Sitting on the cold pew, with the stiff lace collar scratching the tender skin of her neck, she glanced sideways to see them reading those black books. She assumed there must be power in the words since they gathered together every Sunday to read from the same book.
She doubted how much power could be in those tiny black letters on the filmy pages since there were hardly any pictures mixed in.
It was when they stood to sing that she felt a surge of energy. The people seemed lighter when they were singing – less dreary. Were the words in the songs more powerful, or did the music imbue the words with magic?
When she learned to read, she discovered the magic found in words and books. She claimed a favorite corner in the school library – the only one with a window. She’d sit in the quiet with a stack of books and inhale the scent of library dust, which smelled nothing like ordinary house dust which she’d scattered to new corners with a Pledge-soaked cloth.
Why were the books in the library fascinating, but the books in the classroom held drudgery and boredom?
It wasn’t until years later that she realized the distinction was in that she could select the books she wanted to read from the library; and someone else selected what she had to read in the classroom.
There was power in being able to choose.
The older she got, the more she read. The more she read, the more she felt the impact of books and words on her life.
She could determine where she would go by which books she chose to read.
She could determine the lessons she’d learn, the recipes she’d cook, the flowers she’d grow in a high arid climate, the best way to give an infant a bath, and how to care for the black stump that was the umbilical cord.
When her life had gotten away from her, she turned to books to help her get it back.
Initially, she turned to the books that suggested what she should do differently; what she ought to change about herself; and what she’d been doing wrong. In doing so, she managed to transfer all her power to her husband.
While her husband maintained all the power, her life stopped being hers.
She kept coming across the word victim. That word made her stomach hurt. She refused to identify with that word. She was convinced that word would keep her in a holding pattern that was easy and comfortable because it wouldn’t require anything of her. She could numbly go on about things and not have to change.
Would that be easier? Was that the wise choice?
She put those books aside.
She started to focus on how she wanted to feel.
She wrote down words that expressed those feelings.
She kept writing words in spiral notebooks, on Post-It Notes, and on the backs of recipe cards.
She started to read poetry, because those words didn’t attempt to tell her what she did wrong. Poetry expressed the feelings she’d been looking for. She wrote words in the margins of the pages next to the poems.
She found that she wrote the same words over and over. She felt herself pressing down harder with the pen, leaving imprints in the paper to add strength and presence to the words. Her fingers ached from the pressure of the pen, but slowly the words took on power.
Slowly the shift began.
The more she wrote the words, and the harder she pressed the pen to the paper, the less power she transferred to her husband.
Her actions began to bring about the feelings she’d so desired.
Her life began to return.
Now she understands that not all of those people sitting on the cold wooden pews felt the power of the words in the black books. Only the ones who believed in the words felt the powers in them.
She knows that she could choose the wrong words and they would hold great power, too.