the little things: i should have been someone else (aleah marsden).

Happy Guest Post Tuesday one and all!  Today’s writer is someone I’ve had the opportunity to begin to get to know over the past year …and let me tell you, she’s gold, pure gold!  Because there’s something about being scared and raw and vulnerable with another person – and then jumping in and taking the risk.  And Aleah’s one of those people, through writing specifically, who’s been that to and with me.  Enjoy!  

Flickr Creative Commons: Chris Johnson.
Flickr Creative Commons: Chris Johnson.

The sound of my boots clicking on the gleaming cream linoleum as I walk the long empty hallway resonates through the air and echoes in my soul. I breathe deeply, slowly in rhythm with my steps. When was the last time I have been so alone? That I experienced such heavy silence pressing in on me; only the tap-tap, tap-tap of my boots breaking the continuum? Even my heart seems to beat in time. In this moment I find myself acutely aware of the entire journey I had traveled thus far.

In fact, these steps are leading me back to my cozy, immaculately clean room at the retreat center where I am spending the weekend. I’m attending the annual Redbud Writers Guild retreat. I just completed a breakout session on writing prompts. I had never used prompts before and listened intently as the rules were explained. Write without stopping. No editing. Handwrite with pen and paper. Choose the first prompt that speaks to you. Set the timer. Go.

I chose an unfinished sentence: I should have been someone else… I wrote haltingly at first, then with a relentless fervor, surprised by the torrent that burst forth. I tore through the pages, completely caught by surprise when the timer signaled it was time to drop my pen. No time to think through a conclusion. There was my innermost self brazenly engraved into the pages, indented from pushing too hard on my blue ballpoint.

Now we’re going to read our work aloud to the group.

What?! I start to panic. Surely the spunky redhead leading this unexpected venture into the depths of my soul did not say this beforehand. This piece is raw, unfinished. It waxes poetic at offbeat moments then jars sharply into meandering train of consciousness. This piece is awkward, cumbersome, and rough to the point of jagged. And now it is my turn to heave my mismatched baggage onto the round wooden table and present the contents of my heart to the class.

Step step stepping down the long corridor lined with heavy, polished wooden doors on either side, I can still feel the salt tracks where the tears had streamed down uncontrollably as I read aloud to the group. I was surprised and overwhelmed by where the writing without stopping had taken me. Writing without considering form or my audience. I decided to skip the second session to process in solitude the flood of whatever that was that just happened. Where I tapped something deep, rushing torrents rising to the surface where I was buoyed by the warm yeses and amens and me toos of my sister-writer soul-spelunkers.

I have closed my eyes many times in the almost year since this passed. I’ve re-walked that hallway smooth in my memory. This scene has arisen from the past and pinned itself to a wall in my heart as a noteworthy testimony. Here I was vulnerable with everyone and myself, exposing to the light sorrow that had saturated a dark soft place at my core. The closed door lined hallway is now a living metaphor in my mind—a pathway from regret to hope. Each boot-step click propels me toward possibility. I do not know what worlds are concealed behind each of the heavy doors, but I walk the long hallway in search of one that will not open for someone else, only me.

profile picAleah Marsden is a stay at home mom of four who wakes up at 5am to study the Bible and write because she discovered physical exhaustion is more manageable than emotional exhaustion (i.e. consumes copious amounts of coffee). She shares stories of life, faith, and Bible study at, and she is a  member of Redbud Writers Guild. You can follow her on Twitter: @marsdenmom.  Man, isn’t it amazing how those little things – like the perfect writing prompt, like being vulnerable in front of near-strangers, like, like, like …are the big things?  Encourage Aleah with your comments of her experience today!

8 thoughts on “the little things: i should have been someone else (aleah marsden).

  1. Love this! Have had the same experience at various writing groups/classes in the last year. It’s like this stuff is hiding in our bodies or psyches somewhere. Keep the words flowing–writing as healing!

  2. “Sister-writer soul-spelunkers” : the perfect words. As specific as the difference between lightning and lightning-bug. Yours are lightning. Can’t wait to share retreat with you! Thanks for hosting, cara 🙂

  3. If you were a “girlfriend” I’d say “Keep it going, your Amazing”,,,,But as your Mom, I just want to Hug you and tell you everything about you is Amazing, How much I Love you, and “Well, sweetie, You only need to do what makes you happy”” <3

  4. A pathway from regret to hope – what a wonderful path to travel, whether through writing or thinking or in many other actions. It’s a path of blessing that God has given us, and thanks for inviting us along on your journey down it, Aleah.


    P.S. And now you’ve got me hungering to read that writing prompt exercise you wrote.

    P.P.S. For a much less insightful look at writing prompts, here’s one that includes bacon.

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