Closed doors are painful because I thrive off ideas and possibilities. Closed doors are only manageable as long as another door opens up. Another possibility. But the timing is off. It feels like I’m walking through a dark hallway full of closed doors.
Not that I instantly want a new boyfriend option immediately after getting dumped. But something new and exciting to distract myself. A new friendship. A new job opportunity. A trip.
Like in the movies. The characters don’t spend the whole 2 hours of the movie, lying on their bed wishing something would happen.
That’s honestly one of my most frequent prayers. “Dear God. Please make something happen like in the movies.”
Air travel is cold
This post was initially drafted in early December. I haven’t been on a plane since early December. My ears yearn for that pop of high altitude. My knees long for that discomfort of inadequate legroom. It’s been too long since I’ve traveled by air. I miss every disgusting, uncomfortable, terrifying, violating, lonely part of it.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. It is a lesser known truth less widely acknowledged that a single girl in possession of shyness and awkward social skills generally remains shy and socially awkward whether or not the location changes. I’m referring to myself (as the shy girl, not the rich boi).
I do realize this is mostly a self-imposed label—a negative thinking habit I’ve stuck with for most of my life. I started a new job a few weeks ago and I distinctly recall my brain telling me “okay remember, you’re the quiet awkward coworker so don’t make any confident graceful movements or crack any jokes until maybe a few months into the job.” I also know that I’m an introvert which means it’s normal to feel uncomfortable in a car or room full of people, even with friends I’ve known for years. And I thirdly contend that I do lose my quiet nature when I’m at home with my family, which tells me I just need to be myself around someone for 22+ years and all signs of my self-consciousness will vanish.
But truly, the one place where I feel the most confident, the most at ease, and the most alive is the everloving airport.
Since you’ve kindly taken the time to read my blog rather than throw eggs at it, I’ve generously provided an exclusive insider’s scoop on how to transform from a voluntary mute with chronically sweaty palms into a badass force field (akin to an undercover celebrity).
1. Lugging an oversized duffle or pushing those silly rolling suitcases as you make the walk of shame to the “check your bags here” counter is just not cool. Simply breeze in with a backpack slung over your shoulder and experience lighthearted laughter at the sight of sad people standing in line to get their massive luggage measured and weighed. This is where minimalists get the last laugh.
2. Standing at ticket kiosks is Not Cool™ and displays to the world your poor planning abilities (not cool). If you have to print your ticket because you broke your phone (me), print it at home and keep it in your pocket until it’s time to present it. Walking around like a hot mess while clutching a handful of sweaty papers is, you guessed it, not cool.
3. Earbuds are the indoor equivalent to sunglasses, so keep them in at all times. Listening to music is optional, but worth ten bonus points. Airports need a soundtrack.
4. Although there are runways at airports, your catwalk will be inside on the carpet. Walk like a model with purposeful yet leisurely steps. Head and eyes should be forward and alert, yet disinterested. The vibe you want to send out is I know where I’m going, but I’m in no rush to get there.
5. Find your gate number via your ticket or email updates so you don’t have to stand with your head cranked in front of those digital billboards, searching stupidly for your flight info.
6. Security is pretty lame and standing in line is generally unavoidable. The best thing to do is turn off your music, listen to the conversations of the people around you, keep your eyes forward, have your ticket and identification ready in your pocket, and go over in your head the undressing procedures so you can seemlessly rip off the necessary items and toss them in the trays without having to look around at other people and wonder if you’re forgetting anything.
7. Unless you’re running late and literally need to run (which seriously kills the cool vibe) there’s no need to go directly to your gate and sit there like a kid waiting for the bus. Find a casual sitting area, sip water out of the empty hydro flask you brought through security and filled up at the drinking fountain, and read that progressive feminist book you brought or crochet that sweater for your neighbor’s dog. Don’t buy anything. Don’t stare at your phone. Be cool.
8. When your zone starts to board, do not frantically go stand in line like an enthusiastic monkey. In fact, you don’t even have to show up until they’re making the final boarding call before closing the door. Waiting in lines when you don’t have to is not cool. Waltzing in as the last person on the plane with everyone watching you and seeing how attractive you are—now that’s cool.
9. Since all you have is a backpack, kick it under the space in the seat in front of you rather than conforming to the mass and placing it in the overhead bin. It’s so much easier to access your coconut Lara Bars and organic vegan chocolate this way.
10. The rest is up to you. If you neither enjoy talking to the strangers sitting next to you nor shooting through the air at X mph, you’re probably not capable of being as cool as I am.
Admittedly the likely reasons I’m so at ease in airports is because 1) I fly a lot, and 2) airports are swamped with flustered people juggling small children or neck pillows who never seem to know where they’re going and their insecurities and hesitations mix into a brew which I drink and become unimaginably powerful. Similar to when I was a kid and one of my siblings would get in trouble and I’d suddenly find it easier than normal to be on my best behavior.
There has been only one instance where I was certifiably UnCool in an airport. It was last year in Boise, Idaho, which was a huge betrayal to me because that’s my homeland. But I suppose I was the initial betrayer four years ago when I went on my first flight ever—I said goodbye to southern Idaho and moved to a new desert, southern California.
Anyway, here’s how Fly Boise! got back at me for leaving.
1. My friend got lost driving me to the airport. My friend who lives in the area and has driven to the very easy-to-find airport many times before. As a result, I was annoyed and slightly flustered when I arrived.
2. I came into the airport embarrassingly lugging a suitcase, a large overstuffed carry-on, and a personal item backpack. I was not vacationing—I was moving to Oregon.
3. Security didn’t accept my temporary paper driver’s license so I had to move off to one side while people behind me went ahead, and dig through my overstuffed backpack for my passport.
4. Security took issue with the contents of my overstuffed backpack (it was probably those Lara Bars—my sister has had her Lara Bars examined in airports on 4 different occasions. What can we say, they’re the perfect travel food that happen to look like drug bombs in the x-rays) so I had stand around waiting for them to mess up my backpack and then reorganize it when they were done harassing it.
5. My overstuffed backpack didn’t fit in the overhead bin so after several minutes of everyone watching me fail to fit my backpack, a flight attendant took pity on me and shoved it inside a closet up by the cockpit.
6. A lady stole my window seat so I begrudgingly sat in the aisle. Upon reflection, this sixth reason on why I had a terrible flight doesn’t count because that was my first experience sitting in the aisle and I’ve preferred it ever since (you can stretch your legs straight out into the walkway!!).
That trip left me shaken and I vowed to never again look so pathetic whilst on a plane ride. How can those people who regularly get panic attacks or flustered going through security or lost trying to find their gate or pack too much stuff even live with themselves? All it is is a giant terminal full of people from around the world subjecting themselves to x-rays and pat downs by people with guns—they should take a hint from me and pretend they do this every day. All it is is a metal tube shooting through the air at 500 miles per hour, 30,000 feet up in the air—they should take a hint from me and treat the experience like it’s one big yawn.
Sometimes my grandiose airs prevent me from performing necessary bodily functions. I’ve never been inside an airplane bathroom. If I’m sitting in a window or middle seat then I’ll have to ask my neighbor(s) to get up so I can go relieve myself. If I walk down the hallway during the flight, I might stumble during turbulence and look foolish. If I reach the door, I might not know how to open it and stupidly fumble around for the secret lever. And, oh my goodness, if I get inside and close the door behind me, I might not understand how the astronaut toilet works.
One time I was flying out of Pittsburgh and after several delays due to computer malfunctions, the captain declared “we’re going to do things the old fashioned way!” A feeling of fear washed over me, but when I remembered cool people wouldn’t be scared of “the old fashioned way” it was immediately replaced by a morbid giddiness at the thought of potential disaster. Vintage is in, yo.
The lady sitting next to me was already terrified of flying without the added stress of ~*~*good evening ladies and gentlemen, tonight we’re kicking it old school and the plane is going to be piloted solely by the human mind, just relax and enjoy this smooth jazz*~*~ and she held her head in her hands.
Her husband did nothing but laugh and roll his eyes at her. I felt the same way he did and gave him a knowing glance as if to say “I feel ya, idk why flying is such terror?? it’s so groovy to chillax and meditate in the sky.” I also jokingly told the lady she could hold my hand during takeoff. Boy, was I surprised when she actually took me up on my offer. As soon as the plane started down the runway, she grabbed my hand tightly and didn’t let go until several minutes after we were stabilized in the air. And suddenly I was glad I hadn’t rolled my eyes and ignored her. I was able to use my ease and enjoyment of flying to help someone have a better experience.
My favorite part of flying is the takeoff. We are inside a bullet and the runway is a smoking gun. Grown adults clutch their armrests, close their eyes or go wide-eyed, and silently pray or beg for mercy. It is a moment where the world falls away and we are detached from it.
The people below seem so tiny and insignificant. We see tiny cars driven on tiny roads to tiny buildings. Tiny lawns mowed with tiny lawnmowers, tiny pools circulated with tiny particles of chlorine. Tiny brains thinking tiny worrisome thoughts. They should look up at us and wave and seethe with jealousy. We are racing the birds and touching the sun. We can see the curve of the sky, the shape of the rivers, the circles of agriculture, the peaks of the mountains. We are hanging above the clouds for an eternity, and the future does not exist. This is the perspective air travel offers us.
And then the moment shatters. The TV screen hanging on the back of the seat in front of you turns on and starts blaring commercials. Flight attendants push carts and sell overpriced snacks and alcohol. Phones turn back on and soothingly distract their owners with dumb games. The guy sitting next to you knocks out and starts snoring. A kid a few rows back throws a screaming tantrum. Various weird smells drift through the air. Your lower back aches.
It seems as though sometimes being in the moment of something is not as beautiful as seeing it from the distance of time, that everything has the potential to be kind of ugly up close. I wax eloquence about the poetry of flying, but only afterwards with the blurry perspective that time gives me. Being on a plane or airport is pretty nauseating much of the time. So is giving birth (I would assume so from all the screaming and moaning). I doubt I’d be thinking poetic thoughts while a bloody child is pushing its head through my vagina. But with perspective, women have written some pretty powerful stuff about pregnancy and childbirth.
The ending of relationships are beautiful just like giving birth. Beautiful in a god-awful-bloody-pain kind of way. I started writing this blog post while in a relationship, wrote the bulk of it right after getting dumped, and am now finishing it after having healed from the heartbreak pain.
It was a long distance relationship which had its own kinds of pains. No, long distance was a straight up bitch. It’s weird getting to know someone and letting someone get to know you with nothing but words. And then once you hang up the phone, it’s like they don’t exist. You don’t get to observe their mannerisms or how they interact with the different people in their lives or in different social situations. You’re dating each other but you don’t really show up in each other’s lives except for a notification ding.
One of the most magical feelings in the world is visiting a long distance boyfriend. Every time I’d meet eyes with him in the airport, I’d double take because he wouldn’t seem real after weeks of him being nothing but a picture behind a sheet of glass. Like the first time I went to a zoo as a kid and saw real life animals after looking at their pictures in books or the time I did a year of online high school and met one of my teachers halfway through the semester after months of only knowing her through audio recordings.
One time I was stuck in LAX for 24 hours and I coped by watching lots and lots of The Office on Netflix and halfway through my 27th episode, right after Ryan Howard said something funny, I looked up randomly and my eyes rested on BJ Novak standing ten feet in front of me. I gaped at him and he made eye contact with me for like 2.5 seconds and it was surreal.
But the best surreal sight is a long distance boyfriend. You can’t hug a zoo animal or a ninth grade English teacher or BJ Novak but you can sure as hell hug a boyfriend, and let me tell you, it’s an intoxicating feeling. They are real and warm with flesh and a heartbeat amongst folds of clothes and they smell amazing, and suddenly the months of missed calls, late night texts, poor connections, and lonely goodbyes become worth it. You feel as though you’re walking on air every time you look down and see your hand in theirs. Their laughter is so much more infectious in person.
It’s weird how the hellos and the goodbyes are punctuated by airports. The visits seem to be over in like five minutes even though they were supposed to last for several days. And then it’s time for another goddamn goodbye.
I get anxiety driving to the airport. My stomach is in knots during the entire car ride. There’s something about those curbside goodbyes or farewells at security where only one of you can get in line that tears at my heart. They hurt so terribly because you go from having a solid warm human in your arms to empty hands grasping at air.
It was super rough watching him get in line at security, knowing I couldn’t go with him. The last kiss he gave me burned my lips and I wished for the feeling to stay there permanently. I wanted to stand and wait until he had progressed too far into the airport for me to see him, but I forced myself to walk away and then drive away, picturing him flying away.
The last time I ever saw his face was in an airport and he was saying goodbye to me. The last time I ever heard his voice was over the phone a week later and he was saying goodbye to me. He was the honest one in the relationship. He was the one who said “long distance sucks and I can’t do it anymore”. I would have gone my entire life without being able to admit how hard the distance was.
There are two kinds of goodbyes: the one that promises there will be a hello in the future and the one that promises there won’t be a hello in the future. Both goodbyes leave sharp pangs of absense and longing in the heart—but one is substantially more painful. Air travel is cold like breakup goodbyes. These metal machines of transport are impersonal unfeeling vehicles of the most precious warm universe-filled cargo and one technical error could result in the crash landing of the plane and the crushing of their hearts.
Here’s a conversation I had a couple months ago.
Terry, former instructor at the City of Boulder City public pool who moved to Texas to be closer to her pregnant daughter but came back to Nevada for a visit: “Hey, how’s it going?”
Me, former lifeguard at the City of Boulder City public pool whose mother became the coordinator and was forced to quit due to anti-nepotism policies: “I’m okay. I don’t work here anymore.”
Terry: *laughs* “Neither do I, kid. See ya.” *walks out the door* *walks onto a plane* *flies back to Texas* *everything is bigger there*
After that rather small conversation, I suddenly felt good about all the loss in my life. It was her laugh that did it—that flagrant disregard for my so-called troubles in life. If an old lady named Terry could uproot her working retirement in a sunny suburb with two golf courses and move into a house where the tenants shot and killed raccoons and cougars without stepping off the back porch, surely I—a hardy 22 year old—could handle losing both my minimum wage job and my freelance wage boyfriend. Because, like, literally the only other option besides “handling it” is to throw on a red turtleneck, shrug my shoulders defeatedly, and say “guess I’ll die”.***
*** Please acquire a subscription to KnowYourMeme.com if you don’t understand my reference.
P.S. My sister has been in a long distance relationship for three years (coincidentally, their anniversary is today!) and knows so much more joy and pain from hellos and goodbyes than I do. Mine only lasted 6 weeks yet I somehow felt compelled to write an 8,000 word essay (cut down to 3,188 during final edits) on the woes of LDR. The mass amount of words my brain produces honestly scares me sometimes.
The fiction funnel
For years I’ve read books about writing and heard famous quotes about writing and even wrote a few things myself. But I had never put my heart into my writing until a few months before the end of last year. I was going through a breakup and my semester was coming to a close and I barely had any idea for the future.
It was Thanksgiving break and I was working on my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel while dealing with all these feelings. I was excited at first to have a channel for my emotions and to have inspiration for my book, but finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I tossed aside my novel and begin to journal: “Fiction writing is literally painful. I finally understand what it means to write with blood.”
The reason writing (specifically fiction) is so painful is because it’s a funnel through which our feelings flow.
When a person has a feeling, they think, “Oh, I’m sad.” It gets it out in a straightforward way. Maybe a few tears spill as well.
With funneling emotions and experiences through fiction, one must take care to not be quite so obvious. First, your experiences and emotions have to come through another character. They can’t come from the omnipresent voice of the author. The character gets their own voice and their own way of dealing with pain and trials. And they don’t just talk about how sad they are (at least the good books don’t). The emotions come out in the character’s actions or words that divert from their feelings. There’s theme to take into consideration. And plot. A character can’t just sit around moping about something that happened. The story won’t let them (the good ones).
When all the specifics are taken into a consideration, the funnel is in place. The large emotions pile up on top, but must be thinned out carefully so as not to look like vomit on paper. And that, is why writing is such a painful prospect. We must draw from our emotions and experiences, but they must be funneled and squeezed and strained and spread out so that the entire book is covered with them, not simply one page.
Perhaps all writers feel like Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring. “I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.”
Betrayal doesn’t bother me
I come from a place that offers every season and many forms of weather. It goes across the spectrum, and my house was a rainbow.
I’ve lived in both southern California and now southern Nevada for a short time. They share common weather traits, both known and adored for their semi-mild/warm patterns. I’m sure I could adapt, but probably not. Because it seems to me as though weather produces life.
I could never marry a man who had never navigated icy roads. Living in a place that is constantly changing and throwing things builds a lot of character. Character needed for survival in those kinds of places. It’s almost animalistic to live such harsh conditions.
I grew up on ten acres in Idaho, and my dad was constantly working. Repairing leaks, chopping wood, adjusting the sprinklers, tending crops (yes, among other things, we did grow potatoes), shooting pesky animals, mowing the lawn, or re-shingling the house because the wind blew them all off.
I love how the weather does not apologize for its being. It just is. Angry, happy, sad, frustrated–whatever it does, it does it full force. Weather where I lived will never be described as “wimpy”. More often, “shitty” or “bitchy.” Idaho never failed in its consistency of being an arbitrary force of betrayal. And I loved it.
It is as though my body aligns itself with the weather. When it changes, I change. The town I grew up in was slightly in a valley, but surrounded by mountains, and I guess that made it more prone for wind. There were maybe five days out of the year when there wasn’t noticeable wind. I thrived on the wind. My hair was alive in it and so were my insides. The earth was a moving art and the wind made it more evident, and my body took note.
There’s not much weather in Nevada. It’s cold, yes, but not noticeably cold. Cold like a refrigerator. It’s just there like a machine.
I feel a little bit, dare I say, lost.
My family wonders why they find me lying in the middle of the road, staring up it like I’m looking for something. Or sitting on top of the roof, curled up and shiving, waiting for the sun to rise.
It’s like I’m holding my breath. And so is the sky and the air. Waiting waiting waiting waiting. I’m waiting for something to happen. For the atmosphere to tell me how to feel. To tell me I’m still alive.
The best writer in the world
It was one of those days where I decided even before getting out of bed that I wasn’t getting dressed. The day became even lazier with the arrival of the afternoon sun. I slouched against the kitchen counter in my sweats, reaching into a bag of tortilla chips handfuls at a time and thinking about being productive. While my thoughts were running all over nothing, they turned to a game I sometimes play in my head when I’m feeling especially useless: the wishing game.
The wishing game is simple. I try to think of one wish that would improve my life the most. So, it might start off with, “I wish I was the strongest person in the world.” And then I’ll realize that being the strongest person in the world won’t really improve my life in the ways that I would want it to (living in a circus tent? Come on). Sometimes I’ll wish I was the smartest person in the world. And then I’ll decide that being the smartest person in the world would be too lonely for me. The point of the game is for me to run desired qualities through my mind and try to decide which one quality would best improve my life.
But that day I knew. It was suddenly clear to me. I took a deep breath and thought out loud, I wish I was the best writer in the world. It was fail safe. Writing was my number one passion in the world, so if I was the best at it, I would find the ultimate satisfaction. It would be great: people would buy all my books, I’d become super rich, and I’d feel like I was doing something with my life.
Then a strange thought passed through my mind: what if I already am the best writer in the world and just don’t know it? I tried to deny the thought at first. It was a ridiculous thought. All I had to do was open any book on my bookshelf and observe how much better that writing was compared to my own. Yet the idea persisted. Even Stephen King started somewhere, I realized. He had to learn the alphabet just like I did. He had to learn to spell the word c-a-t, just like I did. And just like I learned, he too learned to form simple sentences and ideas like, the boy ran.
When I was in community college for half a term, I took a simple English class and wrote a paper on writing and what made it good. I came to the conclusion that good writing cannot be so easily judged. I have come to another conclusion: every single person on the planet has the capability to be the best writer in the world. Why do I say that? The very act of writing is simply “marking coherent words on paper and composing text.” We write to communicate ideas. The definition of a good writer is one who can most effectively communicate an idea using words and letters already in existence.
So maybe I’m wrong on the idea that everyone is the best writer in the world. Obviously not everyone is good at effectively communicating through words. However, I do not think it’s a bad idea for individuals to hold that idea for themselves. There is definite power in belief. In the Bible, in Matthew 17:20, Jesus tells his disciples, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (NIV).
The verse isn’t actually talking about moving a physical mountain. Even an ant can move a mountain one pebble at a time. It’s more like a mountain of ideas. If you believe something can be done, the strength of your belief will show in your actions. Whether or not I am the best writer in the world (who’s to prove I’m not??) holding onto a belief that I am just might turn me into the bestest.
Nothing less than blood
The sprinklers were louder than normal, and the streetlights cast more contrasting glare than usual. I sat on some large rocks with a few of my college buddies, feeling like I was in a weird indie movie (even though I have only seen like one indie movie). Everyone was talking about everything unimportant.
One friend did start to go off on how surfing for the first time that day had felt like being in the presence of God, but after a minute he seemed to think better of his subject change and let the conversation drift back to tan lines and homework, and I stared at the volleyball net until my eyes watered.
I hopped off my rock and walked over to the streetlight by the volleyball court, stepping onto its base and wrapping my arms around the black pole. The cold metal felt good against my cheek. Suddenly, the panic that had been building in my mind and stomach all day joined together in my mouth. I spun to face my friends. “Do you guys ever feel like you’re wasting your life?” It was almost more of a demand than a question.
“Yes,” one girl answered, without even looking up from her phone.
“Well, I went surfing today,” answered the friend who had gone surfing earlier that day.
My eyelids twitched. Everyone turned back to each other. I sighed shakily. My muscles seemed to move detached from my brain, as I jumped down from the streetlight base and slipped on my backpack and began to walk down the path that lead to the main campus street.
“Where are you going, Ally?” everyone asked, almost simultaneously.
“Good night!” I called back.
My steps were extremely purposeful. I stomped back to my dorm. Some of my roommates were already asleep, or at least in the stage of eyes-closed-trying-to-fall-asleep. Ignoring all cares for their sleeping habits, I flipped on my bed light and powered up my noisy, run-down PC. In a moment, a blank Word document was glaring at me, cursor flashing impatiently. The very sight of it began to put my mind at ease immediately.
I’ve known since I was a little girl that writing was the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. How did I know? When I was younger, I was obsessed with horses. Completely infatuated. But I was always afraid that one day I would lose my interest in horses. And I was right: while I still love the beauty of horses, I no longer care to obsess over them and I go months at a time without even thinking about them. The same thing happened with my childhood dream of being a veterinarian. I was afraid that someday I would lose interest in that career field and I did.
But I was never afraid of losing my heart for writing and I haven’t.
However, if writing is my cigarettes, cocaine, or coffee, I’m not a very good addict. It’s the one thing that I am constantly trying to ignore my passion for. I need to not do this. I need to not do this. One of the reasons I often withdraw from writing, I’ve discovered, is that I’m afraid I’ll come to the realization that I’m not good enough to do the thing I want to do for the rest of my life.
Something that helps me in my writing endeavors is the thought that it’s not a completely selfish aspiration for me to want to write. Howard Thurman reassures me with these words: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
If that’s not enough of an encouragement to make me sit down and write a few words every once in a while, I need to give it all up and look for therapy.
This is your captain speaking
April 15, 2008 was the first day I began journalling for real. I remember the day clearly—I had written about the day in such detail that it is permanently ingrained in my memory. I don’t remember how the conversation had started, but I do remember sitting next to my best friend at church after service was over and her telling me how important journaling is. She said it was good to remember my thoughts or the things that I had done, because I could learn from them, instead of them being a wasted moment that I forgot in a few days.
Of course, I’d kept a couple of diaries when I was younger, bits of gossip written in purple and green gel pen, but it was never honest. I started that afternoon, formally introducing myself to the notebook and writing about how my friend told me it was important to journal. It was a beautiful piece of writing. I was ready to have my journal published like Anne Frank.
When I think back to those early days of journal writing, most of my emotions towards it are a strange mix of humor, pity, and sorrow. I didn’t have half as many problems as I lamented about having in my journal, but at the same time I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that it will be okay, just hang on darling.
If someone brings up an event from the past that I had happened to write about in my journal, I can easily recall it. I can almost see the words scrawled on the page in my hurried, squiggly handwriting. It’s not that I have a photographic memory—or maybe I do in a way. It’s almost like the very act of writing letters and words on paper was the same thing as writing letters and words in my brain. They became branded into my memory.
A little over a year ago, in November 2013, I decided to stop journaling. At the time I didn’t know what a difference it made in remembering things by writing them down. The only thing I knew about journaling was that it took a long time to write an entry each day and it was hard work trying to recall everything from the day and make story of it. Sometimes things that happened during the day were emotional or rough and I didn’t want to spend my relaxing evening time thinking back to those annoying things that had happened.
But a funny thing happened once I stopped daily recording the things in my life: I stopped remembering what happened. Literally. My clearest memories stop on the day I wrote I was never going to journal again. What a scary thought. When I try to call back memories of things that happened over the course of 2014, nothing comes up. Of course, I remember big, vague events like: working at the pool that summer, cutting my mullet off, helping out at a youth winter camp, etc.
But the details are slim.
Occasionally a person will ask me if a remember a specific event or thing I said or a thing I did. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Most clearly the things I remember are the things I wrote down. The things that aren’t really there are things that happened after I stopped journaling.
So, this poises a question: are things only important if you remember them? If they happened, and you don’t remember them happening, can you grow from them? Is a circumstance only have worth if it is something you can grow from?
While I ponder these questions and more, I have come up with a solution, perhaps temporary, perhaps permanent. It is called a logbook. Wikipedia calls a logbook, “A record of important events in the management, operation, and navigation of a ship.”
I stole the idea from the author, Austin Kleon, to keep a journal in the format of a logbook. A record of events of my day. If I don’t have the energy to slog through my emotions on paper, at least perhaps I could be a simple memory-keeper instead.
What every writer needs
It was a last minute effort that I was able to get a ride from California to Nevada to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I almost didn’t want to go because I was deep in the throes of NaNoWriMo and I didn’t think I had time to spare for them, but then I felt guilty for thinking that way and determined to spend much of my break in full on family mode. Most of it was spent with my sister with whom I am quite close.
The first full day I was there, my sister would periodically ask me throughout the day, “How many words have you written today?” “When are you going to write today?” “Why are you wasting time instead of writing?” and so on. I kept brushing off her concerns, preferring instead to stay where I was seated on the couch, the TV blaring a movie at me. Finally, my sister forced me to sit down at her desk with my laptop and to open my word document. “Stay in here and keep me company,” I pleaded, not wanting to be alone.
“No,” my sister said. I stared at her, confused. She was never that direct with me. She continued: “I’m not going to talk to you until you’ve reached your word count for the day.”
“Sixteen hundred sixty-seven words,” I whispered.
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll come back when you’re done.” She turned and walked out of her bedroom, closing the door firmly behind her.
I stared at the door, my sister’s words ringing in my ears and her abandonment creeping its way into my heart. I am a writer and a deep introvert, but I have a serious weakness: I suffer from incredible loneliness. It is very hard for me to be alone. And that is why being a writer is hard for me sometimes. Being a writer is to be alone.
It was something I realized as I sat at my sister’s old wooden desk, glaring at the blinking cursor. The art of writing is a very alone concept. One cannot write conjointly with someone else. It’s impossible. If I want to be a writer, and I know for sure that I do, then I must become used to the idea that my passion requires me to be alone in it. It requires me to voluntarily experience the pain of loneliness.
And my sister did the best thing she ever could for me. She saw my struggles with needing to be with someone, but she also saw that being a writer was more important to me. She didn’t engage in my silly cajoling, but ignored it and left me alone to write. I think someone like my sister is someone every writer needs in their life. Someone who can see their weaknesses but who can also see how important writing is to them and can do their best in assisting them in whatever will help them achieve their dreams.
Sometimes writers need a pep talk; other times all they need is a door shut in their face.