“Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you: Have you read ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert?” she asked with a sparkle in her eye, as she handed it to me.
“I haven’t, but I have a feeling it’s going on that long list of “books Elisheva wants me to read,” I said with a smile.
She laughed and said, “This one should definitely be pushed towards the front of the list.”
She articulates herself through these books. I’m pretty sure I’ve never met anyone who reads as much as she does.
Don’t get me wrong — I love books. I love reading. I just don’t find time to sit and concentrate on them the way that’s necessary.
The way they deserve to be read.
I have five kids ranging in age from two to 12. My kids have busy social lives, requiring me to walk them to play dates, referee play dates, or be my kids’ play date when there is no play date. I often have a book in the kitchen, and at some point during a busy Shabbos I’ll look longingly in its direction, where it sits in its allotted spot, in its quiet, uninterrupted state, very often never having been cracked open at all, due to the heavy volume of people and goings-on in our house.
Week after week, I go speak to Elisheva and she’ll pose the all-important question: “What are you reading?”
And I’ll usually mention the same book she’d given me weeks previously. In my head, I’d wonder if she thought me to be the slowest reader around. Because I know she’s giving me these books to gain insight and inspiration, to discover a bit more about myself and my newfound writing hobby, perhaps.
I’ve never been a writer.
She actually didn’t believe me until she started scrolling back on my Instagram feed and realized for herself that I really was never much of a wordsmith.
I could write a cute, punchy paragraph about the cake I baked or about the roast I wanted everyone to try for themselves at home, but, beyond that, I really didn’t express myself through the written word.
Maybe the words were only able to pour out of me once my feelings were exposed and raw, and they didn’t know where else to go but onto the paper I offered them. It was the first time that it was the only way I could think of untangling that huge knot of nerves inside of me. The feelings, anxiety, worry, and questions I had that were humming and stirring, desperately needing an outlet. A way out. A way to understand what to do first.
That’s what writing does for me. It lets me understand how I’m feeling.
Like Joan Didion says, “I only know how I feel once I write it down.”
And so now, I embark on a new chapter in my life that I never thought I would. One of self-discovery, realizing that though I thought my life hit a certain rhythm and would run its course that way, sometimes man plans and G-d laughs. Though I’m saddened that I discovered this ability for the reasons I did, it doesn’t take away the wonder of how I’m able to do it.
My writing is prompted by life experiences, and I’d venture to say that that’s where the inspiration lies for most people who prefer this medium of expression. Sometimes it’s something that my son asks me, sometimes it’s something insensitive that someone says. Sometimes I have a jumble of sentences that are bouncing around in my head, longing to be documented, but it’s Shabbos and I beg them to stay where they are, to please just wait until I can type them out so I can read them back with satisfaction and it could be the start of something new. Something that I could read back and say, “Yes. Now that that’s done, I’m able to move on with my day.”
I don’t write for feedback, for people to be inspired or to tell me how strong I am, how good a mother I am for holding it together most of the time.
I write for me. I write for things to make sense, even for the nonsensical to make some sense.
For me to find a way to come to terms with my current reality. I write and it’s my therapy, and when I read it back, I always cry.
I cry because I’m relieved that it’s out of my body and in the universe, among the other words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories written before mine.
I cry because now you all know how I feel. I’m honest and unfiltered. In the past, I might have cared how I seemed to some, but that’s history.
A result of my writing has been a resounding number of people who have come forth and told me how much it means to them. Something completely unexpected, and while it’s not something I looked for, it does push me to continue sharing my journey this way. If writing lets someone read this and feel better or feel less alone or be inspired or maybe enables them to do something they’ve wanted to do but haven’t been courageous enough to try, by all means, I’ll continue to write. If writing allows someone to feel the way I feel when I read a book as inspiring as Big Magic, I’ll do everything in my power to dig deep into myself and continue producing material about my life experiences, the lessons I learn every day, the journey of grief and loss, the parenting successes and mishaps, and the unconditional love I receive from old friends and new.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. Malkie has been sharing her thoughts with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.