“I don’t know if I am ready for this, I have never been to a writer’s conference before.” My heart feels like it is in my throat. A couple of friends and I are on our way to the Southern Christian Writers Conference which is being hosted by Main Street Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa. Regardless of what situation I find myself in, I always react the same way. First, I become nervous (don’t let my calm exterior fool you) and then I deal with the stress which is generated by my nervousness. I have never been a fan of crowds and sitting in a room full of strangers puts me on edge. “You will be learning something new, relax, it will be fun!” My nervousness must have been apparent because I was asked to drive to our destination. I am thankful for the opportunity to drive as it gives me something else to focus on instead of my nerves.
We arrive safely, and I quickly become immersed into the classes. From one class to the other, I find myself wondering if I am up to the challenge of writing. A writer who specializes in the outdoors gives the final speech on Saturday and he boldly exclaims “you can get paid to write!” My friend, Rachel Embrey taps me on the shoulder and simply states, “You can do this!’ I decide on the spot, without any experience in writing or website design, to start a blog when I return home. My mind is abuzz with ideas and I have found my inspiration.
After our return home, I crawl into my recliner with my computer and start to research on how to create a blog. As I visitsite after site, it seems everyone wants money to assist me with launching my recent dream. Finally, I stumble upon a site called Blogger. It is free and I decide this will be the launching pad formy writing endeavor. Freeman’s Front Porch Musings is born in June 2017. After writing over 300 blogs in a year, I decide to move my site over to WordPress. I kept my blog’s name and moved my 300 blogs over to our new home. I would like to say my writing career started on those hot days in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but that would not be true. Unfortunately, writing was a tool I used to express the dark feelings and thoughts during my sojourn through darkness.
Late October 2011:
“Freeman, you must let go of the bitterness you are feeling. Whether you are right or not in feeling this way, bitterness will eat away at the good inside you. Find a way to purge yourself of this vileness.” I detest coming to therapy. All we ever do is rehash the past, talk about emotions, and schedule a follow up appointment for the following week. My psychologist is a Native American woman named Joy. Bless her heart, she is trying to reach me, but I am resisting every effort she makes. As I sink deeper into depression, I am valiantly fighting off the people who are trying to help me.
“It gives me an edge Doc! I need it to keep me alive!” My bravado is a lie, I am hurting. My divorce is final, my career is quickly coming to an end, and to top it all off, I have gained 100 pounds in seven months (not to mention the daily struggle with recurring seizures). Joy shakes her head, and I know she isn’t buying what I am selling for one moment.
“No Freeman, it is what keeps you angry. Why don’t you try this: Buy a tablet and write down everything you feel about what you are going through. Write down exactly how you feel. Do not sugarcoat your emotions. If you want to strike someone, write it down. If you want to burn all your ex-wife’s possessions, write it down. Let your poison flow through the pen but get it out of your system before it destroys you.”
From that moment on, I fill up tablet after tablet. Each writing exorcised the poison in my heart. As I heal, I write fewer dark thoughts, and I can make some semblance of peace with the loss of my marriage and career. During one counseling session, Joy asks about my writing. I explain I am writing less, and she tells me to burn my books of bitterness. I take my notebooks to the burn barrel and set my bitterness on fire; the emotional release I feel helps me realize how deep my depression is and how it hasimpacted me. This small exercise is a temporary reprieve from my depression but my journey through darkness is not over. I have many more miles to go before I find my way home.
08 January 2016:
Standing on the cold front porch, I take stock of the upheaval which is my life. “I never thought I would be back in Mississippi! I was perfectly comfortable in Colorado!” Alas, it was not to be. Between child support and rent, I am unable to afford groceries. It is with a heavy heart; I call my parents and ask if I may come home. Of course, they tell me to come home. One 24-hour bus ride back to Memphis, TN and I make the trek home to Mississippi. There is a void in my heart that entertainment can’t fill, nor can worldly possessions. However, as with therapy, I bravely fend off any assistance from people who love me. Shivering from the cold, I walk into the warm log cabin where my parents live.
“Son, you need to go to church with us.” I glance at my mom. In typical mom fashion, she isn’t asking me if I want to go to church, it is a polite demand. I go to a few services, but the longing in my heart does not recede . Then slowly God starts toplace people in my life to help me find my way to Him. I am failing College Algebra II and I start my search for a tutor. Finally, I am put in touch with an educator who can assist me with my course. We set an appointment for the following day. As I enter the small trailer in Iuka, Mississippi, I instantly recognize that my instructor is a Pentecostal lady. “Great! This is all I need!” She begins to help me catch up on my schoolwork, and as we start to spend time together, she asks me to visit her church. “No thanks!” is often my response until finally, I relent and go to a Wednesday night service. The Holy Ghost is all over me, but again, I valiantly resist. It takes me a couple of weeks to recover from what I felt that night, but gradually I make my way back to church. As I start to frequent the church, I find myself becoming more at peace with being at home.
Reverend Shane Burns was a guest minister who came to preach at our church in Iuka. As I sit on the pew, my tears streamed down my face. I stand to my feet, lift my hands and God re-fillsme with the Holy Ghost. As I speak in a heavenly language, I can feel the peace of God wash over my soul. After service, I drive home, and I feel weightless. As I walk into my house, I notice my dog has torn out my trash. I clean it up, and a small voice whispers, “This is how I found you. Dirty, and in the sin filled gutters, but I picked you up and cleaned you.” Tears fill my eyes and the power of the Holy Ghost fills my house. Later,while driving back for evening service, the small voice whispers, “Iraq was a long time ago son. You don’t have to carry your burden alone. Cast your cares upon me, for I care for you.” Writing may have been the tool I used to express the darkness in my heart, but restoration was the eraser that wiped away the stain of the darkness from my soul.
Freeman’s Front Porch Musings: www.rantsandravingsbyamadman.blog