“We live and breathe words. …. It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them. Reading your words, what you wrote, how you were lonely sometimes and afraid, but always brave; the way you saw the world, its colors and textures and sounds, I felt–I felt the way you thought, hoped, felt, dreamt. I felt I was dreaming and thinking and feeling with you. ”― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince
There’s a weird paradox about putting something in writing. Many of us feel like it gives our ideas permanence. Suddenly there’s a record of our mistakes, vulnerabilities, and histories. It’s like we imagine some dour office somewhere where our bad writing or, worse, imperfect moments will be filed away, remembered, or even filtered through and fanned out by a swift-fingered administrative assistant. We don’t want our sadness sorted with delightful efficiency. So we often don’t write it or don’t write at all.
Then you have more practiced writers like the regulars in our group. We don’t talk about it all the time but there’s an implicit understanding that often, your writing knows something before you do. You go digging with a pen and you find the daily things: lines of breakfasts and med schedules, every time the metal doors slam shut. And the loved things: children, spouses, pets, old jobs, that first cup of coffee on Sunday morning. There’s the remembered things, the unusual things, the known jokes, and solid anecdotes, what sly turn-of-phrase that will get you out of just about anything. But then there’s the unknown knowns -the stuff you’ve got in your bones, what lines the path to the interior that you can’t speak because know one knows to ask. Writing these is the risk you can’t help taking.
This week, we completed our unit on letter writing. We wrote to younger and older versions of ourselves, our regrets, wants, and condolences. Below, you’ll find the work of one woman who travels further inward with each letter, arriving at vulnerable knowledge it was a privilege to hear.
I love my dogs and cats. They bring me joy and happiness. They are my babies so soft and lovable. I never feel alone when they are with me. To you, my beautiful, loving companions, always so faithful and willing to please me. They keep nothing from me, except maybe a little pee or poop in a hidden spot. I don’t know what I would do without you, my furry little family. You all mean the world to me.
I love my house. I miss you so. Just waiting for the day I will return to you. You bring me pride and joy. I love the rain coming down when I am on the deck, the pitter patter of soft and heavy rain, the scenery of your land, trees, grass, cat o’nine tails, and lilac flowers. I will always be happy there. You make me feel safe.
Dear [me] at 45,
You always try to please everyone, give love to anyone that needs it. You were very unaware of what your life was about to go through. Mike came along and I fell in love. He had a hard upbringing and I wanted to show him the beauty of little things. YOu thought you could change him, give him some class. Then, little by little, you were getting scared, he showed signs of anger. I will calm him down, I told myself. That never happened. He started to control me, my life. I was trying to adjust, not really knowing what to do. Why didn’t you tell anyone he was abusing you? You didn’t listen to anyone. Everyone saw what a leech he was, except you. They told you to get away. Why didn’t you listen? I was fooled like by the devil. You were afraid and ashamed.
You should have told your family and friends, they would have understood. He was the biggest downfall in your life for 14 years. What was wrong with me? Why was I so stupid? It was because he told me I was stupid and ugly. I am glad he is out of my life now. But his pathological lies got you time in prison. Be smart and beautiful now, you are going to make it and become someone you love again. Good luck.