Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

35 years of journal writing

June 17, 2014

journalI have been writing in a journal since 1979, since I was 11-years old. This photo marks 35 years of writing and showcases over 105 journals. It does not include the years I wrote online, the short stories I wrote and ultimately published, the blogs I wrote or the myriad notes I saved. Outside the frame of this photo, but on the shelf, there is a pile of smaller journals that were unnumbered and thus, left out of the picture.

Like a long road, or a straight line that pushes past a horizon with no end in sight,  these journals move forward in time along with me. They are how I tell time. They are time. They are me.

The very first binding you see is where I met one of my best friends with whom I am still very close. I was in 6th grade. In 1989, I lived in Paris. In 1990, I bartended in Greenland. In 1997, I met and married my first husband and lived in Spain. In 1998 my son Daniel was born. In 2000, Julien was born. In 2004, my father died, I graduated college and I divorced. In 2007, I quit smoking ( for the second and final time). In 2008, the economy crashed. In 2009, I met Doug.  In these journals exist every broken heart I’ve ever had, every best friend, every mediocre friend,  every major event, and a gazillion minor events. My Prince phase, my Paris phase, my speak-with-a-British-accent/Spinal Tap phase, my sex phase, my I-want-to-be-a-nun-phase, my travel agent phase, my travel writing phase, my waitress phase, my ignore-all-responsibilities-and-take-off-to-London phase, my mommy phase, my college phase, my grad school phase, my corporate shareholder phase. If I slept with you, you’re in these journals. If I partied with you, you’re in these journals. If I loved you, you’re in these journals. If I worked with you and found you any bit entertaining, you’re in these journals. If I cried on your shoulder, or begged you to stay, or hated your fucking guts, you’re in these journals.

I made it to Volume 100 in 2010. That year, my interest in journal writing waned and I didn’t write much. I thought I’d accomplished all my goals and there was nothing more to write. If I wrote at all it was online and it was basically me logging every morsel of food that went into my body. In OCD fashion, I tracked breakfast, lunch, dinner, exercise, vitamins, water intake, sex, periods, moods, and how much caffeine or chocolate I allowed myself on any give day. But when I noticed myself getting sicker and depressed, I thought it might help if I gave up the tracking and went back to actually writing in a hard bound journal. So, by 2013, I cracked open the spine of Volume 103 and started writing at my desk again. I felt more me. 

I’m not one to live in the past, although, with these journals, it’s very hard for me to escape my past. That can be bitter-sweet. If I forgot where we had Christmas dinner in 2009 and with whom, I just have to look it up. Voila. The journals are all dated and numbered and memorable dates are easy to find. If I want to laugh again about a trip I took, it’s there. If I want to look back and read silly things my kids said when they were toddlers, it’s there. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed reading early grade school journal entries with friends. The drawback is that sometimes–most of the time– they dredge up the old me. Old insecurities, old hopes and fears, crushed dreams. Things I’ve long overcome or given up. But, things that, nevertheless, make me feel sorry for the girl who wrote them. She never vanishes; she never grows up. She’s always looking up and out of the pages at me with this arrogance that I no longer possess. And I think, what the hell is up with you? You’re such a fuck up. You’re making all these stupid mistakes. You’re stuck, and you don’t even know it.

And no matter how hard I try,  I can’t  help her.

And since she can’t help herself. It’s frustrating reading.

But I too am stuck. Unlike others, who leave no trace of the guy or girl they used to be, and who can freely choose to rewrite their history with bold new assuredness (Sure, I was always confident), I cannot. I need only to flip to Volume 26, 36, 57, 99 to read, “I have failed,” and I am quickly reminded that there is no rewriting the past. The presumptuous, foolish, imperfectly charming  young girl of these journals is here to stay. If anything comforts me it’s the thought that I created her, separate from myself. And like a flesh and blood character in a novel, you can read about her and she exists. And when you’re sick of her, you can close the book and get back to your real life.

But I guess, with the exception of my two sons, she really is one of my greatest accomplishments. The girl of my journals. And while she only takes up such a small amount of shelf space in my house, she represents my near entire existence on this planet. And much like when we’re cremated, and the entirety of who we are, in the end,  fits into a space no bigger than a shoe box, so too does she. Small. Contained. Alive.

For now, my time line moves onward. The pages fill. My new goal is to get to Volume 2oo. Or at least fill up the rest of the space on the shelf. I figure it should take me another 30 years. That puts me at 75-years-old. That’s enough. By then I would hope that that girl will have grown up and that she will no longer summon in me pity and a sense of helplessness, but rather, joy and pride in knowing that she made something of her life.

I only have 95 journals left to get there.

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The City

November 19, 2008

I went over to the University of Penn tonight to have a coffee with Maggie and then go to this info session on a “master’s of applied positive psychology.” I’m glad I went, but..i was largely apathetic. I need something a little more concrete, and no one was really talking in terms of “action words” when it came to discussing the actual application of this knowledge. Sure they said things like, “I created a company that teaches corporations the skills of positive intervention.” But, please. Get out of the ivory tower and describe the WORK of positive psychology.  Give me a title. A name. I “coach.” I “teach.” I “counsel.” “I help people get along better in the workforce.” But nothing like that. Which led me to believe that “positive psychology” is one of those amorphous niches that you must create for yourself, and that Marty Selegman is merely looking for an army of salespeople to go out and sell his amorphous ideas.  

Sure, I’m all about happiness (see Authentic Happiness, Seligman), but these people were just too damn happy, almost to the point of shoving it down your throat. That may sound hostile, but perhaps I am jaded. It’s not the happiest time in my life. But come on already with the fact that we should ALL be HAPPY. Buddha makes more sense: he did not deny that there is happiness in life, but he pointed out it does not last forever. Eventually everyone meets with some kind of suffering.

And speaking of which, I was given a fleeting glimpse, a little gem of a gift, as I noticed a look of absolute frustration and disgust on the director of the program, Dr. Pawelski. He was rather annoyed that his colleague wasn’t following along the format quick enough as he had designed it. You could almost see him mumble under his breath, what are you doing, you stupid fuck. It was kind of funny and really added to his sickly, pale, worn out professor of philosophy look. 

So…it’s back to the drawing board for me. And once again, a change of plans. Perhaps a master’s in creative writing. Much more concrete. Writer. 

 

KVM called me afterwards. There was a launch party for a new food and culture magazine called Table Matters, and of course, it’s right near 13th and Locust. I wasn’t very comfortable with that. So…we parked in an obscure lot, put our dark glasses on, took a back road down Samson to 13th and made it to Apothecary unseen. Shockingly, who do we bump into but Frank Sherlock, heading in the opposite direction. With signature scarf.

Anyway. It felt good to get out. To be in the city. To see weirdness. I had some horrible drink made with gin. I hate gin. But the people were happy. The food was great. And KVM and I laughed out asses off over the usual. I was home by ten. And now I am bleary-eyed and tired and know that when I wake up, I will pay.