One of the worst things is the blank page. Or a blinking cursor on an empty screen. Filling it without inanity is a herculean task, wouldn’t you say? So, I start with where I’m at: the time; the location; the fact my left forearm is bruised from something today; the tightness in my chest could be because I’m getting fatter and my bra is more constricting than usual or cancer is slowly growing in my lungs.
Here it is, 9pm on a Tuesday night. I’m listening to Velvet Voices on Google Play, a playlist of mostly female artists singing mellow and chill songs. The pug on his bed at the foot of my desk, thick snores punctuating the air. My eyes are dry, my back sore. I made that stupid promise to myself to write these words no matter the consequences. I think back to this morning and how mindless it was; I could have written then and gone to sleep at a decent hour.
Instead I’m writing about…about what exactly? Is this going to be a post with no real consequence? Is this dribble and drool and verbal vomit? Why waste your time? Why waste mine? I have to get comfortable with a lack of profundity. Lord knows I’m going to have a lot of it; I should be comfortable with it already. But, in the past, I have hidden the shallowness of my soul.
I wrote in a journal a lot as a kid. There was a coffee shop called The Liberty Tree in my hometown. It was funky. Great white marble tables and high booths. A wrap-around bar on the other side hugged a monstrous gold espresso maker. Open mic nights on Fridays and a line of high school kids smoking outside. I loved it.
I was most often there with my friends, smoking outside and getting blitzed on caffeine. Once we had our fill there, we’d all head back to my friend Ben’s barn where we’d get ridiculously stoned and drunk. I was always too scared of myself to assert any real personality; I just went with whatever the group was doing (so much so that I actually sat in the passenger seat of someone’s car and beat mailboxes with an aluminum bat around the rural streets of my friend’s town).
On those afternoons and nights when it was just me, I spent the hour after the adult dinner crowd thinned and before the kids too young to drink at the bar but too old to stay home with their parents showed up en masse, sitting in the back booth, facing the entrance, head and hand in a notebook, writing silly stories full of angry teenage angst.
Most of what I wrote was shit. And I couldn’t handle writing shit. I never allowed myself to have missteps or flounder or fail. I was hard on myself; more than I should have been. Much, much more than I would ever have been on anyone else. I wasn’t very kind to myself. Instead of giving myself the space to just keep writing, I’d rip the pages out and toss them in the garbage. Or, when I felt particularly melodramatic and angsty, I’d walk across the street to the parking garage and burn the paper with my lighter while standing there smoking a cigarette. Fuck, was I a ridiculous child. What can I say? I was dealing with some shit.
I’m happy to say I’m a little kinder to myself, at least as it relates to my writing. For the past year, I’ve been more consistent in writing. It’s mostly just morning pages, made famous by Julian Cameron in The Artist’s Way, which I read during those tumultuous teenage years. Three pages of just stream of thought verbal vomit. I’ve read through a few entries over the year and the content usually is about my hopes and dreams and fears and things I fucking hate about myself. Some of it is cringe-worthy.
Yet, I haven’t ripped any pages out. The notebooks sit on the bookshelf my grandfather built almost half a century ago. I’m practicing a little more kindness toward myself. It’s taken a bit to get to this point. The fear of people reading my deep dark secrets has dissipated (part of this is because I am no longer married to someone who would read my journals; a capital offense if ever there was one).
Mostly though, it is because I’m okay with myself now. I’m okay with feeling along and tripping. I’m okay with being imperfect and flawed and fucked up. I’m okay with an unconventional past and never being loved again. I’m okay with taking me as I am. I’ve got to be responsible to that crazy, fucked up kid and tell her it’s okay. Letting these journals live on and become part of my history is an act of defiance to ever being less than.