So I started on my room yesterday.
I thought I was going to go up and just empty the room and then put back only the things I wanted in there.
Trouble was, I didn’t have room for the stuff that had to come out. I mean, yeah, I had room if I was willing to crawl over stuff to access the bathroom, but that didn’t seem like a good idea, so I decided to start with the books.
On the bookshelf, in addition to books, are all my recent journals. In the cabinets under the bookshelf are also stacks of binders filled with all kinds of random paper clutter. The desk has its own paper problems, too. I have paper clutter up the wazoo.
I thought I would bring all my journals down to the big Rubbermaid bin under the basement stairs, where my old journals live. But when I finally accessed that bin, vacuumed the top with the ShopVac, and opened it, it was full.
Some 40 years of journals kept since 1976. Some in ring binders with looseleaf. Most in spiral notebooks. Pages, days, years, and decade after decade of writing.
It’s not that I didn’t know they were there, I did, but seeing the sheer volume of them was nauseating. I don’t want to read them. God forbid. I wrote them to write them, not to read them.. They represented my apprenticeship as a writer. I wrote to get better at articulating things — things like thoughts, and ideas, and emotions, and what I had for lunch.
If I ever lost my memory, I thought, I could just find any day of any year, any week, month or season, and read what I had done or thought about that day. That gave me some comfort in the event of Alzheimer’s.
But had I ever done that? No.
So yesterday I started picking through them, thinking to cull. I got no comfort or pleasure reading even the briefest excerpts from my years.
You want to know how I spent 40-odd years of my life? I cleaned a lot. I gardened. I took care of my daughter. I spent a lot of time trying to write essays that I never finished. I trained and walked a series of dogs. I cuddled with and cried over cats. I worried what my mother-in-law thought of my house cleaning prowess or lack thereof. I mewled endlessly about how I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I ran a nursery school and a bunch of 10Ks. I meditated. I did yoga.
In the course of my culling I did save whole journals around the birth of my daughter, the death of my mother, and how I met my partner. For the rest, I just quickly ripped a representative sampling out of each one and tossed the rest of the notebook into the “to be burned” pile.
Today I sit here with a big stack still to go through but there is a an even bigger stack ready for the fire.
I am going to burn them.
I will burn my gardens and my dogs and my cats and I will burn all the hours I spent cleaning that house. I will burn my walks to the top of the hill, and the romp cycle I created and traversed with the dog. I will burn the boring and the trivial, the tuna noodle casseroles and the shitty golf games. It’s is all burnt up anyway, right? It’s all gone.
Reading it doesn’t give me any pleasure. The prose isn’t sparkling or funny or interesting. It was my apprenticeship for a writing career that never materialized.
In one of those notebooks I wrote down a dream I had in which Philip Kapleau, the author of The Three Pillars of Zen, woke up from the dead, looked me in the eye and said: “You are always looking for your path, but you haven’t made the turn yet, you can’t see the path because you haven’t made the turn.”
I was shocked to read that. I sort of remember that dream but I haven’t thought of it in years. I may have made the turn when I left my husband. I think that was a big turn. I think my life became a lot more clear to me once I started teaching yoga, too.
But now I need to write. I mean I will still teach yoga because I also need to do more than one thing, but I think what the big takeaway is from reading these boring journals of mine, is that I need to stop apprenticing and start being who I have always said, and known that I was, and that is a writer.
I don’t have to be a good writer. I just need to write and get the writing out there. Publish it. A book, maybe, but even just a regular blog.
What also occurred to me was that blogging is really the perfect medium for what I want to do, for who I want to be. It if it is done regularly, with heart and humor, and if it’s an authentic representation of my life, then that’s all I want.
All these burdensome journals might have been the apprenticeship for the life of a blogger. Couldn’t I just write the kind of content I wrote in those journals, only fix them up so they were more interesting and readable, cleaner and funnier, sexier and and more poignant?
Yeah. I could do that.