In the WDEV radio studios with Mark Johnson this week, the well-known and pointed interviewer pressed me several times on the same point:
How does writing help a person heal?
Great question. And then the answer played out once again in the writing circle at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility last Thursday evening (which I’ll get to).
Our writing theme was journeys and travels — physical trips we have taken to beloved destinations, for example, or internal journeys we take in our minds, both desirous ones and those we’d prefer to shake for good.
Several of the women writers penned pieces about the circuitous mental loops they traverse while living in prison. You know, the disempowering messages and stories we retell ourselves in our quietest moments; the limiting beliefs we hold onto like ragged little security blankets; the questions we pose to self over and over without answer.
Incarcerated women have lots of time to mull and think and replay. It can be an excruciating experience for them with few trusted folks to speak the racking thoughts and feelings to.
That’s where the life-saving tool of writing comes in (back to my response to Mark Johnson). Downloading your deepest fears and worries and resentments onto paper, getting them outside of yourself to view and look at with some distance is a healthy exercise.
There is an immediate feeling of disentanglement. Peace and relaxation result even though situations remain unresolved. And clear thinking frequently comes on the heels of the writing experience. It is truly a healing exercise and one that facilitates forward movement in life.
At least that’s what the women articulated again this week. It’s what I know in my own writing experience too.
Here are some “downloads” from this week’s circle:
The journey thus far has been by far the most grueling
unimaginable nightmare I’ve ever had to endure.
It has inflicted wounds deep and so painful,
the healing process extremely slow and continuing to drag on.
Similar to the long cold dark and lonely nights
I consistently endure, staring out the window from my cell
to the jagged edged barbed razor wire that encloses my surroundings.
Will the memory forever pierce my soul?
Will the wound ever really heal?
I often wonder about the mind and person that put me where I am,
does he for one moment think of the pain I am experiencing.
How he continues to manage this lie he lives
is beyond anything conceivable to someone that speaks the truth.
The remainder of this journey is a battle yet to win and conquer
because eventually peace has to become visible to all that is unseen. – AW
* * *
Give up, give in, break apart
all alone, freedom — a new start
Lonely dreams, driven sad
mirror image, angry, mad
Fair weather lover, run for high ground
first sign of trouble, nowhere you’re found
Weathering storms, still as a monk
rising alone out of this funk
Stand up and brush off, focus the rage
hurt into healing, turn a new page
Mind full of pieces, no peace of mind
bound by the past, futureless bond
Travel, no worries, face with no name
just a person alone, without the face of shame
A figure, a future, a start with no stop
a woman a life, no more jailhouse slop
Not held back, travel the world, no path set in stone
future together or a future alone?
A form of escape, time to let go
will it work, at this point, I don’t know… – KA
* * *
IN MY TRAVELS
In my crazy life, I find travel to be necessary, so, I write. It’s my escape, my coping skill, my safe haven…my sanity. I let the looniness flow from my whacked out brain to my fingers holding my pen, the tool that transports me. I find a peaceful place in writing, away from the chaotic and absurd life I physically live. My destination when I write is forever the same…ANYWHERE BUT CRAZY. It doesn’t matter what time or day it is, or how many people are screaming at me, I travel from a place of stress to a sunlit, balmy place where bluebirds sing and babies coo happily. All is right with my world. I lose track of time, I’m not hungry, lonely, tired or angry. I’m relaxed and totally mellow. I am at peace with myself and my little piece of the world. To me, the magic of words on paper transcends mere physical travel for the mind is truly limitless, when a train can only take you so far. I feel no pain when my writing lets me travel, no heartache for mistakes I’ve made, or have yet to make. I feel only a sense of accomplishment, that I have reached my destiny of sanity and self-fulfillment. I guess you could say I’ve been everywhere without ever leaving my notebook, and it’s the best vacation I’ve never been on. – ED