Last night, after watching “Enough Already,” on the new OWN network, I started cleaning closets.
I tried on clothing that I haven’t worn in years. I opened drawers, cabinets and closets and heaped books, broken lamps and throw pillows around the living room. I assembled 25 boxes and set them by the back door. Today, in light snow, I drove everything to Goodwill.
All except this pile of old journals.
I was going to toss them – just hurl them into a trash bin and walk away.
Then I thought, I’ll just read through them – just one time. I’ll type up anything that I absolutely love and toss the rest.
Might as well cut an arm off – or put all the blood from my body into mason jars. I have been assembling this pile of composition books, spiral notebooks, sketch pads with stiff black covers in various sizes for 25 years. They contain every mystery, every complaint, every experience, every moment of my children’s lives – and mine.
The problem is that the woman who recorded all of that memory wasn’t the same woman who’s reading it.
I piled the journals on the kitchen table in four neat towers. And I thought, I am going to read through every one. It will be a life review – in between book projects. I’m long overdue. I pulled one out. A random choice – made without consideration for the color of the cover, the date of the entries. I began to read.
That was a story I’d forgotten – thank Heaven. I closed the cover. I watched some more Oprah TV – the reality show where we watch Oprah and her team producing the episodes of her last season. In this episode, they were assembling the booty for the “Favorite Things” episode – the one where Oprah gives everyone in her audience a pile of gifts. You know, diamond watches, Ugg boots, AND an Ipad.
Distracted by bling and fantasies of my “best life” I fell asleep.
The next morning as I left the house, I pulled two journals from the pile.I settled into my spot in the corner of the cafe. Got my fresh brewed iced tea (no ice) and my ham and egg on a plate. I opened the cover of the first journal.
So this is how it’s gonna be.
These books are emotional bombs – delivering me right back into stories that I lived through, sorted out and set aside. Most of that sorting was done right in those pages.
And though I am finding some bright and beautiful prose, what I am finding between these pages is a rather extensive list of repeating patterns.
- Pledges to change this and revamp that.
- Complaints, blame and worry.
- Obsessive worries that circle back and back and back again; plans – oh, I have such plans! And yet, though I seem to know exactly what I want to do and even, sometimes, how to do, I don’t.
It isn’t pretty. But it’s real – and it’s time. Here they are: In brightly colored ink, the patterns of thought that keep me stuck.
What an incredible gift.
Yup. I said gift. It hurts, it aches, it sucks to read through this but you know what? From here, at once-remove, I can do something about it.
Then, there are the big dreams that weave through each journal like threads of golden silk: the apartment in Paris where I’ll live for a month or two each year; the lifestyle – writing in cafes, living in yoga clothes, making my own hours, completing books about spirituality and…
Hey, wait a minute, I’m doing that.
With a shiver, I keep reading. I see how some of these goals stayed with me – the cafe-writing thing, the books, me, the author.
And there are others. Teaching at conference centers, buying my family a summer house by the beach, building a website, healing my marriage…
There are repeating patterns here – and one of those patterns is healing, positive and powerful: Steady and open inquiry. Constant open questioning – and, my constant listening friend, the blank white pages of my journal have been there all along.
In this way, I have figured out (so far) who I really am, what I need, what matters most to me. I have tried on all kinds of hats – naturopath, psychotherapist, herbalist, mother and wife – and discerned, for myself, which ones sat properly on my head. Between the pages of my journal there are discarded fancies – but there are also those golden threads that have led me onward and through this labyrinth life and led me here.
So I will continue to read these old journals – and I may or may not discard them. Unlike the books I donated yesterday to the thrift store, the contents of these books cannot be found online. They are one of a kind treasures, filled with gold.
Evidence of a woman struggling to find herself, and though the journey has been full of struggle, the road uneven, there is one repeating pattern of which I am truly proud: Through it all, I never settle for less than happiness. And that is a very good pattern, indeed.