(This was my first (and my favorite) post on this blog, a long essay that I really enjoyed writing)
There’s something about writing that only writers can understand. That need to be in a quiet, private place for hours or an entire day in order to get out everything inside that’s screaming at you to be expressed. That drive to stay locked away alone and not talk to anyone, in person or on the phone, because it interferes with your spirit trying to make sense of something you can’t yet grasp. And you want to do all you can not to lose it because you have this deep sense that it is important, it’s something that needs to be said, needs to be recorded.
And it’s so hard when your day job does not allow you enough time to express yourself in that way and you do not use your creativity to make your living. It takes a lot out of you and eventually you find yourself having one of those nights where you stay up until 2am just writing, or reading a book you’re really into but have not had the time to pick up. It ends up being really draining if you don’t devote any time at all to that creative impulse.
Some people use many different outlets for creativity, or they just try different things until they find something that feels right and they get a satisfying feeling from it. For me it has always been writing, ever since I was a little girl. Writing has given me that feeling that nothing else has. It feels natural to me, automatic. I get an actual physical urge to write a lot- to hold a pen between my fingers and play on the page. To say all those things I can never say aloud to the faithful pages of the journal. It’s where I can be my whole self, laid out and unashamed and unabashed. I could probably spend an entire day straight just writing- given the proper desk, a comfortable place, and silence, and a good pen.
I was reading a book of sonnets on the train the other. It’s a book by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my favorite poets. I was completely entranced. I like reading poetry now because it puts me back in touch with my youthful self, and I remember being an adolescent and just having all that time in the world available to me to dive into it and not have to emerge. It reminds me of how I first became mesmerized by the efficient use of language, the economy of saying so much using so few lines, the power of implication and mood, and the actual formality of the terminology and word usage of the poets of history. It would transform me and have this hold on me to the point where I felt I should’ve lived in those times. Those simpler times of Shakespeare, Millay, Keats, Lord Byron, e.e. cummings- when reality must have been somehow more real, unfiltered and unencumbered by technological distractions. It’s rare to get so close to living as those poets did who were able to capture and express it such rich detail.
I wonder what kind of magic it would take to stand out as a writer in today’s world. Is anyone centuries from now going to care about all the hundreds of thousands of people out there currently keeping journals and diaries? Will those who have had a few published pieces here and there be more likely to be sought after? Or do you have to be some tortured soul like the singer Kurt Cobain who had his journals swiftly published following his suicide?
I’m sure there are people out there, countless people, capturing truth in the words they keep hidden from the rest of the world. They must have profound reflections and enlightened moments and epiphanies that should be widely read and admired and praised. Within this shallow culture, I’m sure there are hordes of people out there seeking depth- seeking their own meaning behind life. And there must be others like me who are too afraid of some of their own inner turmoil to even get it down on paper. I fear that there won’t be enough words to properly express certain emotions or emotionally charged situations. I’m still trying to work up to those exercises where you are brutally honest and spill everything out on paper, and then rip the paper up or light it on fire. It’s still too frightening to even think about writing it out for my own eyes only.
Writing is weird like that. You can be so expressive and yet still be holding back. But for someone like me it’s a necessary thing. It allows my brain to work. I have to get down somewhere the way that I experience everything in the world, needing very deeply to be heard and understood. I write and reach out in the hope that someday someone will read my words and I will be vibrantly alive to them for a moment. I’ll be a presence in the room and touch something deep within them.
All those writers that I read today were alive once. They were living, breathing human beings going through this same exact human experience of being a body on earth for a length of time. They had all the normal human traits, faults and desires and natural talents. And the desire to capture it all with pen and paper, through poetry, journals, plays, fictional works. They shared a bit of themselves and are still alive whenever someone like me in the 21st century sits on a train on her way home from work smiling to herself after having read a sonnet. That is an enviable power; an enviable way to achieve immortality.
It’s hard to be in a body and constantly be aware of the fact that one day it will die, it will no longer be. So the urge to stay relevant usually arises next. Some people satisfy the urge by having children, some by performing on stage, some by writing books, some by dedicating themselves to helping the less fortunate, some by living for God as a priest or a nun. Everyone needs their something to make them feel they will carry on. And I notice that a lot of creative people- like writers and artists, express this feeling of mortality, and where they wish to reside for eternity, and what they want to have last through time and be remembered long after they are gone. People deal with this in different ways. and I wonder sometimes if all of life is about finding the best way to deal with it.
My former meditation teacher said that everything that is created artistically- whether it be a song, or a poem, or a painting- already exists as a complete thing and it is simply channeled through a human being from the divine. The person gives it a tangible form, but it already and always exists in the divine. That’s how a lot of poets and song writers explain it as well- they’ll say the song seemed to ‘write itself’ or a particular poem just ‘came out of them’ or in the case of painters, they’ll say things like ‘something just took me over’ and the painting was completed by some unseen inner force. Organically, naturally, divinely.
But you have to be a particular kind of person to be attuned to it. An observant, sensitive person with a gift for seeing, absorbing, processing and finally expressing that divine gift.
(Entry below was handwritten on 4/15/2013)
Today there were two bombings at the Boston Marathon. There were many injuries and some deaths. A small child was killed who was only 8 years old. The explosions happened in the afternoon while I was working and I didn’t realize they were serious enough to cause injuries and deaths. It puts some things in perspective for me.
I’m grateful to be alive even though I don’t have what I want most in life. At least I can walk and talk, eat and sleep, and breathe. I can enjoy simply living: breathing in fresh air when I choose to, eating something or drinking something delicious. I can relax and listen to music, enjoy a glass of wine or a bubble bath. I can call my mother on the phone and hear her voice. I can write in my many journals with my many pens and express my thoughts and feelings.
I am alone, but maybe that’s OK. Maybe I need to be. I haven’t heard from I— since last Sunday night. It’s very strange not to talk to him for so many days, but I figured I’d wait for him to reach out to me first. I know my relationship with him wasn’t perfect, but it was very special to me. Everyone tells me I’ll meet someone who is everything I ever wanted and more, but I don’t see how they can be so sure about that.
I’m pretty sure I need to develop some sort of self-confidence, and a social life, in order to attract a guy. And even then, there are so many other things that could go wrong. It’s really hard to hope that things will somehow all work out. I don’t want to spend my life hoping and waiting for Prince Charming to appear, because if he never does, then I’ve wasted my life in expectation of nothing.
I may as well give myself some peace of mind and resign myself to the fact that I will live out my life in solitude and do everything by myself. There are certainly worse things in the world. What hurts most of all though is not hearing from I— at all during all these days and nights. No text, no call, no email to at least say hello or see how I’m doing. And he claims to need me. I think he has definitely proven that he does not.
I have to go to Manhattan tomorrow for a doctor’s appointment. If there is a terrorist attack tomorrow where I will be, and I return home alive, then I know it’s because God wants me to be here. And I can live on to watch my niece and nephew grow up. I can live to listen to the new album that Garbage plans to record this year and release in 2014, and I can live on to read the new Dan Brown novel (which I think comes out soon). And I can, of course, continue to write in my journals.
(Entry below was written on July 22, 2005 )
Thank god for those true and wonderful people out there if you’re lucky enough to have them as your friends. Some people are so nice it’s really astonishing. Even when you are mean and bitchy to them, somehow they are never fazed. They make life so much easier to handle, they make work better and help you not to take yourself so seriously.
Sometimes it takes a while to really see the value of these people because you have to get past your initial judgments and assumptions. And then you feel so grateful once something happens to make you see their real character and unselfishness. These people are so generous by nature, it takes you by surprise and causes the wrong kind of people to take advantage of their kindness.
I have a true friend like this in my life, and I wish I had more. He changed me from being suspicious and hostile towards guys by being able to just be a friend and wish the best for me, and wish me happiness. No ulterior motives. That’s rare and really cool. I feel so bad for the way I treated him before getting to know him and I’ve already apologized. Of course he said there was nothing to apologize for. What a good person with a genuine heart. I admire people who have patience because I have none.
I guess it takes so long being on your own with no friends to realize the value and significance of a real friendship like this. It’s great when you can connect with someone on some level, and they can make you laugh and encourage you and make you feel better and not so alone. Because of that, I am more willing to give people a chance because they might surprise me. I’m trying not to assume the worst like I used to.
In an attempt to meet new people and stimulate my mind with new ideas, I went to a writer’s group tonight near my job. It was mostly middle-aged people who wrote pieces about their children, but nonetheless, the writing was excellent and the people obviously had talent and their own unique voices. If anything, I found a new spot to write which is really quiet and serene and open to the public. Maybe I’ll take advantage of it.
I took a bus home and I was the only one on it (close to 10:30pm). There were no passengers to pick up alone the way. I didn’t want to walk home and see everyone else out having fun when i had no plans made. I didn’t want to feel left out. I live in quite the party town. When I got up to get off at my stop the bus driver said ‘Have a good night’ and I said ‘thanks, you too.’ Then he said, ‘It’s gonna be lonely without you’ with a quick laugh. I smiled sympathetically.
I probably would’ve sat and chatted with him a while. He was not at all creepy and I had nothing else to do. Anyway, I think everyone you meet in life has something to teach you. And most people are just looking for a true friend.
(Entry below was hand written on 9/23/2012)
I love freedom. The freedom to be able to come and go as I please. The freedom of long stretches of time with nothing to do and nowhere to be. The freedom of not having anyone to answer to but myself. The freedom to read or sleep or watch movies or eat. The freedom to sit on a train on a nice day and look out the window. The freedom to take picutres and listen to music, and to write- no matter what time it is.
My body is sore and I’m tired, but there is still so much more I want to do. Luckily, I have the whole day free tomorrow. Today I voluntarily went into the city, something I have not done in a long while. I went to the free market at Madison Square Park which was from 12pm to 3pm, but I ended up only staying about an hour.
It helps when I feel sad or alone, to go out into the world and observe people and listen to them talk or watch them just go about their lives. There’s a certain comfort in that. We are all the same. We are all just human beings, no one greater or lesser than anyone else, just trying to make our way in the world.
There were a lot of “Occupy Wall Street” people in the park, trying to spread the word about their cause and start a revolution. The actual free stuff people brough to give away wasn’t that plentiful. I picked up two books of poetry, some clear binder sleeves, and a lipstick/gloss that was unused. I was going to go back later to see if anything else was put out but was too tired after more shopping and went home.
From the free market, I walked down to East 17th Street to Barnes and Noble to look at the Nook tablet, which I really want now, and then went to DSW to find nude shoes for the dress I’m wearing to my cousin’s wedding next Friday. I found the perfect pair of shoes, plus a cute evening purse that appears to be covered in blush-colored rose petals. I also found a pair of knee-high brown boots which I have been wanting for a very long time.
I then went to staples which is about a block away from DSW, and I finally bought daily calendar/planner refills that fit into a small, binder/porrfolio thing that I’ve been holding on to since college. I always wanted to refill and reuse it for something, as a journal or a calendar because I just love the scaly feel of the outside covers.
The binder is small and black and has a pen hole attached and pockets on the inside covers which make it very convenient and nice to use. I used it as a day planner in college and now it kind of sucks that I can’t use it again until next year.
(Entry below was hand written on 8/13/2012)
The past Saturday my mom had a garage sale. It was hot and sunny and she brought out box after box of old things that were just taking up space in the attic, going unused. She ended up selling lots of handbags and kid’s toys and other knick knacks and plates. I offered to help her because I love being involved in any process that involves clearing out of old things.
My mom pulled out a box of our old barbies to give to my cousin’s daughter who was also there. Out of that box came two cards that almost went unnoticed until my aunt fished them out. They were my grandmother’s green card and her social security card. This is the grandmother on my mother’s side.
She looked so young in the green card picture, younger than in any other photo I have seen of her. It stuck me how I could almost see all my cousins and aunts in her face. Somehow, she resembles them all. It was amazing. I learned (from the back of the card) and my aunt’s explanation of it, that my grandmother came to America in 1968 and she came in through Miami. I love learning little facts about my family history like that.
I had an odd dream the other night in which I was in school and assigned to pick a favorite shape and write an essay about what made that shape my favorite. I didn’t have a lot of time to ponder this assignment, it was due the next day. So I settled on writing about the teardrop shape.
I thought about how many earrings I bought (plain and embellished) that have this shape and I ended up writing something like ‘I like the teardrop shape because it is a shape that is pregnant with emotion.” I wish I wrote more about the dream when I woke up since I hardly remember it now, but it was pretty amusing.
(Entry below was handwritten on 10/12/2012)
I know I should be writing a lot more than I have been. But it can be hard. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I don’t have enough to say, or I have too much to say and I would need to set aside a whole day just for writing all my thoughts out. The thing is, I need to write. I don’t know how to not do it. And for some reason, reading about journal writing is insanely fun to me. I could do it all day long.
Right now I have a headache, but I’m writing anyway because I’m tired of having the urge to write but not enough energy to actually do it. I tend to give other things way more importance, and then I end up feeling too drained. If I feel heavy, then I feel like I should be exercising.
If I have laundry sitting there, or garbage to throw out, or grocery shopping to do, I feel I should be productive and do those things instead, but I fail to realize that writing is productive too. Or sometimes it’s easier just to read what other people have written- though that’s not so easy to do when I have a headache.
I talked to my doctor (therapist) this week and he said that staying alone forever may not lead to a fulfilling life. I had mentioned that I feared those were the cards dealt to me. When he responded that way, I asked him why not? His response made absolutely no sense to me at all. Maybe I wouldn’t feel lonely, but calm and fulfilled. Maybe marriage isn’t for everybody and is something that most people are pushed into because it’s expected and conventional. Maybe some people are just not meant for it. I told him that if I was alone, a lot of my stress about who I should be would be gone.
I wouldn’t have a husband who I would have to please or worry about him leaving me or cheating. I would be free, and I would have peace of mind. I feel calm and secure when I’m alone. I think it’s just my natural state of being and how I feel most comfortable. Maybe that’s strange, but it’s who I am. And life is all about loving and accepting yourself completely, right?
There’s a certain peace of mind in not being in a relationship. You don’t have to work hard to look good for anyone other than yourself. You can do whatever you feel like doing, regardless of whether anyone else wants to do it or not. It’s a nice way to experience freedom. No pressure, no guidelines, no worries, no rules.
Life is inherently stressful, and I don’t see anything wrong with trying to reduce that stress as much as I possibly can. I hate being told what to do. I hate feeling like I can’t be who I am. It’s like that Chinese proverb that’s so full of wisdom:
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
There’s a reason I put that proverb on the first page of this journal.
(Entry below was hand written on 7/26/2012)
I remember the first time I listened to the first Garbage album when I was 16. Suddenly, it all became clear. Someone was articulating my loneliness and pain and frustration so beautifully, it was like a blessing. It touched somewhere deep inside of me and I loved it.
It was my first introduction to rebellion, and connecting to something and someone I thought was cool. I remember staring at Shirley Manson on the back of the CD cover, at the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ expression on her face and realizing something important. I realized that it’s OK to be angry, to be depressed, to feel misunderstood and misinterpreted and like a freak. It was OK to really enjoy heavier music, music with passion, emotion and anger that mirrored my own.
It was OK to step out as an individual and like something that was unexpected, something that no one introduced me to but me. To like something my parents and sister didn’t understand, to be my own person, be the person I always knew I was in my heart. The person who was underneath all the layers and masks I wore to try to be accepted.
I was done with all that, I had found myself in this music and the image of this band. This felt real and true to me, and it was just something I couldn’t deny. I immersed myself in it, merged myself with it and it gave me so much unspeakable joy and nourishment that it was kind of ridiculous.
In a way, I felt that it gave my life meaning. And I am so grateful that Garbage is still around today, and putting out new music and touring, so I can witness and listen to their music and get lost in that magic again and again. It sustains me and elevates me in a way that little else does. It is immensely beautiful and fulfilling, and I would be lost without it for sure.
Life is good tonight. I got the writing done that I wanted to do. It’s nice and cool in my air-conditioned room. It’s nice and quiet in my top floor apartment that I don’t have to share with anyone. I’m deep conditioning my hair tonight while I sleep (I have a treatment in my hair right now). Tomorrow is Friday and payday, and I have a lovely, big, new journal to fill up. So this is the first entry of many more to come.
(Entry below was hand written on 7/26/2012)
The blank page is mocking me. I have this tendency to be compelled to write even when there’s nothing to say. Or maybe there’s too much to say and I fear not being able to get everything out.
My job is wonderful right now. I get to work independently, really independently, in the privacy of my room. No one hounds me or breathes down my neck or tries to make me work faster. I have room and space to breathe, and no longer have to deal with the craziness of the city.
The only thing, if anything, that I always felt good at was writing. But as time went by, it just seemed less important. The compulsion to do it thought is still there and it is strong, so that must mean something.
It must mean that writing is something I’m supposed to do. It’s the only real thing that every came naturally to me, and for some reason, it is and always has been, so satisfying. I can’t imagine a time when I won’t be doing it.
I was reading a bit of the Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath tonight, and for a moment it boggled my mind that I was reading words she had written down in a journal in the 1950s on my digital e-book reader. Sylvia Plath would’ve loved that. Hell, anyone would love to live on like that through the power of the written word.
Plath has so many ways of describing a rainy evening. All of the poetic notions and descriptions pour out of her 18-year-old brain and onto the page, and it’s simply brilliant. Her introspection and musings are so brilliant and sharp that it makes me jealous. I wish I had that level of detail and description in my journals. She can paint a clear picture with her words, with about as much ease as it would take her to fall asleep.
When I was 16, I had this weird, mature urge to reach my 30s. I was actually longing for and looking forward to these years. As crazy as that sounds, I can understand why. Sure, the uncertainty of what are the best decisions to make can be scary, but I know what I truly wanted.
I wanted the freedom from pressure that the 30s bring: the freedom to be an individual instead of expected to fit in and have friends, the freedom from petty gossip and ignorant bitches in school, the freedom to live on my own in my own way and style without anyone imposing any rules on me. That part of being 33 is really wonderful.
I tell myself to forgo any pressure I may feel (self-imposed) to do something great. But I would like to feel special, that I accomplished something that has meaning to me. Hopefully I will find a way to get there.
(Entry below is an excerpt from an entry that was hand written on 8/19/12)
I want my life to be about more than just surviving and having a day job that I tolerate. I meditate in order to slow down and take in the wonder of daily life. I wish I could be more disciplined about some things, but I also have to remember that I am only human and will fall short of perfection. There are many things about myself that I need to work on, but also many things that I should just relax about, and go with the flow.
I wish I could be like Natalie Goldberg, writing from 9am to 2:30pm in cafes in Taos, New Mexico, alone or with a writing friend to keep me company. Maybe then I’d reconnect with myself and the unique way in which I observe and process the reality all around me. Maybe then I’d wake up from this nightmare of trying to be someone other than who I am. Maybe that is not stagnation, maybe that is just remaining true to myself.
Natalie Goldberg says that writing has enormous energy, and I believe that it does. That’s why I believe that written prayers are more powerful than spoken ones. They bring thoughts into focus. That’s also why I believe my grandfather hears and understands me when I write him letters, even though he’s passed away.
And it’s also why I believe that writing validates my existence and makes me feel that I am not insignificant or useless as I so often fear. I am here and alive for a reason, even if I may not have found it yet. Maybe it is to write a book (or several books) that touches someone. Maybe it is to volunteer my time or money for a good cause. Maybe it is to write poetry, to live somewhere else (like Taos) and live out my days slowly.
Maybe it is to form a daily meditation practice in which to find meaning. Maybe it is to enlighten others with my words, and help them consider a more meaningful life by the example in which I live mine. I don’t ever want to grow stale. I want to continue to be curious about life and everything in it, and to live my life always in an expectant state of discovery.
My mother is the type of person who will receive an item of jewelry as a gift, not like it, but still wear it on the next occasion when she will see the gift giver- just to make them happy and let them see she is using the jewelry.
My sister is the same way. When we went on our family cruise a few years ago, she used an uncomfortable beach bag as her carry on for the plane. This was because one of my aunts gave it to her and she wanted my aunt to see her using it.
I just can’t get this type of thinking. Why put on something that is uncomfortable or cumbersome, just to please somebody else? I doubt other people take you into consideration when they get dressed.
And it’s the same thing with gift items for the home. Most of the time these are safe to get rid of. My mother and some aunts have given me way more than I need for my apartment and decorative needs. I have used the stuff I liked and that was useful in my space. But I got rid of the stuff that felt cluttery and not at all with the aesthetic I was going for.
And most of the time no one notices. My mother especially will forget what she has given me, whether it be clothes or jewelry or other knick knacks and stuff, which is good because I’m safe to get rid of it or give it away without ever hurting her feelings.
My apartment is mine, and should only house those things that I love or find useful. There’s no need for excess. Actually, clutter and excess is really stifling. When it comes to my home, I definitely feel that less is more. Less chaos means a quieter, more peaceful space. The world outside is chaotic enough without adding more noise to your own private sanctuary.
I feel like mostly bare walls can make a room feel bigger. And they let your eyes rest. There shouldn’t be an item of decoration in every single corner, otherwise, there are too many things calling on your attention all the time. And that can become draining very fast.
I like the idea in the book, The Joy of Less, of committing to throwing away one thing every day for a year. If you are only deciding on one thing, it’s not overwhelming and feels more doable. And you can lighten your amount of things very effectively this way over time.
So that’s what I’m trying to do. I know I don’t need half the things I own. But just keep them for whatever reason. Time for a good spring clear out!