[S.A. sent me the following in response to a post of mine earlier this week in which I mentioned the notion that perhaps even someone who had come to dislike writing—someone with a negative experience of writing in the past—could benefit from writing and healing. That perhaps the writing process itself could be healed. I asked S.A. for permission to publish her piece, and she, graciously, granted it. Thus------]
ON VELCRO AND HEALING THE WRITING PROCESS ITSELF
Oh, my. The process of writing itself can be healed! I had a high school English teacher who basically did not like anything I wrote on paper. Mrs. R---. Negative. However, as it happens in a rural community, I had a sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Knapp, who also repeated as my high school English teacher my sophomore year. In sixth grade, she encouraged me to read Oliver Twist and she always made positive comments and seemed to enjoy my written topics, even when grammatically flawed.
Mrs. Knapp was a stellar teacher. She read Russell Baker's New York Times column every day during my tenth-grade year. I just loved her and her sense of humor. And she was quick! I disrupted sixth grade one time with my new Velcro zipper. I had sisters who left the farm for NYC and they brought home all the latest ideas. Velcro was one of the innovations they brought to my mother, who sewed most of my clothes. During the class, I waited until Mrs. Knapp started speaking and then slowly peeled the Velcro apart. After about three or four of these episodes, she nailed me. Her words were perfect, kind and humorous, "So we have Mae West in our midst?" Somehow, I knew who Mae West was and it was enough of an embarrassment to stop my behavior. She did not punish.
Today, one of Mae West's quotes is a favorite of mine: "It is better to be looked over, than over looked!" And I think of Mrs. Knapp.
It was not until Andrew, my husband, died and I was in grief therapy that I realized how much I had let Mrs. R--- influence me so negatively. My counselor, Betty, encouraged me to write and I told her I was not capable. I had written a short poem that Betty liked and she asked if she could share it with another grief client. It was called, "Who Am I?" I was surprised and, frankly, thought she was patronizing me.
I did write more after that and I wrote mostly humorous stories via email to friends. Several were sent to a dear friend of ours who died of colon cancer. People, including one sister (a whole story in itself), complimented my writing, saying that it lightened their day. Healing. I had nurtured another. Writing made me get outside of myself and my misery. Healing. I was writing for me...for friends.... and not Mrs. R---.