The Pen Is Mightier Than Almost Anything Else I’ve Ever Come Across

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine

{by Shannon from Mr. Lady}

I was born in the place where you only went if you had to. I lived in the life most people can only imagine in nightmares, have only seen in movies. I struggle to say those words, because for me, that life is the norm, simply because it was mine.

There was no ship waiting to carry us away from that life. There was no secret to open that would grant us exit. There was no ladder for us to climb or ticket to find in the gutter that would deliver us from the soul-crushing hopelessness of societal abandonment. There were only the armed guards standing at the gates of the hole the world tossed us in to forget about us, and that is not a theological statement.

What we did have were our dreams. In a life that was shrouded in monochromatic shades of redundancy, our dreams were our escape. We imagined ourselves spies, or kings, or poets. We fancied ourselves grand and capable of great things. In the depths of night, when blackness masked the differences between our world and yours, we dreamed ourselves extraordinary.

I scribbled on tattered paper in the middle of the night, twisting words I’d learned until they made sense, creating tapestries of language to hang inside the walls of my heart. I hid those scraps of my soul carefully, under mattresses and in the backs of school lockers, because I knew that the day they were found, they’d be taken away from me.

And one day, they were found.

And that day, my heart was laid out on the floor in front of me and torn into pieces, one poem and story at a time.

And that was the day that I knew I had to leave. I knew I had to do something, that I had to effect some change in some way I couldn’t yet comprehend. I listened to the words thrown across the room at me that night, saying that it was wrong to dream of a better life, that it was selfish to want something better, that is was sinful to aspire to be something more than was destined for me to be, and I saw the bars that held us all in that place coming down around me. I knew that I would suffocate inside them if I didn’t run.

I ran. I left everything I knew one night in January and I ran as far away as I could get. I left behind the piano I’d hammer my rage into, I left the pen that I poured my soul out of, I left my mother and my family and every single person I’d ever known and I never looked back.

I always thought that, on that night, my mother had taken my words from me. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized that she’d only forced me to find new ones.

I am not one of those people who believe that anyone can do anything. What I do believe is that everyone can do something, especially when we have to.

I spent my early years of motherhood unwittingly re-creating my own childhood, mostly, I think, because it was the only thing I knew how to do. During those years, I learned how to accept the life I’d been handed and I learned to make it better for my children. I made sure that they had a life that, however humble, was exactly the opposite of mine. I taught them that they were kings, spies and poets. I used the remnants of my own foundation to build them up, but what I didn’t realize is that I gave them too much, I left myself too hollow, and someday, I was going to need to take myself back.

The funny thing about having kids is that, even when they don’t know it, they constantly remind you how fallible you are.  I saw too many parts of my childhood becoming the norm for my own children. My kids started looking at me in the same way I remembered looking at my own mother, as if to say, “This is great, but who the hell are you?” And I realized that I had to figure that out, for them, for myself, for the sum of my life to have added up to anything at all.

I had to take myself back. I had to go back to that night, to that room when the only thing I cared about at all was shredded before my eyes and I had to deal with it. I had to pull those papers out of the trash can, tape them back together, and take back what had been stolen from me. And that’s what I did.

I imagine most everyone has this crisis-of-self moment at some point in their lives, when you realize that you have to get up and do something, even if you don’t know how to do it, even if you don’t want to do it, and even if you’re pretty sure you can’t do it…because if you don’t, everything around you will fall apart. Sometimes, a mother will have to lift a car off her child to save him, and though everything in the world tells us this is impossible, realizes she can when she tries. Sometimes, a woman like Margaret Rudkin will have to bake a loaf of bread or her child will starve, and she’ll do it. Sometimes, a woman will have to take a sledgehammer to the chains she’s allowed her past to wrap around her or she will be lost to them forever.

And sometimes, these unexpected necessities lead to unimaginable re-inventions of people.

Margaret Rudkin never knew she could bake a loaf of bread, let alone market a company that would survive and grow through generations. She never knew she could do more than bake a loaf of bread so that her child could eat, but today that one loaf of bread is called Pepperidge Farm.

I never knew I could pick my pen back up and write, but I did it anyway, because I had no choice. I wrote without fear, without mattresses and lockers to tuck my words away into, mostly because I had nothing left to lose. I wrote in the wide open public space the internet gave us, letting the whole of me hang out exposed for anyone to find, and the doors they all told me growing up would never open started to.

Today, most of the people I grew up with are still where I left them, still living the place we all came from. Today, I am so far removed from that place and that life that it feels like a movie I watched a thousand years ago. Today, I have a job that I never, not in a million years, thought I could have, a job that means I have to write every single day. Today, I am showing my children how to believe in themselves, because I am doing exactly that.

Once upon a time, one woman’s tablespoon changed the world. Today, I am reminded of her first loaf of bread, and the difference it made, and I can’t wait to see what this $0.99 Bic pen is going to do.

This post is sponsored by Blog Nosh Magazine as part of the Blog Nosh Magazine and Pepperidge Farm Celebrate the Heart and Art of Motherhood carnival.
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As Mr. Lady tells it, she is not a Mister and she is certainly not a lady. She is however, an amazing writer that chronicles her life on her blog, Whiskey in My Sippy Cup. In 2009, she was named as Babble’s Top 50 Mommy Bloggers. She is a mom of three, politics junkie, and an amazing writer (yes, it’s worth mentioning twice.) Go now and subscribe to her blog and follow her on Twitter.


Inspired?  Recognize a dash of Mr Lady’s and Margaret’s tenacity and compassion in yourself?

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9 Comments to “The Pen Is Mightier Than Almost Anything Else I’ve Ever Come Across”

  1. And there are bunch of us that are glad you picked up that pen. Beautiful.

  2. Hockeymandad says:

    What you do with that pen is an inspiration to writers all over. Thank you for sharing your words.

  3. TwoBusy says:

    I’m actually kind of overwhelmed by this.


  4. BusyDad

    When I pick up a pen, I doodle ninja stars. You are amazing.

  5. Zakary says:

    I can’t even find a pen in our house. Crayons and pencils, but nary a pen.

    This is just fantastic. Love ya, momma.

  6. Eddie says:

    Somewhere between a mattress and a little hole in the wall, a hole that was designed for many different type of communication, those stories live. Through a death, that one might find rebirth, those stories built a love and relationship that no wire hanger, no amount of torture, no self imposed wall, can erase. Act one, scene 4 ( for me) maybe scene 3 for another we give the gift of life, a life we thought we were denied… but only a life we found out of necessity. I raise my glass, tip my hat, and extend my heart to one of the greatest moms ever. All my love.

  7. pgoodness says:

    I am so glad you picked up that pen. You are amazing.

  8. Momo Fali says:

    Mr. Lady, you are cinnamon raisin swirl toast. With real butter. That is all.

  9. I’m glad you’re reclaiming your birthright. Your inky 3 hole punched lined in blue birthright, which you were so right to keep under the radar, to protect from it being made less potent. Because then you were so young that someone else could claim its power.

    But now they can’t. And I’m so happy for you that you are.:)