“Ecstasy is a glimpse of the infinite; horror is full disclosure.” ~Kirk J. Schneider
Lately I’ve been doing something that’s sending shivers of horror and ecstasy through my mind – rereading old journals.
Eight years’ worth of personal journals.
This isn’t the first time I’ve flipped through them since I started journaling. It is, however, the first time I’ve committed to reading every word of every journal weekly until I’ve read them all. I’m nearly done, and the process is shaking up my world.
Mostly I write about everyday life, but there are also sprinkles of short stories, ideas for longer stories, random thoughts, stream-of-consciousness prose, poems, business ideas, reflections, recordings of dreams, insights after meditation, and the occasional drawing – pretty much anything goes.
The horrifying part is that so much hasn’t changed in all these years. I’m still agonizing over the same old crap – finding the right livelihood, striving for greater work/life balance, longing for more time to create, worrying about my husband’s job, dreaming of personal and financial freedom.
Blah, blah, blah. You’d think I would’ve figured this stuff out by now.
Sometimes the sheer violence of my negative thoughts is embarrassing. So much whining, sniveling, and lamenting to God. He must get so sick of me.
On a positive note, I see a pattern of going through hardships and surviving. There are moments when my thoughts are way more positive than they should be, given what was happening at the time. My passions remain consistent – yoga, writing, gardening, reading, learning, being near the ocean, my home and family.
This last is especially encouraging. It means I don’t have to reinvent the wheel midlife. But I can see clearly now that I need to stop hoping and dreaming (and writing, perhaps) about the life I long for and start taking more action to create it. This isn’t to say there aren’t things I love about my life, but there are definitely areas that need improvement.
The ecstasy comes when I happen upon unexpected passages that resonate with me in a deep way, reminding me of sides of myself I don’t often see. In them I can see the longings of an artist struggling to break free, of a woman who wants to be fully and completely alive in an authentic way, but keeps falling short.
I’ve decided to unleash her a bit by sharing journal entries on my blog now and then. Below is one that reflects the conflict I often feel between my roles of wife, mother, and professional and that of simply being a woman.
Journal Entry, 1-23-08
So I am alone, walking the cliffs. Down below the ocean rages against the wind. White caps glow with anger. Farther down a few stupid surfers take their chances. How can they when there are hidden rocks jutting out of unseen places, hidden by angry waves and rolling sea? They are stupid, but they are alive, fully, completely, reveling in the wild water, alive for moments like this.
Rain begins to fall heavily just as thunder cracks in the distance, and I don’t care. Being here is my equivalent of surfing in choppy, rock-infested water. Within minutes my hair and clothes are soaked and clinging to my body. I feel sensual, with cotton clinging to my curves. I forget that I am a mother and a wife and an older sister. I am none of these things, but a woman, beautiful and daring in the moonlight of day.
Then I am cold and wet and want to go home. Now I am the stupid one. All the way home, I think how stupid I am.
Cliff Walk, Newport, RI