Tag Archives: life

35 years of journal writing

journalI have been writing in a journal since 1979, since I was 11-years old. This photo marks 35 years of writing and showcases over 105 journals. It does not include the years I wrote online, the short stories I wrote and ultimately published, the blogs I wrote or the myriad notes I saved. Outside the frame of this photo, but on the shelf, there is a pile of smaller journals that were unnumbered and thus, left out of the picture.

Like a long road, or a straight line that pushes past a horizon with no end in sight,  these journals move forward in time along with me. They are how I tell time. They are time. They are me.

The very first binding you see is where I met one of my best friends with whom I am still very close. I was in 6th grade. In 1989, I lived in Paris. In 1990, I bartended in Greenland. In 1997, I met and married my first husband and lived in Spain. In 1998 my son Daniel was born. In 2000, Julien was born. In 2004, my father died, I graduated college and I divorced. In 2007, I quit smoking ( for the second and final time). In 2008, the economy crashed. In 2009, I met Doug.  In these journals exist every broken heart I’ve ever had, every best friend, every mediocre friend,  every major event, and a gazillion minor events. My Prince phase, my Paris phase, my speak-with-a-British-accent/Spinal Tap phase, my sex phase, my I-want-to-be-a-nun-phase, my travel agent phase, my travel writing phase, my waitress phase, my ignore-all-responsibilities-and-take-off-to-London phase, my mommy phase, my college phase, my grad school phase, my corporate shareholder phase. If I slept with you, you’re in these journals. If I partied with you, you’re in these journals. If I loved you, you’re in these journals. If I worked with you and found you any bit entertaining, you’re in these journals. If I cried on your shoulder, or begged you to stay, or hated your fucking guts, you’re in these journals.

I made it to Volume 100 in 2010. That year, my interest in journal writing waned and I didn’t write much. I thought I’d accomplished all my goals and there was nothing more to write. If I wrote at all it was online and it was basically me logging every morsel of food that went into my body. In OCD fashion, I tracked breakfast, lunch, dinner, exercise, vitamins, water intake, sex, periods, moods, and how much caffeine or chocolate I allowed myself on any give day. But when I noticed myself getting sicker and depressed, I thought it might help if I gave up the tracking and went back to actually writing in a hard bound journal. So, by 2013, I cracked open the spine of Volume 103 and started writing at my desk again. I felt more me. 

I’m not one to live in the past, although, with these journals, it’s very hard for me to escape my past. That can be bitter-sweet. If I forgot where we had Christmas dinner in 2009 and with whom, I just have to look it up. Voila. The journals are all dated and numbered and memorable dates are easy to find. If I want to laugh again about a trip I took, it’s there. If I want to look back and read silly things my kids said when they were toddlers, it’s there. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed reading early grade school journal entries with friends. The drawback is that sometimes–most of the time– they dredge up the old me. Old insecurities, old hopes and fears, crushed dreams. Things I’ve long overcome or given up. But, things that, nevertheless, make me feel sorry for the girl who wrote them. She never vanishes; she never grows up. She’s always looking up and out of the pages at me with this arrogance that I no longer possess. And I think, what the hell is up with you? You’re such a fuck up. You’re making all these stupid mistakes. You’re stuck, and you don’t even know it.

And no matter how hard I try,  I can’t  help her.

And since she can’t help herself. It’s frustrating reading.

But I too am stuck. Unlike others, who leave no trace of the guy or girl they used to be, and who can freely choose to rewrite their history with bold new assuredness (Sure, I was always confident), I cannot. I need only to flip to Volume 26, 36, 57, 99 to read, “I have failed,” and I am quickly reminded that there is no rewriting the past. The presumptuous, foolish, imperfectly charming  young girl of these journals is here to stay. If anything comforts me it’s the thought that I created her, separate from myself. And like a flesh and blood character in a novel, you can read about her and she exists. And when you’re sick of her, you can close the book and get back to your real life.

But I guess, with the exception of my two sons, she really is one of my greatest accomplishments. The girl of my journals. And while she only takes up such a small amount of shelf space in my house, she represents my near entire existence on this planet. And much like when we’re cremated, and the entirety of who we are, in the end,  fits into a space no bigger than a shoe box, so too does she. Small. Contained. Alive.

For now, my time line moves onward. The pages fill. My new goal is to get to Volume 2oo. Or at least fill up the rest of the space on the shelf. I figure it should take me another 30 years. That puts me at 75-years-old. That’s enough. By then I would hope that that girl will have grown up and that she will no longer summon in me pity and a sense of helplessness, but rather, joy and pride in knowing that she made something of her life.

I only have 95 journals left to get there.

Bits & Pieces: the day after


It’s the day after. I’m married. I’m taking my husband back to the airport so that he can catch his flight back to Spain.  But my car breaks down on the side of the road in Cherry Hill. It just dies at 276,000 miles. I think it’s symbolic. The official end of my old life so that I may begin the new. I break down across the street from a hotel where a Rapid Rover is parked by the valet. I race over to the driver and asked if he will take “my husband” to the Philadelphia International Airport. He says, sure, so I pay him because R has no money. I kiss R goodbye. I cry. He zips off down Route 70 in a van. I won’t see him until Christmas Eve.

I am alone.

I go inside the hotel and call triple A for a tow, from the hotel payphone. I wait by the side of the road for two hours, counting on my fingers the days until I will see him again, catching the sparkle of gold around my finger at nine, then nineteen, then twenty-nine.

Who reads this shit?

It’s almost 9 and I’m poised to hop in my car and head to the gym to attempt, once again, a 5K on the tread mill before my knees give out. I should stick with the bike. Bike is safer. And yet, as runners know so well (something which, I myself am learning for the first time), nothing compares to the feeling of energy your body generates when your legs propel you down the road– or in my case, propel me no where closer to anything but the dashboard of my hamster wheel. 

So, I was reading Citizen of the Month, checking out his links page and was overwhelmed at the gazillion people out there blogging. Not that this hadn’t occurred to me years ago. Because it had. And I became obsessed with wanting my own blog until I realized I had nothing to say or too much to say. For that matter, there’s always been a fine line between exposing what I think is “interesting” and going overboard– 

Example of going overboard:  I was telling Nuria last night that I had it in me a while ago to publish my diaries from the divorce. When I started transcribing them though, the reading was tedious. I came off as sounding uglier than the ex. Here’s this pathetic woman allowing her husband to do the stupidest shit and instead of taking action, all she does is bitch about it. And to make matters worse, she hasn’t a shred of dignity left and ends up sleeping with him as a means of shutting him up. And she writes: “it’s all for the kids. Keep it together for the kids.” Then there was my mother on my case, saying, “what are you adding to the world by writing something like that?” and “what will the children think when they read that some day?”

Needless to say,…I gave up the divorce journals and the blogging.

There is something so self-serving about blogging. Don’t think I don’t know what’s going on. I feel the egocentrism oozing from my skin sometimes. I’m privy to certain people’s judgments about bearing my soul on places like facebook and myspace. And quite frankly, the attention some people seek in their blatant “LOOK AT ME” status updates is quite ugly. As the lovely Ms. Meagan McCamy said, facebook can be kind of like walking through a hospital in a hospital gown with yer ass showing, but you’re in denial that you’re an exhibitionist. 

Thing is, I love the written word. I love to write. I write on napkins at restaurants. I write on public restroom walls. I write a million emails a day. And I have written in a journal since age eleven. I have 97 hard-bound volumes that line the bookshelves of my office like doctor’s reference manuals. Writing is a part of me. Keeps me real. Keeps me raw. And so is sharing the goods and exposing the reality of who I am–who people are. I can’t tell you how often I come across friends of mine that say things like, “John and Mary have the perfect marriage.” And i think, bullshit. John probably wears women’s pantyhose and Mary is anorexic because John is a control-freak. Their kids have A.D.D. and they both had to tap into John’s 401K because Mary is a shopaholic. People are so disturbingly into protecting their perfect identities and looking good that when something does go wrong (and it does), the amount of shame and humiliation is enough to bury them.

I’m not talking about airing one’s dirty laundry. I’m talking about being real. Anyway. 

There was a point to this. And the point is– whether blogging is self-serving or not, so be it. I’m not going to change. I love reading other people’s secrets. I’m glad there are a million people out there doing it. It goes to show not how egocentric people are, but rather, how we all need to reach out and touch others. There’s no shame in that.  I am drawn to confessions. And i love sharing in the commitment people undertake to expose themselves to the world. It’s not so much for attention, as it is a manner in which to communicate. It is not so much egocentric, as it is a belief in oneself that his or her words have impact. It is a way in which so many people try to connect. Try to feel alive. It’s why Dante wrote his Inferno, why da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. Why S has tattoos. And G wears her hair in a ponytail. It’s why the tiger lily is so f’ing orange. Because inside we are not empty.