When I was seven, I wrote my first book, because I had emotions trapped within me I could do nothing else with. It had been made clear, in that unspoken, dominance-based language adults use with children they believe they control, that I couldn’t discuss them- not with anyone, adult or child.
You see, a girl in my grade had gone missing, and, a few days later, was found dead and naked in a creek.
She lived on the county route that intersected with my country road, and the creek where she was found ran along the road that intersected with the other end, nearer our house. I felt like I was caught in the middle of some unseen and unknowable danger.
At seven, in the sheltered seventies, I didn’t understand about child molestation. All I knew was that a little girl found dead with no clothes on was terrible and menacing in ways I couldn’t fathom but instinctively responded to.
The feelings I had were real, and forbidden. I had to do something to express those feelings, and this was long before grief counselors came to schools where tragedies had happened to help students learn to cope with the trauma.
I was on my own – a little girl facing up to a huge topic: that sometimes people strip and kill little girls.
So I tore a couple of pieces of lined filler paper into quarters, and began drawing images. A happy stick girl with a big smile. Then the same girl, crying, held in the arms of a nondescript but much larger stick figure. And, finally, that same stick girl, floating without clothes in a shallow, winding creek filled with large rocks, the letter X replacing her eyes, and a frown on her face.
There was text, in speech bubbles and under the pictures, but I don’t remember what they said, only that I needed to write them in the same way I needed to draw the pictures. So the words of my Zero Moment are forever lost to me, just like that little paper book I hid from my parents (who were volatile and wouldn’t have understood), and my sister, with whom I shared a room, and who would certainly both have teased me and told my parents.
Maybe I knew, even at seven, that hiding from and ignoring what I fear, what causes me pain, will never make it go away. Maybe that was at the heart of my creating that book, drawing those pictures, and writing text to go with them.
I needed to process my emotions, rather than hide from them and pretend they didn’t exist. I guess I knew that on some intrinsic level. Maybe that’s what led me to tear those pieces of paper into rough fourths and used a pencil to pour out, as vividly as I knew how, the words and images that recorded my pain, my terror, my guilt, and my confusion.
Since then, it’s never left me. In my first blog, The Unfettered Life, you will find me processing my grief at my newborn son Elijah’s death. If you read long enough, you will eventually find this letter to my late fiance,also published here at Letters to the Dead. For last year’s Blogging from A-Z April Challenge , I shared a series of blitz poems and brief insights into the death of my husband, which occurred on January 12.
Whatever it is that troubles me, delights me, fascinates me, I will eventually write about. It’s not really a decision so much as a compulsion.
It began as release, then evolved into therapy, and, now, as I continue to express deeper and deeper places within me, has become the path to truly using my voice.
Writing is my strength. It’s the vehicle for my journey to wisdom, peace, compassion, and self-knowledge. It’s connected me to the universal, and shown me that what is unique to me has value beyond me.
And, as I have begun to share my words and musings, it has opened me up to others, and to myself. In the responses others share when they have found personal meaning in my words, I often find new meanings, and deeper levels in myself.
That it started with a senseless act of violence against a little girl only proves that inspiration can come from anywhere, anytime.
That’s a good thing to remember.
I’m participating in Gabriela Peirera’s DIY-MFA Book Club. The first assignment is to write about our Zero Moment – the one where we became a writer.
Do you know the moment when you first knew what your calling was?
Share in the comments!
And get your own DIY-MFA book here!
Till Next Time…