thinking, doing, writing

Several years ago I lamented to a writer friend about the state of my journals. They’re all so depressing, I told her. “I can’t bear to keep them. Every time I look back through them, it’s all sadness and insecurity.” Most of my journals land in the trash at some point, I said. Why keep such chronicles of complaint?

But that makes sense, she pointed out. We’re writers and we shake our demons out of our minds onto page – they’re easier to deal with there. A journal serves as a repository for heartbreak and fear, she continued, because when we’re happy, we’re usually actively doing something – hiking, playing Frisbee with the kids, knitting, cooking, eating, making love, finishing a project we’ve put our hearts and minds into. Plenty of people also write that stuff down after the fact, but we don’t need to expunge the lovely memories – we may want to write them down to hold on to them, but the urgency to save ourselves doesn’t exist. Therefore, those of us with busy lives, with demands outside ourselves, demands that override our desire to write, tend to let the happy moments slip by unrecorded.

While this blog doesn’t serve completely as a journal, I do use it to record thoughts and experiences. The first few months of the year, sticking to my 2008 resolution “to do everything right” (ha ha) seemed possible. But by the end of May, the constant driving (baseball/softball season), the loss of the Medi-Cal, the impact of the economy tanking – all these things and a few more wore me out, sent me into a more bitter place than I usually inhabit. Small-scale, to be sure. A single cloud momentarily blocking out the sun does not indicate an onslaught of rain. But enough to make me feel not myself. I do tend toward self-involvement, as anyone constantly analyzing the state of her life and how to further achieve her goals might. But some recent bouts of downtime reminded me of how much I usually do, how much I’ve accomplished. My income might not reflect that, but my history does. My present does. Hopefully, my future will, too.

When I was 16, some bad stuff happened. After several months of shutting out the world, I wrote a letter to myself, a sort of pep talk. It ended with a line about “time to start having fun again.” I don’t have the note, but my insistence on enjoying life, willingness to work hard for what I want, and an instinct for self-preservation manage to outweigh the cynicism and self-destructive habits. Just enough. Much of what I worry about and am bothered by are the same issues anyone would – family, money, health care, the state of the world, the state of my mind – but I will not let those worries preclude all the joy and beauty around me.

And I must remember to record the shiny moments, too.

This morning, I walked out the trail from my house to look at the fog beyond the dunes. Perhaps some places it comes in on little cat feet, but in Humboldt, the fog comes in more like an elephant stampede. On the way back, I pulled a couple ripe blackberries off the vine, popped them into my mouth for a juicy-sweet-tart taste. Back home, the boy slumbers on the couch, blood sugar fine, orange cat curled up on his feet. What a fine place to be, in my life.

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6 thoughts on “thinking, doing, writing”

  1. It’s not a panacea, but there are some good points in this book – Simple Abundance

    It starts with exactly what you just said – appreciating what you do have, the beauty that exists. You have accomplished amazing things, Jennifer, and you’re one of the best writers around. You deal with adversity that would crush most of us.

  2. Jen, you are by far one of the friends I look up to when I think my life gets to be too much. How selfish I get to be, working, going to school, and writing (is that counted in working?). You have a whole family counting on you, and you conquer all of it.

    And how can you not be positive, when karaoke is this Thursday? 🙂

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