An hour later, as I lay in the stillness of the dark,
a faint murmur of the chest pain lingers.
There are no scars to show, but this wait is over,
she’s not coming back,
she’s never coming back.