I’ve always felt that journaling is useless.
If you can’t remember it, is it really worth remembering? What’s the point of writing down the minutiae of your little life? Write about politics. Write about art. Write poems with form, songs with meter changes, research papers. Don’t write about yourself. It’s so…self absorbed. It’s so…personal. Who cares about your feelings?
But things have changed.
Recently I gathered with some old friends in familiar states: Ohio, grief (see what I did there?). We smoked pot in backyards in our hometown, surrounded by the familiar, and also the new–new houses, new partners, new pets (the pets of our childhood long since departed). We talked about our lives, gone from midnight truth-or-dare games to home ownership and cohabitation. And as is a matter of course in such conversations, we shared memories. And I realized how much I’ve forgotten. There were stories of our exploits (if you can call them that), things I said and did, jokes I made–and I have no recollection of them.
We all write our own narratives, and so much of my twenties was spent in disrupting the narrative of my childhood and teenage years: a bad student with wasted potential, emotions unchecked, obsessed with status, hounded by grief but too overwhelmed to understand it. I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I had a hard time forgiving that girl, so I tried to forget her. I tried to build someone new from the ashes of that self.
In college, I lived alone three of four years. I studied hard. I made very few friends. I cried my eyes out from loneliness, and again when those few friends dumped me like the garbage they wouldn’t take to the curb. (I tried to forget about that, too.)
This was another page I could tear from my book. I would reduce the ex-friends to a phrase: “those shitty roommates I had once.” A few sentences for college: “I worked hard. I was president of the honors society.”
But out of college also came my husband. Having a husband poses a peculiar challenge when you want to erase past versions of yourself: he ends up seeing them all. He meets the parents, the old friends, the old pets. He sits on the porches in the backyards with the old friends at the new houses. He hears their narratives of your life, with all of the pages you’ve tried to tear out. (If you have a husband like mine, he somehow miraculously accepts you anyway, and laughs and smiles and squeezes your arms when he hears the stories.)
And his acceptance–and your growing wisdom, as you gracefully begin to sprout grey hairs–makes you rethink all of the edits you’ve made to your narrative. Perhaps those stories aren’t so unworthy of being told. Perhaps there is worth in the mundane, the things you felt could be left behind.
Brene Brown said, “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”
So you start to make the changes you can. You stop dieting (that’s a version of yourself you were trying to get rid of too), you get a good therapist, you get back on the meds you told yourself were symbols of your weakness. You do things you’ve always felt were way too cheesy: meditation, yoga, aromatherapy. Even, dare I say it–journaling.
bell hooks said, “No black woman writer in this culture can write ‘too much’. Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’…No woman has ever written enough.”
So, this is me, journaling. It feels uncomfortable, like wearing a swimsuit two sizes too small at a public pool. It makes me feel all scrunched up inside.
I don’t believe that journaling is brave, or creative, or grand. I’m not even sure it’s vulnerable; it’s just on the edge, grasping at vulnerability but still one step removed. But it is intimate, and grotesque, and plain. And I suppose there is worth in that too. I’m starting to believe that there is worth in the narrative itself, just for preservation, just as a science experiment: “This is what one fat white lady felt while Trump was president. Watch her try to process grief, while at the same time minimizing it! Watch her cope with career uncertainty, and how she sometimes gets annoyed with her husband and parents!” Maybe my blog can be a case study someday, Handmaid’s Tale-epilogue style. Or maybe it’ll just be a collection of my thoughts and feelings, and I guess that’s ok.
I’ve started setting daily intentions. Goals feel oppressive. (It’s a millennial thing.) So here’s today’s:
Today, I will try to take my time. I’m taking the time to sit here. To reflect. It doesn’t need to be brave, or creative, or grand. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it…I guess.