Writing has been the greatest teacher of my life.
It is the one constant in my life for the past 45 years, the one place where I let myself have a voice.
For too many years in my daily life, I held my tongue.
I was largely silent.
All sorts of dreams, words, plans, and ideas stirred inside of me, but I kept them to myself. I rarely spilled them onto paper.
The dark, inky secrets I kept close to my chest were the bits and pieces of my “Walter Mitty” dream life. The life where I knew what to say. The life where I wasn’t afraid.
I kept copious journals and wrote hundreds of letters but didn’t consider myself a writer until I started to publish work in 1992.
Only later did I realize I’d been a writer since I was a ripening ten-year-old sharpening my observation skills by writing poems and dear diary entries about what my mother served for dinner in 1970. (Pork chops and green beans, if you must know.)
Through writing about my life, I learned who I was and what I thought about.
I defined myself.
I came to know the shimmering soul my body could barely contain.
I learned to take my often broken heart and create a salve with words. I stitched myself back together. I became stronger, more resilient.
Words were the cup of my life.
I surrounded myself with them, enjoyed their nuance, flavor, and meaning. I loved the way words unpacked my inner life. How they stripped situations bare. How they left room for questions as well as answers.
I collected them like seashells, like bits of driftwood and sand-smoothed glass.
Words helped me. They anchored me, pinned me down; they transformed my misery into a thing of strange beauty and bluster.
They saved my life.
If nothing else, I possessed a perfect verb or a lovely strand of metaphors or a long shapely noun.
Through my foray into words, I learned to be exact.
I learned to shuffle through all the possibilities available, in order to find the one and only one that rang true to me.
As a result, my life was no longer colored by constantly repressing or stifling what I had to say.
Words are doorways. They lead into the locked rooms in my head where I’ve spent most of my life.
They are solace and soul survival.
I wouldn’t still be here if I hadn’t had my notebooks and my pens and my ability to jot down observations on the raggedy bits of my life.
Now, I see how Grace played a role in helping me find the solace of paper. I see how all along there was a purpose.
I see the way I forged my spirit as I journaled and howled and cried.
And I see how one day I woke up and writing wasn’t simply a “Walter Mitty” daydream.
I realized I’d stepped through the page and it had become a way of life.
© 2016 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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