A big part of leading a healthy life is knowing how to tackle those moments that we are totally unprepared to face. For award-winning author Sandra Cisneros, none was more shocking than dealing with the death of a parent. No amount of fame and fortune could protect her from the pain of loss of her mother.
For a time the acclaimed author of books like “House of Mango Street” was depressed, describing herself as an orphan of 53 years, lost like “a glove left behind at the bus station.” What brought her out of her malaise was the search for the favorite cat of her friend Roz, a tale that she beautifully recounts with illustrations in “Have You Seen Marie?” The book reads like a therapeutic fable for both children and adults.
In a talk that she gave at the Miami Book Festival International, Cisneros spoke about how writing the book was an important step in helping her adjust to life without her mother. You adjust because your heart never really heals from the death of a parent, and you just learn to let the best memories steer you through the pain.
Memories for Cisneros that include her mother’s love for books and art, a love that is honored with every published work. Yet writing can also be used to maneuver around the obstacles that we create, obstacles that often leave us stuck and frustrated. When asked about writer’s block, Cisneros spoke of that feeling often being more about a writer’s own fears getting in the way of the simplest tasks.
“So what you have to do is make a list of all the things that you are afraid to talk about, of the things that you find taboo. Like the things that you wish you could forget,” said Cisneros. “Start there and write as if are not going to be able to publish it in your lifetime. That will give you permission to speak. You don’t have to publish it, but this is the reason why we write, it’s to transform what’s in our heart to light.”
It’s advice that we can put in practical use in our daily lives. If caught in a rut, try buying a journal, or jotting down some thoughts on your computer or smart phone. If daring enough start a blog, even if you are the only one that can read it. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it doesn’t even have to be right.
The larger truth is that regardless of the exact medium or technology, there is something very powerful about putting into words that which most scares us. It is as if by bringing those obstacles to light, we are lessening the power that the internal silence has over us.
Overcoming those fears is something that might not be possible for some people to accomplish on their own. However, it can be rather comforting to remember that the first step in dealing with loss or overcoming obstacles may just be as simple as putting down what’s in our heads, and hearts, on the written page.