It was the 90s. My Dad and brother had just died; my little community had been riddled with a string of suicides. The pastor of my tiny church was dying of cancer and I was sneaking Marlboro reds behind the oleanders with the neighbor girl.
I was in the 6th grade and my world was collapsing. I was getting severely bullied in school and was slowly sinking into a deep and dangerous darkness. I liked the skater boys, too much, and wanted their approval. I wanted anyone’s approval. I stayed up late listening to KROQ like so many Southern California girls, chopped my bangs like Gwen Stefani’s, wore torn fishnets and doc martins. I felt like the grunge scene had been invited just for me. I also felt like a poser.
Some nights I’d curl up in my brother’s clothes, pull his beanie over my head and listen to his CD’s. I still can’t listen to the Violent Femmes or Collective Soul without thinking of him. I’d close my eyes and try to remember their faces, it had only been months and they were already fading.
I had a lot of feelings about a lot of different things and yet had no place to put them. Most of the time I felt angry and confused. I felt alone even in the middle of my childhood friends or siblings I felt utterly alone.
It was Eastertime and my Dad’s sister stopped in for a visit. She was one of the many people in my world that would sneak in and in a disarming way rescue me from myself. She had a gift for me, without wrapping paper or frills she handed me my first journal and a CD. The journal was a large lined book with Monet’s Garden at Giverny on the cover and the CD was Jewel’s Pieces of You album, both of which I still have to this day.
Inside the cover she wrote:
Trust your heart and let your fingers work out the pain for you on the written page. I’ve always found a comfort in writing and I know your Dad did as well. I love you and am always here for you. Happy Easter 1996.
The CD went directly into my boombox…
Who will save your soul when it comes to the flowers now
Huh huh who will save your soul after all the lies that you told, boy
And who will save your souls if you won’t save your own?
Thus began my writing career. My fingers ached and cramped from pressing pen to paper. The ring finger on my left hand developed this strange bump from holding my pen so tight. My penmanship was awful and spelling even worse, but some twenty years later I look back and read the words on these pages and find wisdom and therapy within them. I filled the book from front to back with my grief, my pain, and my healing. I notice the penmanship evolve, the words and general tone transition. She’s healing.
Then suddenly I’m not writing pain anymore I’m writing love. I’m in love for the first time. I work out this confusing new feeling in poetry and rhyme. I’m dreaming again. Seeing life again. I’m in High School now, in a new town with new people. They don’t know about my fishnets or doc martins. I’m no longer defined by my losses and tragedies.
I’m just a girl, a little ‘ol me…
It was as she said; a space, empty pages to be filled up, sometimes ranting nonsensical blubbering, but a space to heal and comfort nonetheless. As it was then, it is now.
And when the day weighs too heavy, the grief and gravity of it all too burdensome I pick up my journal, whichever one has empty pages and I write. I write, I write it all, from prayers to laments, and eventually praise and prose.
What about you dear friend, how do you heal from the inescapable? Where do you keep those sacred thoughts and prayers? Whether the page, the gym, the mat, nature and so on, it doesn’t matter so much what or where you heal, but more so that you do.