When my son was born, my heart was shattered into a thousand pieces: joy, love, pain, worry, heartache, anxiety, protection, bliss. I had placed a fevered expectation upon myself that I would know what to do with these emotions. I, of course, was wrong. My whole world was topsy-turvy, and I felt very much that I, too, was a newborn, in a new role, with a new body, and new priorities. In these early days, I turned to writing as a salve for my newly shattered heart. I found so much comfort in taking the time to slow down enough to put words to the experience. What felt insurmountable became old hat, as each word laid out the pieces of the puzzle for me, and created a path for my anxiety riddled, sleep deprived, new-mom addled self to get from A to B in one piece.
But where do you even begin? Here are three quick tips to guide you towards creating your own written heart salve.
This can be so difficult to do with a newborn, and a new life, and family, and a home, and laundry, and groceries, and work, and… Oops, sorry, I began making my own to-do list there. Feeling restless? Anxious? Tired? Disconnected? Take a moment, breathe in, breathe out, and feel your feet on the earth for a minute. Just one little minute. Listen to the sounds around you. Truly hear what your friends are saying to you, their fears and joys. Watch your little one. See how entranced she is by the shadows flickering on the wall? See the awe? Mimic it. Write down these awe-inspiring moments you witness. What my friends and son have shown me in these moments have been the most inspirational for my own writing.
Utilize Your Phone
My phone was my only lifeline in those early days when my son would nap on me for hours on end. I quickly got bored of Facebook and began using my phone as an idea-vault for articles I wanted to write. I have hundreds of snippets written in my notes on my phone, many of which still bring me back to those early days of utter exhaustion and cluelessness and amazement. Most of my ideas haven’t been touched since I put them in my phone, but getting them out of my head was so useful for me to process a moment or a day.
Feel Your Feelings
This is the hardest one for me. I experienced a lot of postpartum anxiety. Debilitating anxiety. Yet, I kept it to myself as long as possible. Heck, I still keep it to myself. Writing was a major outlet for me during my most anxious times. I have found that the more honest I am when I sit down to write, the more resolve I feel when I am finished. An angry piece turns into a grateful one. One of anxiety turns into one of calm. Working through what you are feeling in words helps you organize those feelings and allows you to look at them from a broader perspective. This is where the good stuff is. Don’t be afraid of your feelings.
Remember…Writing is a Safe Space
I remember as a young girl, I would tweak my journal entries because I thought, “What if something happens to me, and my journal gets published like Anne Frank’s?! How mortifying!” After a
while, of course, I realized that this was almost certainly not going to happen. That’s when the good stuff really came out. It doesn’t matter what you write, how you structure your sentence, what words you use. What matters is that you look at the words and you recognize truth in them. Did you write something that is all sparkly and shiny, but in reality you are feeling disconnected and anxious and are questioning why you became a mother in the first place? Your writing is not going to judge you. Do I publish everything I write? No way! Writing is putting what’s in your heart out into the world. That’s scary and terrifying. So just remember that it is intended only for you, and whomever you wish to share it with. Don’t judge yourself based on your writing. Be honest. Be kind. You are a mama-warrior