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, March 1, 2020

Journey of Old Journals- 1976-1977

 April 22, 1976

"This is a notebook that is going to be filled with everything I feel. When I'm happy, sad, or depressed, I am going to write it here.  I'm 14 right now. I'm a diabetic. There are a lot of problems with being diabetic. First, you have to take a shot every day, and you have to pee in a stupid little cup so you can test. 

I like boys if they are nice.  

I am ugly. My mother thinks I have pretty eyes, mostly you can't see them because I wear glasses. I wear braces and I hate them. My doctor thinks I should go a shrink. I don't think so. I have been to enough psychiatrists to know ever since I was a little kid. Tell more later."

This journal was the story of transformation: of leaving the 7th and 8th grade Junior High, filled with passive bullying and all the adolescent awkwardness, to embark on the dynamic arena of high school. 

By September 1977, I'd started my freshman year by drinking beers two weekends in a row. I was enamored with being bad, literally excited by intoxication and the reckless abandon it created in my mind. I started smoking cigarettes, and 3 months later I smoked pot for the first time. These actions created friends and a community of rebellion.  

I lost my virginity in Maine that summer, on the shores of Lake Pemaquid, under a large pine tree with a young man I was enamored with, who worked at the Boathouse. We smoked a lot of pot, but everything changed after that moment. He was crushed that I succumbed to attention without caring or a commitment., that he was the one who did the deed. In fact, I was happy to get it over with and move on.  My mother was furious with how late I stayed out, The blood on my underwear was a marker, a milestone, a jump off a cliff with no relationship to sustain me through the freefall of emotions.  My family never went back. 

The rest of the summer I spent with an older friend from High School at Kaal Rock Park, which was a large parking lot next to the Hudson River. Teens who had cars would gather, blast music from speakers, shoot the shit, and drink. My buddies and I would stop by the convenience store and cover for me by purchasing 6 packs of Genny Cream  Ale, wearing nice outfits, and there to encounter personalities from the rest of the city. Our sheltered suburban life had minor forays into the city.  Poughkeepsie the city was crumbling down, a failed pedestrian mall replacing a vibrant Main Street.  The cops had other things to worry about, so the teens were left t their own relatively harmless devices. I know there were incidents, eventually, as the world around us got rougher and cocaine arrived. 

"The day after tomorrow school starts. It's a new beginning but it also means the end of the Summer of 1977,  The summer of wasted days and wasted nights, of my first lay, but most of all-- the summer of a different kind of me. The one that thinks I can be really cute and funny and sexy if I am in the mood.  It's really been my summer."

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.