Writing to Heal

A while back, I took a course at The Writer’s Center called “Writing for Wellness.” The majority of the class consisted of women who were battling different stages of illness. While I was lucky to be healthy, I had entered the classroom hoping to find a way to start writing about some emotional trauma that occurred in my life.

Being able to write about it was a way of letting it go. And I felt that way when reading Stacy Morrison’s Falling Apart In One Piece, her memoir about getting through her divorce. Everything was on the up and up for Morrison: she had found some freelance work after being fired from Marie Claire, she and her husband just bought a home in Brooklyn, she was a mother to a 6-month-old son. But suddenly, her husband said, “I’m done.” And thus started some of the hardest years of Morrison’s life.

Over the course of the next two years, Morrison tries to make sense of exactly what was wrong that forced her husband into bailing on their marriage. Her initial reasons were accusations about herself, her drive to have a strong career in magazine publishing and her control over the house. But as the months go on, and she is adjusting to being a single mother, Morrison finds ways to let go of understanding why and instead, discovers that she is worthy of love.

I enjoyed this memoir and it’s candor in such hard circumstances. Morrison had one problem after another and she found the best way to handle them was one at a time. She used the metaphor of Japanese shoji screens. She would mentally close off one screen (where her basement is flooded) and open another (putting her son to sleep.)

Morrison’s story is set in Brooklyn, New York. I lived in New York for five years and her love/hate relationship with the city was one I could connect to. In the end, she was able to carve out a new home for her and her son. I added a photo here of the lovely Brooklyn I remember.

In her memoir, I especially loved her insights about how other people (mostly married) would view her and talk to her in the aftermath. She’s fully aware that many couples are asking about her divorce because they want to make sure something similar doesn’t happen to them.

“When our neighbors’ marriage is breaking up, we think we are in a position to pass judgment. […] of course we comfort our friends should they be so unfortunate–all the while plumbing the depths of what we believe we know about relationships, essentially digging through their emotional trash cans, weighing pieces of arguments we’ve witnessed, comparing notes about their conflicts.”

But the real root of this story is how the writer found a new way to face the world, putting away her controlling persona that helped forge her career, and picking up a looser attitude to problems she faces.

“My two years under water forced me to let go of all my false strength and come to accept the ways in which I am vulnerable. Accepting these weaknesses has, in turn, made me more flexible, more forgiving. I am better able to see and react to what is happening in life, as opposed to reacting to a story I’ve made up in my head, a plan I am trying to fulfill, a fear I am trying to ignore.”