Sophia Van Buren is on my short list of heroines. She weathered the wrenching implosion of her first marriage with quiet grace and continues to navigate ongoing custody drama with child-centered dignity. If you haven’t read her transcendent writing, you should visit her at A Non-Custodial Mother or read her memoir, Illumination, which is on sale this week as a Kindle download on Amazon for 99 cents. Check out her Blogger Space below.
When I was 10, I read Harriet the Spy. It changed my life forever.
Even though I was a typical kid, growing up in a typical family on a cul-de-sac, I knew deep inside that my thoughts were not typical. They swirled around in my head, a jumble of ideas and emotions that made me confused and feeling, I imagined, a bit different from the other kids. When I read those stories about the little girl named Harried who put her observations of the world and others on paper, I knew I had found my hero. Writing was he superpower. I was like her, and she was like me.
I kept writing, from age ten to 25. I filled journals with poems, stories, lists, and thoughts that I kept all to myself. I got married to my future ex-husband on my 21st birthday, and the deeper I settled into my marriage and motherhood, the less time, energy, and motivation I had to write. The shocking rate at which I had once filled notebooks began to dwindle until the same notebooks completely transformed into ledgers filled with grocery lists, family menu plans, and the household budget.
When my suburban life spectacularly imploded in 2002, the destruction of it reignited something in me. The same 10-year-old, the one I’d buried in favor of the grown-up, had patiently been waiting her turn. The difference was that now she had an adult voice and a story to tell.
My grocery lists vanished and the poems and stories cascaded onto paper again. The need to put pen to paper, to write again, to write something important, became almost a physical ache. My outlet, my cure, was to design the blueprints for the life I needed to re-invent for myself and my children.
Only when I write can I truly make sense of how I feel. I unwind my mind, empty my brain, and sift through the bits and pieces that make up the prism of my reality, allowing me to see things with a clear and fresh perspective. It’s like taking a knotted-up ball of yarn and straightening it out, end to end, so you can give it a purpose, and see a beginning and an end to what was moments before a jumbled mess.
I wrote Illumination – How One Woman Made Light of the Darkness in fragments. This is the way it came out of me, because the disparate stories had been welling up inside of me for seven years, and they had begun to bubble to the surface, begging to be set free. Each time I wrote a chapter, it felt like a bubble bursting.
My real husband (I prefer “real” to “second”), whom I call Noah, was the one who encouraged me to not only keep writing, but to look at the stories I’d written as pieces of a larger story. Once I began to weave them together, I saw the bigger story taking shape, the story that would become Illumination.
I have penned this piece for Pauline’s blog at my “official” writing desk, which I’ve created as something like an oasis to fuel my creative side. It is filled with pictures of my children, my husband and me, a single candle, and a jar of pens and pencils. I allow myself to stray from it, though, if I desire the comfort of a couch, cushioned chair, or even a warm bath. I’ve noticed that the more relaxed I am, the less editing my writing needs. A long weekend at the beach usually creates a packed notebook of material that is indicative of my relaxed state of mind.
Once you are able to lose yourself, and then find it again, I think it becomes so important exactly because it found its way back to you. For me, that’s the real test, and when I’m able to recall an incident, feeling, or even a smell attached to a memory, I know that it impacted me in some way, and I don’t let it go again. There’s power in writing about those things. You can even call it a superpower.