I grew up as an avid reader, writer, and wannabe ballerina. My favorite element to evoke was a “hauntingly beautiful” feeling. I saw “hauntingly beautiful” things everywhere I looked: Branches dropping their leaves, dark grey clouds, the halo glowing lamp posts made at night, or crickets singing in the swamp.
This imagery inspired me. It was mysterious, lingering in its presence, and quiet. The unknowable part of this element excited me. And all of it fueled my desire to create.
I was 10 when I wrote my first horror story. My mother immediately praised me and smiled. She told me she was going to mail it to Stephen King. Although she meant to share her excitement, I just felt pressure. I quickly wondered if my story was worth being sent to King. I doubted he would even want to read it.
I went back upstairs later that day to read all 10 pages of my work and quickly noticed I had changed the main character’s name about seven times. My first instinct was to rip it up. So I did just that.
Looking back, I recognize this moment as a perfect example of the inner critic. It’s sad thinking I had such a strong one when I was so young, although I understand why.
Growing up in a predominantly white community, I was the only Black girl in my school at that time. I had high expectations for myself, mainly because I already wasn’t meeting the status quo I saw all around me. I felt I had to be “better,” practically something that I wasn’t. My young self felt determined to establish perfection. So, if something wasn’t perfect, it felt safer not to try at all.
Over the years, the desire to write was always alive whether or not I was putting anything down. I experienced periods where I stopped writing completely, or I didn’t like anything, or I kept feeling like I was writing the same poem again and again.
Recently, someone told me that the only way I would actually fail is if I never went back to writing, that it’s a testament I kept going back. This idea that continuous movement no matter if there are pauses or complete stops meant success has stuck with me.
Movement is now a staple of my experience. It’s dancing, liberation, singing, triumph, perseverance. It’s patience, meditation, and honest conversation. It’s healing, in all of its forms.
This column is called “The Art of Healing” because as I’ve come to know it, healing is an amalgamation. It’s learning how to move forward, or how to pursue trust in any given situation. It is social justice and community circles. It’s creating safe spaces.
Healing is an art. It’s something people learn to facilitate, either for themselves or other people. Sometimes art is indescribable, and it has to be felt and experienced to be understood. I have to be present to create art. And I will always be learning what art means to me, what it looks like in different periods of my life, and how to share it with those I love.
I’m excited to write about everything, from how hard it sometimes feels to sitting down and writing about Black liberation. From covert fatphobia to being trustworthy community members and the steps that trust takes. From embodiment and abundance to the educational system. From generational healing to spirituality.
There is so so much to discuss, and I’m looking forward to it all.
Muntaha Mohamed is an artist and activist who works for Portland Empowered, volunteers with Black POWER, and sits on the board of Mindbridge.