Those of you who are familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way will know that one of the requirements of the twelve-week programme is that you spend half an hour each morning, before doing anything else, writing three pages. Just writing. Memories, thoughts, stream-of-consciousness, dreams, worries, affirmations, to-do-lists – it doesn’t matter, as long as you cover three pages with letters which become words which become sentences. Morning Pages, we are told, is the primary tool for creative recovery.
One of the unexpected outcomes of doing Morning Pages is that it appears that my pen (treasured, a gift from my mother) seems to know far better than I what I really think and feel. I find that my pen writes things I hadn’t noticed in the bustle of my mind; it links thoughts and feelings that I didn’t know were connected. In doing Morning Pages, I am learning how I feel.
This morning I found myself writing about a horrible situation, a situation in which fear of my ex-husband, and what he would say or do to me, caused me to commit a betrayal. A small betrayal, probably forgotten by the betray-ee, and to this day I cannot think of an alternative – standing up to him would almost certainly have caused him to act unforgivably towards people I cared about, and I would have paid dearly for it when we were alone. But the fact that I had little choice in the matter does not make the reality of my betrayal – of people I love, and of my own integrity – any easier to live with.
Writing about this, my pen admitted: “I hate him for that”. I stared at it in horror. Suddenly I am aware that there is hatred in my soul – not overwhelming, out-of-control, hot-blooded red-scented destructive rage, but something smaller, quieter, harder. A smouldering coal rather than a devouring bushfire. And I think that’s more frightening than anything else I have experienced. Now, against everything I hold to be sacred and valued, I must make room for hatred in my soul. I can’t force it to go away, much as I’d like to. I can’t clean it up, like something unfortunate someone’s brought in on the underside of their shoe. Now, I have to learn to live with it, and hope that, like everything else, eventually it heals.
All I need to do, in the meantime, is keep my integrity. I can do that.