Sunday, March 29, 2020

When the World Closed

~Going off-topic for the special circumstances in March. The journals can wait.~ 

There were inklings earlier, but we didn’t pay attention. Until my sib called with a drive to deal with contingencies of my elderly parents, when we decided not to come to the office again, and on that last day, when I scored the last dental hygiene appointment before their office closed down. Food shelves bare, the lone box of cauliflower pasta in the section, and the media exploded with toilet paper shortages. My work engagements were canceled, complicating my emotional and financial circumstances. I read posts from friends across the world, trying desperately to get home amid unpredictable travel schedules and uncertain information.

Then began the charts, the trajectories, the questions. Here at the end of the road in Maine, we felt safer as the bodies piled up in New York. I drew upon the emergency coping mechanisms, honed from Alaskan weather events, and Cambodian political uncertainty. Tried to stay certain in my strength, and bring in the Buddhist grounding of breath in turmoil.  

I organized the yarn stash and knit my way through stuff that was hanging around forever. I reconnected with old friends. I remained thankful for everything around me. The last two weeks in March passed as a brew of fear, isolation, and coping, hope for the future.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Journey of Old Journals: Getting Started

I'm summarizing my old journals for as long as it takes.
Essay #1

As 2020 began, I finished the Year in Review, applied for and received my 50-year commemoration medal from Joslin Clinic, and wondered what was next for the blog. When I unpacked the boxes of journals in May of 2019, I made a vow to not move them to another living situation. The notebooks are in two large produce boxes, filled with spiral and bound, lined and unlined, chronicles of personal history that haven’t been reviewed since I went through the first phase a reflective purge in 2009. I spent over $100 to ship them by media mail from Alsaka to Maine, and they lived in the basement for a few years until I moved into my new place. They are piled up, now labeled by year, and gathering dust.

In this next year (and, perhaps, as long as it takes) I am going to read my way through them, lines and lines of boring, self-involved prose. I’ll summarize, and try to keep it interesting, engaging and universally relevant. It will be a slog, but after I’m done with each stage, I’ll have the opportunity to burn them in a righteous purge. Let them go. Reduce the baggage. 

My journals have largely been a friend, a standby kept alongside to collect thoughts, make lists, maintain resolution on goals (some of which have been on the agenda since my 20s) and process through any of the things I was experiencing at the time. For much of the pages, there is a lot of introspection and inward processing, all the nights I spent drinking, or on the road, or otherwise talking to the page. While this is an important function, I’m not sure it makes sense to move them again. 

The first journal I have is from 1975. I’m not sure what was real or what wasn’t, but in the sporadic pages, I  mentioned running away from home, about fear of menstruation, about not fitting in and difficulty in making friends and of others that were really good friends, of boyfriends (largely imagined), and discovering cigarettes. 

I started that secret habit (1975-2008 ish) when a friend and I purchased the said cigarettes from a vending machine in the BurgerKing in a small commercial hamlet within a long bike ride from the house. The journals triggered the awkwardness of Jr. high and the uncertain discomfort of early adolescence. In reviewing the letter to a friend written during a Thanksgiving trip to Hawaii with my family and grandmother in 1978, I used the word “mint” to describe good experiences. The journal helped me remember buying a green T-shirt that said: “smoke Hawaiian” (looked good with my tan), went through our ten-day trip to Hilo to Kona, to Ioa valley to Kauai to Waikiki. There,  my sister and I (15 and 13) walked the beach at night and accepted an invitation from a quiet Native guy to smoke joints while sitting on the sand, an experience I still remember. 

With this first review, the first odd bits of this project is done. Those journals have from the bookshelf to the paper bag, ready to be destroyed. Now, onward to the 80’s.