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People often ask me why I’m so determined to write everything down. What is it about writing that keeps me glued to my desk for hours and days at a time? I had to stop and think. Is it because I enjoy expressing myself with words? Is it because I have an instinctive talent for writing? Or is there a deeper reason? My answer is--I write because I must.
Writing eases my suffering . . . writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence. Gao Xingjian
This quote by Chinese émigré’ and Nobel Prize winner in literature says it all for me.
Raised by a bi-polar mother, and a mostly absent father, I never believed I had a talent for anything. Children always believe what they are told no matter how false. My mother called me ugly names, and said I was too ugly to find a husband.
― She didn’t notice that she used black magic and put a spell on her daughter. She didn’t know the power of her word, and therefore she isn’t to blame.”
― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
I started keeping a diary when I was ten. I still remember that shiny, red book with the perfect key. I believed that key would keep my inner-life hidden, but my mother found my diary and read my mind when I was a teenager. She accused me of all sorts of mayhem because of the secrets I had written. I was too embarrassed to tell her that my love of words and adolescent longing for a boyfriend, conspired against me. I was not sleeping around. In fact, I was a virgin. That incident taught me that words are powerful. I needed a little of that power.
"A word after a word after a word is power."
I was told other things by friends and teachers, but what I heard was. I was a good singer, but not good enough to compete in the real world. I could act, but I wasn’t pretty enough. I could dance but the choreographer at my drama club, sneered that “Puerto Rican girls with their big butts should cut out the rice and beans.” This was before Jennifer Lopez brought “booty back.” In English class, I won third place in a writing contest. When the teacher read our stories to the class and “Surprise party,” my offering, received the loudest applause, I knew I was finally good at something.
I got married at sixteen to save myself from abuse, but leaving didn’t save me. Writing saved me. I escaped my mother but not the abuse. Abusers have a knack of finding their victims. One night I was attacked by a stranger while out with friends. Life became like a horror movie, complete with monsters at night, and panic attacks and severe headaches, and dizziness, during the day.
I carried books like friends everywhere I went, and reading and eating soothed me for a while. I gained seventy pounds of pain. At first, the extra weight protected me from the world, but not from my growing anxiety. Then, I stopped going out at all. Bad things might happen if I left the house. I might get dizzy and land in the emergency room again. I was too full of fear and confusion to face the world. I ended up literally hiding in the darkness of my bedroom closet. But through all the torment, I wrote. I wrote to forget my fear, I wrote to understand and most of all, I wrote to heal.
"When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending." Brene’ Brown
One day. I discovered a diary written by a woman who hated to write, but was forced to do so in the mental hospital she died in.
That woman was my mother. Through her words, my confusion and fear subsided. I learned about her life, and I learned that her suffering was caused by a mental illness with a stigma that prevented anyone from naming it. It wasn’t her fault. I learned understanding and forgiveness.
Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't it is of no use.”
― Carlos Castaneda
I knew I had to write both of our stories. I never expected to write a book, but sometimes a path of forgiveness and clarity can lead to unexpected joy.
For me, writing is like living twice while experiencing life in the present moment. It can be torture, but like a hot sauna is said to detoxify the body, all types of writing heal and detoxifies the mind. This is my path. It has a heart, sometimes a broken heart, but an authentic one.
Why do you write?
Marilyn M Mendoza is the author of a published memoir-- "From Agoraphobia to zen: Uncovering the core of my anxiety and reclaiming my life," and the blog https://fromagoraphobiatozen.wordpress.com/