The word recovery has different meanings depending upon the context in which it is used. But no matter what the situation, it’s an indication that someone is getting past something(s). It doesn’t mean forgetting, nor does it mean dismissing the experience(s). It simply means moving on, and accepting that one can still be a person despite the things that have happened to them. That person will not necessarily be the same as who they were before, who they were when they started out. But they are still a person, and they still have value. We all have value.
For me, recovery includes copious amounts of writing. Every day. I believe that recovery comes from finding even the tiniest scrap of meaning in what has happened; I believe that our experiences should be used to help others. Sometimes writing is hard and completely sucks, but I still do it. In her article How to Write Like a Mother#@%*&, Cheryl Strayed writes “Writing is hard for every last one of us…Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not…So write…Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a mother#@%*&.” What does this mean exactly? To me, personally, it means many things on many different levels.
To me, writing like a mother#@%*& means being committed to the task and not caring what anyone thinks. This is a goal that I want to achieve; I am not at this point yet. I write, all the time. But I care what people think. I’m scared of letting people in. In the end, this will keep my memoir from ever being published, and so I need to get over it. I love writing more than anything. This dedication gives me strength, even when I don’t think I have any left to draw from. There is always writing. I need to lose my fear; I need to accept all of my experiences as a part of myself, despite people who dismiss them or tell me to let them go. Writing is letting go. The more I write, and the more I let people read, the more I believe this fear will dissipate.
Writing is taking care of myself, forcing myself to a point of moving past things. My number one excuse for not writing has always been that I don’t have enough time. There is always something else to do: teaching, school, volunteering, et cetera. But writing is what I want to, have to, do, therefore, writing is my job. As human beings, we make time for our jobs. When I teach, I make time for that; all of my private students are in prearranged time slots. I have several hours each week blacked out to work on curriculum for classes that I teach, and I spend time teaching each of those classes. Why should writing be any different? My writing, my recovery, matters just as much as my work. In fact, my recovery is vital to my work. If I spend, on average, twenty five hours per week engaged in teaching related activities, that equals out to about three hours per day. So why not spend one hour writing, one hour taking care of me?
The dilemma once the decision to write has been made is what, exactly, I should write about. Strayed addresses this issue in the same article when she says “I make my own stories public for the sake of art. A painful experience is not art, but art can be made from painful experiences. Writers are truthtellers…Often that means we need to write about the darkness within.” Writing about myself is a fairly new adventure that I have not done much of until recently. Last semester, I had an awesome professor who taught a class on writing in the creative non-fiction genre, and I latched on to the idea of spending most of my writing time there. Strayed is right, we write to tell a story, and sometimes that story involves negative experiences in life. Writing is a way to tell my story, to realize that there’s nothing wrong with it, with me. Writing can be thought of as a purging experience, a shedding of the bad feelings that allows for the incorporation of the self back into a life that has been stripped of choice and feeling.
I have had a lot of experiences in my life. They weren’t all bad. The darkness within for me is still deep; I lost a son, I lost a marriage, I lost an identity, I gained it back, and I lost it again. I lost my place; writing is my placeholder. Some things are too awful to ever fully put into perspective, but writing lends a small edge to the task. Even when there are things that I just can’t talk about, I can write about them. I’ve found a method in which I can discuss things, even when I can’t physically talk about them. The how and the why and the where don’t matter; what matters is that I have found a way to “speak.” And through writing, I am teaching myself how to literally speak again. Writing is helping me to take my voice back.
Recovery is different for every one. Some, like me, are not good at talking about things. But I hope that everyone can find some way to accept their experiences, and to begin moving on. And I hope that perhaps, as I begin the process of sharing, my story will help someone some day.
I’m not a girl; I’m not a woman; I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor. And I’m a writer. I’m just a writer, confronting the various demons that have taken residence inside my head. I am here; I am alive. And that’s more than good enough. I’m writing, one hundred percent committed to exorcising the darkness within, and I am writing like a mother#@%*&.