Today is the last day of Writing 101? Really? Only twenty assignments? I could keep going. Like maybe 60 more…I don’t mean to sound like a sadistic overachiever or anything, but I’ve come to look forward to my daily assignment; there are so many facets of writing that I have overlooked because I’ve been stuck to my journal for so long, just me and my journal…which means I haven’t explored point of view, or voice, or style, or much of anything else besides my own thoughts.
It’s obvious to me now that I could branch out more with my writing, and I’m grateful to the organizers of Writing 101 for providing me with the opportunity to play around with word crafting that is far outside of my comfort zone. I discovered that I’m terrified of writing fiction although I think I have some really great ideas. If I hadn’t been given the assignment to play around with some fictional characters, I most likely would never have entertained the idea of allowing some made up beings to take life in my mind, in my words, out in this world. Maybe one day I will write that book that is floating in the vast, unexplored ocean of consciousness, floating in the center of my being.
For today, we are asked to discuss our most treasured possession. Here’s an excerpt of the prompt:
Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.
It’s the final day of the challenge already?! Let’s make sure we end it with a bang — or, in our case, with some furious collective tapping on our keyboards. For this final assignment, lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you.
A family heirloom, a flea market find, a childhood memento — all are fair game. What matters is that, through your writing, you breathe life into that object, moving your readers enough to understand its value.
Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing. Let’s celebrate the drawn-out, slowly cooked, wide-shot narrative.
Hmmmmm. I guess I’ll dive in before my brain gets too involved and shoots down every blessed thought and idea that might arise. But before I do, let me just say that I feel perfectly comfortable writing a longer piece. Most of my posts are longer. In fact I’ve been trying to write shorter pieces because I imagine most people don’t have the time to read anything past a hundred words or so, and I do appreciate when people take the time to read, so shortening my pieces seems like an obvious solution to make reading my stuff more feasible for the busy folks who kindly take the time to stop by my blog. It’s funny though, I’ve pretty much failed miserably at my attempts to incorporate brevity into my writing practice. I guess I’m just long-winded (long-worded?) by nature.
If I Could Be Said to Possess Anything
At first I couldn’t think of any one prized possession that could be used as the subject of today’s post. Imagining the objects in my life, mentally going through them room by room in my house, I discover that I don’t have much in my life that couldn’t be easily replaced. I won’t write about my husband or my children, because I don’t possess them. In fact could I be said to possess anything? The path of yoga has helped me to see that in the end nothing lasts forever, possession is an illusion, and ultimately we can take nothing with us when we exit this world of form. Knowing this, I have begun an earnest effort to practice non-attachment, and so it becomes harder for me to call into my awareness any one thing that I really treasure.
But if I could be said to possess anything, and if I were asked which of my possessions I treasure most, it would have to be the collection of journals I have amassed over the years, beginning with my fifth grade diary. I know that there is a Poochie diary somewhere on my parents’ scary property, but I won’t go searching for it, not just yet. The property is trashed by my father’s hoarding sickness, and looking for a diary in a hoarder’s stash is like well, looking for a needle in a haystack. But I do remember the thing–I started the Poochie diary in second grade. I remember writing about the three boys in my class on whom I had a crush. Yep. Second grade crushes. I even remember their names: Michael Q., David C., and Travis M.
The fifth grade diary was begun with much excitement. There was an inspirational invitation at the very beginning of the book, an invitation to write about anything and everything, and to write as often or as little as I liked. I remember writing the first page and explaining that I bought the diary for myself to hold my words. I also wrote about the little presents I bought for my family members at the same time that I ordered my diary–it was almost Christmastime when the order arrived.
The first diary was kept intermittently. I would turn to it especially in times of trial, but I do remember sharing a perfect day I had, all the little things I did in one sweet day of my innocent life as a girl child. I remember eating potato chips and climbing trees and watching birds; it was probably summer time, because I spent the entire day outside. I also remember writing about my grandmother’s suicide, about my twin sister winning the affection of a young man with whom both of us were enamored, and the secret heartbreak, the unshed tears, the overwhelming devastation I felt when he chose her over me. That was in sixth grade. They were together three years, as together as you can call a middle school aged couple.
My tenth grade English teacher had us keep a journal over three weeks’ time and write in it daily. It was the first time I had a regular writing practice, and although at moments it felt like a burden, by the end of the three weeks I was hooked. I actually felt kind of sorry for my teacher when I saw him collect all of our marbled composition books; how was that man going to find the time to read three weeks’ worth of journal entries from twenty students? But read them he did, and he even left comments in the margins. What a guy. I didn’t maintain a regular practice when the assignment was over, but I did write more frequently than I had been writing previously, and by the time I got to college, there was no question that I would have a journal in my life at all times.
My best friend in college also kept a journal; we were kindred spirits from the beginning and spent hours talking about our dreams, sharing music, creating art together, going on long walks through the forests of the Blue Ridge mountains in southwestern Virginia. This friend helped me to see journal writing as a sacred art, and she lit a fire in me to take more seriously the time I spent with my words, because it was also time I was spending with my heart, my soul–my deepest, most precious self. I can recall writing about a young man whose brother was in my choir, which is how we met. I still remember the fruit salad I brought to the cookout my choir friend hosted for those of us who were staying in town after the school year was over. I can still see him sitting there at the long table, so unbelievably good looking it took my breath away. And I wrote about him. And I wrote about him. And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote…starting with the love at first sight stage and wondering how I could arrange meeting up with him again, managing to get him to go on a hike with me, our clandestine coupling outside of the watchful eye of his very Catholic mother, to the heartbreak of his stony silence when I took my junior year abroad in France, when he didn’t have the decency to just break up with me–my journal was my solace when no one else could offer the comfort I needed to mitigate the deep sense of mourning, of loss. A part of me still carries a torch for that one; I thought he was my destiny. He certainly was handsome and funny and smart and creative, and there was something about being his first lover that made me want to keep him. But he didn’t want to be kept.
And then my journal held the stories of each young man in whom I sought the love I couldn’t give myself. I could have opened a league of nations in my dorm room. A Bosnian, a Spaniard, an Australian, three Frenchmen–one from the island of La Reunion–and then to finish off the year, a good old down home sweet faced American boy who ended up being relationship worthy, if only he didn’t live clear across the country in Washington state. That one made me laugh, made me relax, helped me to feel safe and sexy and fun. I’m still grateful for the time I spent with him.
And those are the journals from the first twenty-one years of my life…I could talk about the stories the journals from the subsequent sixteen years now hold within their pages, but I won’t, not today. I’m overwhelmed thinking about all of those words I’ve written, all of those stories, all of those people, those places, those experiences. Lonely times, times of courage, times of triumph, of deep dark depression, of communion with nature, of being lost in the urban jungle, lost in my own mind, lost in the search for love, always looking outside of myself for love, realizing the folly of that even at a young age–somehow never heeding my own advice–needing to rewrite that story over and over with many different characters, in different countries, yet always the same story.
My journal work has been of immeasurable value as I have come to many insights as I watched my words taking form on the page, fountain pen in hand, ink flowing. Surprising realizations have burst forth, and tears also, because my journal is also a safe space to let go and emote when I feel confined by my ideas of propriety out in the world I share with others. My journal has been my friend and ally, a constant companion, a past time, a comfort, proof of my joys and sorrows, a record keeper. It has been very valuable indeed on my life path, revealing cycles of my thoughts and feelings and behaviors, helping me to get clear with myself about what I want to give to this life, and what I want to receive from it.
Decades of life stories, held in many volumes–I have never counted–and the bulk of them are stored in paper boxes down in the basement. What will I do with them? They are so heavy, and there are so many of them that they could really slow us down whenever we decide to move. I have considered burning them in a symbolic act of release, letting go of the past that I might be fully open to this moment–but every time I pull one of my journals out at random, and open the book to any page, I’m startled by what I knew, before I knew how much I knew. It’s like the soul of me could understand the whole truth of it all before my brain and body could grasp even a shred of it.
I think I may keep them, these old friends. If nothing else, they’ll make great fuel for a huge bonfire one day. That would be a gutsy act of non-attacment, would it not? Volumes of my life just thrown away, because those stories are in the past, because I don’t truly possess these books, these stories–at some point we will be separated from one another in this finite world of form.
But possession or not, I think I may keep them.
Thank You, Dear Friend
Thank you for being there when no one else wanted to
When no one else could be there
When I wouldn’t let anyone in
When I didn’t know who I was
When I wanted so much that the pain of wanting burned me
When I didn’t feel any sense of belonging
When I was completely lost
Thank you friend for being there.
Thank you for being there when I was sick
When I was happy
When I was too shy to share a dream
but wanted someone to know about it
wanted to feel the joy of making the dream that much more real
Thank you for not laughing at my doodles, my attempts at art
Thank you for listening without judgment, without interruption
Thank you for showing me the proof of my goodness
When everyone else told me otherwise
Thank you dear friend.
Thank you dear friend.