"Exorcism, Minus the Holy Water"


It's crying on a shoulder when no one else is in the room. It's clearing out the cobwebs of life without paying a psychiatrist two hundred dollars an hour. It's apologizing in an empty room. It's exorcising the demons of your past without the assistance of a Catholic priest.

What is it?
It's writing.

I have long been a believer of getting out the junk so the good stuff can have room to come in. Some of us do this by talking to ourselves. Others need another person in the room to sit there and listen. And then there are those who jog, do aerobics, or meditate. I, as do many people today, do not have the luxury of time or the extra money some of these activities require. Therefore, sitting with a friend to talk over my troubles, jogging, aerobics, or meditation is simply out of the question. And talking to one's self -- well, we have all been told what that is a sign of, so I would not encourage taking that route.

There is, however, a way to clear your mind, absolve your conscience, and rid yourself of the guilt or ghosts that haunt you. It requires no special outfit to wear. It does not require contorting yourself into some lotus-like position that only a limber twelve-year-old could get into. It does not even require a drive to your friend's house - that is if your schedules coincided with one another. All you need to perform this therapy is something to write with and something to write one, or if you prefer, a computer works equally well.

This method may not totally rid you of whatever it is that has you troubled, but it is an effective way of getting it out and dealing with it. When we keep things inside, they tend to fester like a cut that has not been cared for. The experience that may have us troubled is very much like a cut. A cut perhaps not drawn with a knife, but rather with words, and sometimes words are sharper, and the wound they leave behind slower healing. Sometimes they never heal at all.

As a child and constant abuse suffer, I withstood all forms of abuse at the hands of my stepfather. Unable to go outside and play. Never given the opportunity to have friends over. I stayed in my room, and I read, but more importantly, I wrote. Too young to fully understand the power of writing in first person, of personally confronting my pain by writing down what had happened to me and how it made me feel, I wrote instead about far off places that were what I wished my life could be. As I entered my teenage years, the abuse continued and in many ways got worse. It was through the encouragement of my high school English teacher that I began writing things as they really were. No more make-believe worlds for me to wander off into in my daydreams. From that point on I would tell it like it was.

These writings sometimes took the form of ramblings, which if allowed to vocalize would have been screaming, ranting, and raving. I also produced dark and sometimes bizarre poetry, sad poetry, and poetry that warned the few I allowed to read it of my life threatening, no, life-ending intentions. My writing saved me in more ways than one.

Instead of keeping the daily buildup of the pain, sadness, hopelessness, hatred, and even guilt bottled up inside of me and eventually explode or have a nervous breakdown, I got it out on paper. That is not to say that there were not still residual effects of it left inside. There was. There still is today, and I am thirty-five years old. However, writing it on a piece of paper enables you to burn it, shred it, scream at it, cry for it, or simply put it away in a dark, rarely opened dresser drawer and forget it. Writing it down takes away the power it has had over you and your life. It releases all the energy you spent on it and frees that energy for more productive, happier things.

What follows is such a writing. It is a letter poem fashioned in the style of one I read while a junior in college at Valdosta State University. The poem, by Richard Hugo, A Letter to Haislip to Hot Springs, is to an old friend and is reminiscent of the times they shared with one another. Mine is, on the other hand, exactly what it is titled - a catharsis. It is a letter to a father I never knew and who never knew me.