It has been several years since I have kept a regular journal, after keeping them religiously since I was 9 years old, and teaching the journal process for 40 years in one form or another, something happened to me, and I petered out. First, I will sadly admit, being online too much and blogging seemed to zap the energy I had for regular journalling right out of me. In 2010 when I was moving into Dragonfly Cottage I destroyed over 300 volumes of journals. I had always planned to leave them to my children, and there were wonderful things in them that I hate for them not to have, records of all of the Christmases and birthdays, what everybody gave and got, how we celebrated and who we celebrated with, but more to the point my journals were a big part of my therapy, processing living through most of the first two decades of my life being sexually, mentally and emotionally abused, and everything contingent to those times and the fallout as an adult. My children did not have to read that. I did not want them to know how dark it had gotten, especially during the times I was suicidal.
I tried numerous times to start over but I could never keep going. And then came the fire, watching things go up in a blaze, and in the aftermath knowing that my life could never be the same again, in every conceivable way. Now I am back home in the newly rebuilt cottage and slowly, ever so slowly, the shock of coming home is easing and making way for the new life that I will live. And I have begun to journal again, and it is good. And I have come home to an amazing knowing, a gift, a relief. After decades of writing and finishing a number of books (None were published, 2 were held for a time and “almost published” — I say that tongue in cheek, “almost published” is kind of like “just a little bit pregnant.” You are or you aren’t. I was three times. I know the difference.) I haven’t been able to finish one in some time. I thought, “That was it, I will never be able to write a book again.” but what I didn’t realize was that if I am not journalling I cannot rake through the soil and unearth the truths that, in revealing themselves to me, lay the groundwork for the book, and in continuing to journal the book continues to evolve.
My journal is a diary, a sketchbook, a place to drift and dream, to write down what I’m doing, or want to do, or should do, and so much more. Now I am writing and illustrating a book and I know I will finish it. It is the difference of writing a book with a journal to help hold you up, to back you up, a place where the day’s writing or drawing can find a home and if it isn’t the best day as long as you do the work, and finish it, you can release it and go on, move forward. You can throw the day’s drawing on the proverbial compost heap in the pages of your journal and add it to the rich bubbling pile that fuels all your other writing and drawing but you have to finish it. That day take it to the end, and let it go.
And more than anything what I was missing, in not keeping a journal, were what Virginia Woolf called, the diamonds of the dustheap…
“I note however that this diary writing does not count as writing, since I have just re-read my year’s diary and am much struck by the rapid haphazard gallop at which it swings along, sometimes indeed jerking almost intolerably over the cobbles. Still if it were not written rather faster than the fastest type-writing, if I stopped and took thought, it would never be written at all; and the advantage of the method is that it sweeps up accidentally several stray matters which I should exclude if I hesitated, but which are the diamonds of the dustheap.”
… and without those diamonds, those stray thoughts that can be so easily discounted in the writing of them, the very heart of the matter either for the life or the book being written, are lost. This is a daily practice that I need to keep going.
I have written all of this in an effort to edge my way into something that came up today that seemed to come out of nowhere and yet are so profoundly right and true in pointing out the fundamental failings of my life that I am still startled. Maybe I have to write them down here, however briefly, as a form of accountability toward future action. I don’t pretend that I am going to whisk off this page and my life will be changed but knowing what I now know, what I discovered today writing at Woolf’s “haphazard gallop,” are the keys to every problem in my life to date, and it is simple really. This is what I wrote…
“You have to start from the inside out. The house has to be clean, organized, and cozy before the garden can bloom in all it’s glory. When the dishes are done and the kitchen is clean the flowers in the pots on the porch will bloom brilliantly.”
I then made a little diagram that grew out of this statement:
MYSELF + MY HOUSE + MY GARDEN are all of a piece. All must be cared for if all are to thrive.
I shuddered. I was stunned to my core. I have never had these three things in proper alignment. I don’t know, given what my life is, how close I will ever come to the living out of that knowing, but I can tell you for damned sure I am going to write it on things, make things, put notes all over the house saying just that. I want to embroider it on pillows, needle felt it into tapestries, paint it on every ceiling of my house. I shan’t, of course, be able to do all of those things, but I will be tracking myself and making note of how I do with this. It would be the closest thing to balance in my bi polar life that I might ever know. My mind is going in a thousand directions, I am going to create a “mind map” to understand it better, to break it down into small palateable, doable pieces. Doable for me that is.
I would not have come to this without the journal. I would not have gone deep enough to come to this before the fire. Part of me was still living in a numbed out dream before that terrible night. I have had to grow new skin to cover what was left of me. I am learning how to walk again, and I am, at times, almost toppling over, but I keep on, and steady she goes.
I’m not sure that I have made any sense at all here but it felt important for me to write and I will put it up on the blog if only for my own edification. I will stitch these words to the page and then let them be.