Day 5 - The Thing about Journals
Historically, I have not been a big journaller. Journalista. One who journals.
Since I was a kid, I have loved to buy journals. I loved the hope of the blank pages, the idea of transcribing my life in ink. But then, hold on: What if someone read my journal? Could I write in a secret language? Could I get a lock with a key I could not lose or a combination I could not forget?
The easiest thing was to keep buying new journals and to line them up on my bookshelves and never write in them so I could stay the way I was, living one way and feeling another. I could also not address the fact I felt I had nothing to say. I walked around with that bloated feeling when you think you’re going to burp but nothing happens. I wasn’t story. I wasn’t worthy of actually using pen and paper to make real what was inside of me. I was just…air. Or gas.
I started writing every day in a journal when I was in massage school a couple of years ago. I found a black notebook, Mnemesyne 199, in the stationary store Maido in Santana Row. The notebook was $18.00 which seemed like a lot to me, but I bought it because it felt good in my hands. I bought it because the paper is heavy and each page is lightly divided into four sections, so all I had to do was fill one section and I felt I had completed something. I didn’t even have to fill a whole page to feel accomplished. I tricked myself into writing things that were personal by starting out writing about the body. For weeks it was muscles and bones and tendons and then slowly I was getting myself on paper.
The biggest breakthrough came when I thought I had lost my journal, and I had that sick rush of panic: What if someone reads it? My stomach filled with acid, and I thought about what I wrote, the personal things I had said, and then I thought, Well, so what? What's the worst thing that could happen? If they don't like me, then they are just mean.
These notebooks are so beautiful to me. The top of the page has a section for the date and then a section for a title. This made me feel purposeful and borderline professional. Hello. What I’m writing needs a title. Granted, I almost always leave this section blank since I usually don’t care what the date is and I don’t need a title to put down my thoughts.
The title thing got under my skin, and then I went to New York and wrote a book that had…wait for it: titles. Lots of them. My book basically mirrors the structure of this notebook.
When I was in massage school, I used each section to focus on individual muscles and bones. I liked the structure, the limited space. I didn’t have to worry about whether I was saying enough about the subclavius because I only had a certain amount of space available. Could I use two sections to talk about that little muscle? Yes, of course. But I’m a creature of habit, and I’d decided one section of nine lines was enough for each topic.
When I started this 93-day project, I drove to Santana Row even though I was going to be late for an appointment. I felt out of control. I had to get a new Mnemesyne notebook to start things off right. Never mind that I had other notebooks lying around I could have used. I wanted to feel comfortable, centered, at home.
I’ve lost count of how many of these notebooks I’ve filled. I’ve given blank ones to some of my favorite people. I think it’s a holy gift. It contains space and belief.
Every night now I lie in bed and write a summary of my day, what I felt, what I thought, what I learned. I write three things I’m grateful for, and I write until I feel done. I have no respect for the dividers this time apparently. Day one was two thirds of the whole page. Day two was half as long. It’s funny. I feel safe having the contained spaces, but I’m ignoring them. Maybe this is called Taking the Wheel: I’ll tell youwhen I’m finished.
Last night I forgot to do the writing, and it felt weird today, filling in yesterday’s business. It felt forced, fake. But I did it because part of this 93-day thing for me is consistency. I’m working at getting my nervous system to settle and for my brain to trust that when I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it.If it were easy to be a person, our jails would not be overflowing with hurt people. If it were easy to be a person, migraines would not exist. Writing your thoughts and ideas is a way of being a person, and it can be a joyful experience, and it can also be uncomfortable, borderline unbearable. If writing yourself real is a challenge for you, use lists. Use single word sentences. Draw.
We silence ourselves in clever and complicated ways, and while getting to silence is the whole point of meditation, silence in a life that never got to fully express itself is a tragedy.
One word at a time.
See you tomorrow.