I write a lot of notes. Notes on work, notes on things I want to do, notes on life, notes to myself, notes to other people either through email or, when I can get the gumption, on pen and paper. I love cards and letters, I love thick stacks of paper.
I also need reminders. Good thing they’re everywhere. Living a life even a little bit in the public eye means one gets a record of things. Whether the notes on one’s life are cringe-inducing or lovely, you can’t walk out the door these days without it being documented. Such is the state of things. I won’t lament it here. Here, I’m doing the very thing I’m talking about.
I am working on my next book, which is a series of essays about my life with my son, John Henry. In my writing process, I do a lot of going back to read what I’ve already written — reading and re-reading helps me keep on track. And in my so often interrupted process and harried life, I have to remind myself where I’ve gone before so I know where I’m going next, or at least where I’d like to go.
This blog is a record of sorts. A series of notes. An online journal in a way, even though what I write is supposedly directed toward the reader. Every writer who deals in the personal knows that’s not necessarily true, just as every novelist knows most characters are part of their own psyche somehow. I like looking back and thinking, “Hmmm… do I remember the feeling I had that day? What was I going through? What shitstorm (sometimes literal) had I endured already that day or what sort was coming? Was it a lovely day? Were the cracks in my heart letting light in or were they trying to close up and keep it out? What did I show and what did I hide? Did I realize how good my life was at that moment no matter what was going on? Was I counting my blessings and keeping my ego in check?
Looking back isn’t necessarily holding on. I’m partial to Didion’s “On Keeping a Notebook,” and agree that we should stay familiar with the different versions of ourselves. No matter if we never really absolutely change, we at least shift. There’s no way to not. Life happens.
Are y’all surprised when you look up and discover you’re not the person you were five years ago? Ten? And Lord knows, no matter how many similarities I bear to the person I was twenty years ago, she nearly only qualifies as my next door neighbor. I still know her really well, though. We have coffee often. We talk through the fence every day. I watch for her porch light and for her comings and goings. Her decisions won’t let me forget her. As painful as some of the memories are, I honestly don’t want to be on less than snuggling terms with who I have been at every stage, because the center is the same. I’m reminded of that when I come across something I wrote down in whatever version of life I did it. It makes me smile to see that she didn’t write nearly as well as she does now, but her vision was the same, however cloudy. Looking back allows me to see that, and also how far I’ve come and ultimately, that I’ve got a long way to go. I hope I get time to feel this way in twenty more years, but who knows?. Note to self…
Happy Wednesday, Y’all.
Peace and love,