Words on the Ocean
first dinner at OC87 Recovery Diaries Write on the Ocean
There are six of us at the table. All women, just like at every other table in the room. Some of the women know each other, even came together to the March-cold Atlantic shore.
Most of us are strangers.
All but one of the women at my table are in Cape May from the Philadelphia area, where one runs a non-profit, and one of them is even a transplant from the Jersey shore. The other, the youngest, the blonde, the one we'll find out wants to start a wellness brand, is from New York. Not my closer-to-Canada not-far-from-Lake-Ontario rural Central New York, but a world away in the City.
It seems they hadn't had far to travel here.
As we continue to take advantage of pre-dinner then bread-breaking chat, one of the women asks if each of us prefers writing on paper or computer. As well as all being women, we’re all writers in this room. I’m a hybrid writer. I love paper and keys, and both have their place.
Talk of how we like to get the words down flows into talk of journaling.
As dinner progresses we’ll learn that the tall, long-haired woman to my right was once vegetarian. But when invited to a traditional celebratory meal by Ethiopian neighbors, she joined in with their raw beef. For now she reveals that when she journals she always thinks she’ll do something with the words later, but never does. She doesn’t meet our eyes.
“You may someday,” I say. But realize I should’ve waited for the rest of her point before clumsily, as it turns out, trying to reassure her.
We are women. We are writers. We’ve all been affected by mental illness. For most of us, it’s our own.
We have given trauma words.
She goes on to tell us about coming across some of her old journals and not being up to going back through them.
It’s a common sentiment at the table.
One woman has a box of journals like that. Another a closet.
The conversation moves on before I tell them about my old journals, where they are, why I will never read them.
The pain that bled onto the page. The happiness that bubbled. The questions. The experiences. Captured snippets and scenes. Ideas. Memories. Hope. Longing. Grief. Joy. Gratitude.
The conversation moves on before I tell them about pages torn out one-by-one, or several at a time. A flame can have trouble taking paper. Not a solitary page maybe, but pages, dense in unity. A hungry orange edge suffocated in its own smoke. A ragged blackened corner. Singed fingers. Words left intact. The smell that drifts to the next room and the next. A silent alert that something isn’t right. How do you explain it away when it hangs into morning light, along with the black stains even safely restricted to the stainless steel of the kitchen sink?
These women… I realize they have no idea they’ve left me behind.
The conversation moves on as I wonder how many hours I spent shredding pages with my hands. I remember one night, more than one night, sitting on the floor by the kitchen trash in the dark. Methodically tearing out pages, and tearing them apart. I remember sometimes finding shreds that missed the trash.
These women, these writers… I know they wouldn’t understand the destruction of page after page, word after word after word after word.
The conversation moves on before I tell them I needed them gone, all those words. All those things that came out of me. From me. Of me. Were me. Worthless. Worse than worthless. I couldn’t bear the weight. I needed them obliterated. I needed me obliterated. Done. Gone. No trace.
These women, these writers, these broken living whole… I understand they know that need, that need for oblivion, know the indescribable pain of numb, the need to make it stop, end.
The conversation moves on while I am lost in what I’m not saying…
I need to listen. To hear. To rejoin the conversation.
We women, we writers, we broken living whole… We are taking control, rebuilding ourselves, coming together—with our words.
Learn more about OC87 Recovery Diaries here. "Stories of mental health, empowerment and change." Do you have a mental health recovery story to share? Bust stigma.
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