One night while my husband of 30 years and I were separated, my eyes popped open at 2 a.m. with the sudden very clear thought: “Next time, I want to be married to a happy man.”
I wasn’t having a lot of clear thoughts at the time. In my grief, my days were a blur of putting one foot in front of the other to get by. My nights often meant crying myself to sleep and then tossing and turning. Sound familiar?
But my “happy man” thought was literally and figuratively an eye-opener. Luckily I had a notebook and pen next to the bed. As important as the thought was, I may have forgotten it if I hadn’t jotted it down. It ended up being a turning point in my thinking: Instead of being certain I wanted my husband to stop seeing the other woman and return to me, I was able to see that maybe, just maybe, I’d be better off without him. I caught a glimpse of life with a happy man instead of one who kept searching for joy in his life and never finding it, and at least partially blaming me. Maybe divorce wouldn’t be as life-ending as I thought.
My nightstand notebook turned out to be very good friend throughout the separation and eventual divorce. Quickly jotted thoughts and feelings, scribbled rants, long, logical lists of pros and cons and whys and wherefores—they all helped my jumbled brain and heart survive.
The Making of a Book
Because I’m a poet, I often took those scribbles to my computer and made them into poems – the sheer concentration of creating a well-crafted poem helped me set the pain aside for a while. Two years later, when I realized I had enough poems for a book, I had the sudden realization that all that pain had produced a “something,” perhaps even a work of art. Art has the power to transport pain into something beautiful. I am living proof that “writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events [results] in improvements in both physical and psychological health.” 
Here’s a poem from my book, Untying the Knot. My then-separated-husband and I were trying to reconcile after his affair. This was, of course, a difficult task, which seemed to me not unlike the ridiculous challenges a reality show, like Survivor, asks of the participants. So I wrote a poem in which exaggeration shows how frustrating my attempted reconciliation was.
Go Ahead, Scribble All Those Crazy-Making Thoughts
Writing helped me make sense of the tornado that had swept through my life. Whether you like to write or hate it, I urge you to keep a notebook by your bed and one in your purse or pocket. Don’t censure yourself, just capture those thoughts and feelings. You may never look at them again. You may never show anyone. (But, who knows, you may eventually turn them into a best-selling memoir!) The act of writing is therapeutic – it’s like dumping all the garbage out of your brain into a bucket. You can then examine the contents of the bucket to find the gems worth keeping or forget that bucket and start filling another.
 Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, Karen A. Baikie, Kay Wilhelm, BJP Psych Advances, http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338, August 2005