The Horror and Ecstasy of Facing Yourself on the Page

“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.

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

Journal entry

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

Cliff Walk, Newport, RI

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12 thoughts on “The Horror and Ecstasy of Facing Yourself on the Page

  1. Interesting post and process you’ve gone through. I think many of us may find the same kind that the issues we had when we were younger are still with us today. You’re fortunate in that you recognize it because of what you’re doing.
    The next to last paragraph of your journal writing shows me who you believe you really are or want to be. The last short paragraph tells me you’re much too hard on yourself and doubt that same person.
    I’ve always believed you gave two choices in these situations. Create change or accept and find happiness where you are.

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    • George, thank you so much for your thoughtful remarks. You are spot on that I am constantly battling between my true nature and who I think I’m supposed to me, and that I beat myself up about the former. And I am constantly battling between accepting what is and wanting something different. I knew you studied literary analysis in college from reading your blog, but have you ever studied psychology? You’re very good at it.

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      • I wonder if this is the battle that each and every one of us fight?! Our true natures get stamped out during our childhoods and it can take a lifetime to unleash them fully again. Sometimes our truth bubbles up and we get surprised by what it reveals 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful post! Ironically, my mother has returned a few old journals to me. I’ve gone through them, and it is amazing to see how far I’ve come yet at the same time, how much I still want the same things. Very cool ~*

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    • Thanks for reading! It is amazing to read where our minds were at once. You’re so fortunate that your mom saved your journals. At one point I almost burned mine, but I’m glad I decided not to. Some day, if I’m blessed to live to be a very old lady, I hope to use them as a reference for writing my memoir for my grandchildren.

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  3. I love this post! I did the same thing a few months back, started trawling through the old journals, and it was a surprise to see how the same themes kept reappearing year after year, the same struggles, questions, yearnings, with no real change. It was such a huge realisation that nothing changes unless you make different choices. And the power of seeing the themes you are working on and who you are, through your writing, is a revelation. Thanks for sharing x

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    • I completely agree, Laurelle. It’s eye-opening to see the same themes replaying themselves over and over. I had to actually see it to realize it. The hard part is making the different choices. This takes courage and faith. Sometimes it’s easier just to stay afraid. I really appreciate you reading, and I’m so glad you’ve shared a similar experience.

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  4. Lol…I took a few courses but I spent a good part of my professional life in Human Resources so you get to know and see people in many different ways. Human nature is an interesting thing to observe and I love listening and watching..:)
    Free advice for you whenever it’s needed..:)

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  5. One of the things I like best about your blog, Kim, is its honesty! You never put up a “false front,” but instead write very eloquently about what you are thinking and feeling. And I think that’s what makes your post resonate so much with other people. I don’t journal, but I know what it’s like to struggle with the same issues, year in and year out. I think most people do, because change is hard and life is complicated. Maybe the answer is just to take one step at a time toward the future you want?

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