Over the past few years, I have been reading and subsequently burning my old journals. I began journaling at age seven, so in the past few years I have read twenty years’ worth of journals.
My current-day journal begins with a late June 2017 entry, so after I finish writing in the journal, I will read it and burn it as well.
Other than that, the only thing un-read is my Morning Pages journal, which spans from November 2016 to November 2018.
As I gear up to do another burn session with my roommate tomorrow, the dominant feeling I have at being this caught up with myself is: relief. Pheeewwwww. Siiiighhhh. I made it. The processing of the past, by this particular method, is near complete.
Rather than to reflect upon the process of reflection, this blog post serves to encapsulate and exhibit a few pieces I found particularly affecting. Pieces that I feel glad to preserve for now.
After reading through my teen days, I wrote the following list.
Themes from old journals:
- flowers from people
- feeling different than others
- innate wisdom, but lots of second guessing myself
- making eyes at lots of boyz
- confusion & lack of confidence
- lots of social excitement & success
- shocking self knowledge at a young age
- wrote a lot of poetry age 13
- lots & lots of poems! age 14, too
- overwhelment of feeling
Fastfoward to age 24, living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands:
May 9, 2014
… But now I am tired of the intellectualism that has taken hold of my brain and finger-clawed at the portico, gleaming terraces of my spirit. I cannot say what I want anymore, guessing immediately its negation and thus being spun such.
I’d like to write poetry. I’d like to stop being such a fucking scaredy cat.
Listening to this Top 50 alternative songs list on iTunes this evening has been surprisingly inspiring. I’ve had my headphones on for a majority of the day — not good for the ears, good for spiritual stimulation. But anyway, I am gaining a sense of my own contemporaneity, my place in 2014.
Since girlhood, I have only ever yearned to use voices, the singing kind, the inhaling and exhaling, the rhythmically murmuring kind, never for mediocrity but only for odes or for vital conversations.
What happens when I remove the headphones? My voice flounders in the waves, a mermaid’s song swallowed into various other sounds.
The other question is why I have not aspired to make music when I have such a musical brain.
I began Metamorphoses by Ovid, translated by Charles Martin for Norton, today. I like it so far. I need to read it.
Interesting that I began the entry expressing fatigue with intellectualism, then moved on to express my true, spiritual wish to use my voice — “the singing kind” —, and then I come full circle to wrap up the entry by noting the classic piece of literature I “need to read,” thus displaying that familiar but worn-out obligation to the intellectualism I picked up as an English major in college. I was only beginning to shake it.
Later that year, still living in Amsterdam, the following:
October 26, 2014
A magical thing about Erik & me is that he actually likes me. I see him feasting, devouring, consuming me, whether with his eyes, his questions, his mouth.
The other night I thought that powerful poetry could be a simple telling, such as sitting on the stoop with Annie, the Romanian, and Magali, the Frenchwoman, drinking white wine and smoking a cigarette beside the canal at 3:30pm Friday on the clock, talking about “dor,” the intense longing for someone alive or passed in Romanian, and the “stairwell wit” in French: the succinct phrases for lengthy concepts. Magali’s long hair was so pretty around her peacoat, and Annie is like a delicacy whose enjoyment isn’t compromised by large doses.
E & I watched “Before Sunrise” with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy last night, and I identified strongly with the protagonists, the young beautiful woman an old soul, the scrappy wandering young American man with no distinct point of origin or destination.
This morning I listened to one of Paul Fry’s super engaging lectures, the one about “Configurative Reading.” The major coincidence between last night’s movie and this morning’s lecture was the spark plug analogy — the need for an adequate but not-too-large amount of space between oneself and another in order to forge a bridge of understanding, a “merging of horizons” as it were. Celine in the movie demonstrated the same idea in person with Jesse, Hawke’s character, pointing at the space between the heads of an intimate couple nearby.
The fall air, though wet and heavy, has a crispness to its edges, and we’ve lain in bed with hummus and Turkish bread from the market, and tea, binging.
I would continue to say that freedom of mind is the secret of life. The freedom to attach positive meaning to anything you wish, not least important yourself. The joys of loud music, thick painted slabs to the canvas, lovemaking with the bedroom windows open in the fall, the idea that all human beings are vulnerable pearls, the sense that an interminable green grass growth is all around you all the time. You are your own template.
Then two years later, age 26, living in Minneapolis, now beginning to read the old journals and process the past in a meaningful way, from a more emotionally balanced perspective:
October 15, 2016
When I was a child — all the years I was under my parents’ rule — I tried to always adjust and re-adjust myself to achieve harmony within my circumstances; I tried to control conditions by controlling my behavior. I shape shifted to appease the needs and whims of others. I felt helpless except by my own help. If I didn’t remain strongly focused toward handling myself and behaving “properly” in given situations, then I felt rotten, awkward, vulnerable, in pain.
This strategy (of shape shifting) extended into the social sphere, and because of it — as well as possessing a naturally sunny disposition — I was popular. I was the chameleon butterfly. But I didn’t always feel as light as a butterfly. I often felt very, very lethargic and insecure and uncertain and sad. Much of that can be attributed to the usual teenage angst.
But despite all the friends and social success, there came moments of crashing isolation and despair. I needed to be alone to tap back into myself, to shed the skins of others, to forget the pretending.
So, I have always been like that. I have always sought myself for refuge. And increasingly I have found the sanctuary within myself. The key — my newfound, gratefully-accepted challenge — is to carry that sanctuary with me wherever I go, and to be radical in the keeping of it. I can trust myself out there — I need not shift or morph for others. In fact, it is a detriment and an ugly pity to do so. I do not ever need to make excuses for myself to others, and I need not stress myself to be liked by them. I am a harmonizer, yes. I am a light, yes. I am an uplifter, a teacher. But I am no mere contortionist. My posture of the day is my own choosing, and it stands based on centuries of formation. I feel that I am as old as time. I always rode with it.
It is my task and my gift to be from a place of my own deep knowing. I am a deeply peaceful, deeply tranquil soul.
I will not feel compelled to pigeonhole myself.
And I will leave it at that.