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Heartwork & Poetry From The Red Shed

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As a child, I began to write simple poems almost as soon as I could scribble a sentence. The urge to play with words was practically instinctual. Unfortunately, I learned to classify creative writing as unnecessary and nerdy. I chose speech-language pathology as a safer career choice. 

I am now a stay-at-home mother of three little children. I had never planned to say that; I had always believed I would work outside the home part-time, but that setup hasn’t jived with me or my children. Over the past six years, I have been learning how to parent alongside sporadic and typically unwelcome rage, compulsion, paranoia, and gut-punching sadness.

After the birth of my third child, I started taking Zoloft. I also found an incredible therapist who helped me see that the “I’m here to cope with depression and anxiety” was actually “I’m here because I don’t know who the heck I am anymore.” I felt like a stranger to myself. I had many loves–art, reading, writing, speech-language pathology–but I didn’t know how to fit any of them into my life, because motherhood felt all-consuming. Therapy revealed two main things for me: 1) of all those loves, writing is the most soul-nourishing–the activity that makes me feel most myself, and 2) I didn’t have enough “play” in my life. This rocked my world. I had been comparing my life to the life I had dreamed of in college, but I needed to look further backward. I needed to find seven-year-old Rachel, look her in the eye, and tell her she is safe to step into the light. I needed to learn from her: how to make something beautiful and share it with the same innocence with which she read poems to her mother. 

I began sharing my poetry on Instagram this past December under the handle @fromtheredshed. The red shed is a complex symbol for me, a bridge between my inner child and my adult self. I used to play with my siblings in a simple wooden shed in our backyard. We had rich imaginations, and that shed was a home, a restaurant, a store, a school. Now, there’s a red workshed behind my family’s house: a dark and messy space from which my husband has built some truly incredible works of art. Red is a nod to my favorite childhood movie, The Wizard of Oz, and Dorothy’s red shoes–the shoes that are whimsically and unapologetically different, the shoes that bring her home. 

This project has been the most fruitful means of processing the pain, beauty, stress, and joy of my ordinary life. To write, I have to confront my thoughts; to share my writing, I have to practice confidence. And when a poem I write makes somebody else chuckle or nod or perhaps cry a bit, I call that a true heart-to-heart.

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