Yesterday was unproductive. So today I forced myself out of bed by 9AM! Only to feel drowsy and crawl back in at 9:30.
I re-emerged at 10:30, messed around online… then started writing “morning pages” around noon. I still haven’t made it a regular habit.
I looked at the 12-week plan I’d set for myself a week and a half ago and realized that nothing I’d planned to accomplish in the first week was done, which left all the following weeks looking impossible. So I set to writing in my morning pages about how I make plan after plan and action never follows.
I got distracted then, writing about how I ought to do this and that, jumped up and suddenly needed to tend to one thing, and then needed to find something to do with that thing, and couldn’t find it, and while searching for the other thing came across an old journal.
Old journals, usually about 1/4 filled, are always cropping up to mock me. In various baskets and boxes, on bookshelves, in the storage room.
I start one, lose it, start another, find the first. This annoys me – that I don’t have nice organized journals. Maybe I think if THEY were organized it would make their content (my life) seem like it has a shape and order and story to it.
Some are themed: “Gratitudes,” “Accomplishments” (a big fat pretty one, with 6 pages used), “weight, diet, fitness plans.” Others are randomly begun on random days, talking about the current state of affairs. Speaking to my future self, describing the state of affairs: “So here it is, June 30th, I am 29 1/2 years old today… ” “November 9th, 2005, Today is the 15 year anniversary of the accident.”
I usually scan a few pages when I find one. I don’t know what insight or nostalgia I’m expecting. It’s always the same thing.
For every journal I’ve kept since age 8, there are aspirations and affirmations and “write it down make it happen” sorts of pledges, “visioning sessions,” PLANS, with dates. Supposedly, that’s how you become one of the productive people. You WRITE DOWN your specific, concrete, measurable goals and you make PLANS and you be sure to provide DATES.
By age X: hot body, awesome butt, lose 10 lbs, make some friends, a career, I need a career, a home I love, tidyness, marriage, LOVE, creativity, a family, a baby….
So it was with the journal I found today, from 2003.
And another I found down in the storage room not 30 minutes later, from 2005.
Calendars, timelines, even sketches of myself as I’d like to be, muscular and skinny or wedding-gown-clad with a sweetheart neckline or whatever. All this mental effort and time and carefulness and detail.
I always believed that if you could just envision it, and describe it to yourself vividly, make S.M.A.R.T. goals, and convince yourself of the TRUTH and virtue and attainability of the goal… then you could get yourself to the promised land.
Evidently, it takes more than that.
It’s 2008, now, nearly 2009… (this sounds exactly like the beginning of a new journal), and it’s heartbreaking. It’s breaking my heart to look at these pages. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands written since age 8, all saying the same thing, over and over and over. So many earnest or exuberant pages of I WILL HAVE A LIFE! and not one thing different between then and now.
Little things, sure. I live in a new place, Rob is FINALLY more or less out of my life (that was a plan I’d made starting 4 goddamn years ago “This fall I will do it.”(2004) “Before my birthday.”(2005) “Why have I forgiven him again?”(2006) “Valentine’s day is my deadline.”(2007) At least, at the very least that’s one thing that’s finally accomplished.
Still, NONE of the other life areas that I continually vowed to change has budged. Not a bit. My job has been the same P/T paycheck-to-paycheck, barely covering expenses and saving nothing job for 9 years. 9 YEARS. From 25 to 34. I didn’t grow or learn new skills or take on new responsibilities or gain mastery at anything. I graduated from a top notch school and this was all I managed with the first half of my adult life, to be someone’s part-time work-from-home assistant, with no health insurance and no savings. I can’t even imagine what my father would have thought if he’d lived to see this.
It’s shameful is what it is. Shameful. It’s wrong-headed. This is no life.
Yet I live this non-life, day after day, every day roughly the same, and somehow, it just goes on. I keep saying, I can’t live like this. And then I do, for one more day.
walking in circles from the bedroom to the living room to the kitchen and back. Browsing the internet. Watching TV. Feeling vaguely that I ought to get on the ball and do something… maybe tidy up, read a book to its end, apply for a few jobs, start working out.
If I can just get in shape, things will change! I’ll start right away. Everything is going to change. Let me start a new journal. Let me make a plan. I’m going to start WRITING AGAIN! Let me start the artist’s way, let me make a STRUCTURE! A structure is what I need… And then the journal stops and 200 blank pages flip by, representing what? Another blank year, maybe? The real record of my life? The truth?
Another journal starts with enthusiasm, and then blankness again.
It’s as if all the notebooks are actually filled. They’re like the art installations with blank canvases, or the Beckett play involving nothing but a sigh. Fully representative of how life really is: boring and disheartening as hell.
So, I’m in a funk. (Can you tell?) A major goddamn funk. It feels approximately like this:
I am reminded of the case of H.M. He has had brain surgery to fix a seizure disorder, and afterward can no longer form long-term memories. He knows who he is and about his life before, but he can only hold on to the last few minutes of short-term memory. He can’t remember what he did yesterday or even this morning, ever again.
So, H.M. does nothing but journal to remind himself of his life. Mundane things. What he’s eaten for breakfast, that he fetched the mail, who knows what. It’s the same jottings about, essentially, the same day. Page after page, notebook after notebook.
Is that me?
Is there’s something wrong with me? There’s got to be something wrong. I don’t know what it is – whether it’s something wrong with my brain, or some psychological issue from my childhood. How is it possible that this is my life? All these pointless scribblings?
I want to be hopeful. I want to believe that eventually I’ll find the key, the courage to DO something, to move beyond pondering and planning into Action. But, the journals all talk about that hope. I’ve given myself Rah Rah Rah talks and reassurances a million times. THIS time. THIS time! THIS TIME!!! it will be different.
Every time, I convince myself. It’s a brilliant new angle on changing my ways, a perfect new system, a method, an escape. A way out of this life into that other life. A way of making the leap!
Every time, the impetus to act, follow through, obey my own suggestions, is absent. Any plan could have worked. I just keep slipping away from myself, out of my own grasp. Forgetting myself. Letting laziness win.
It’s like a long drowning. Moments of bright clarity, a big gasp of air, a lot of thrashing around and ebullient HOPE! journal journal journal! Followed by dreamless confused blub-blub-blubbing, cursing at the phone when it rings and waiting for it to stop, cuddling with the cats, rooting through the refrigerator and cabinets. Another burst through the surface, more timelines and convictions. And silence again.
Is this life? A long drowning that will end when I eventually stop thrashing back up and let go for good the idea of having a life?
If so, does it matter? Billions of people have walked the earth. Surely in the grand scheme people don’t really matter. Maybe I could get comfortable with the fact that I don’t matter and that I’m just going to muddle through, the way most people have done since the beginning of time. Maybe I could relax and accept it. It’s bearable. It’s completely bearable. Like spending 60 or 70 years in a waiting room until you keel over.
What kind of a life is that? God this makes me mad. At least I could be having some fun while I’m here. Venture out the door. Go out into the hallway. See if there’s anyone to fall in love with or something. Anything at all to do…
So how do I change? How do I make anything be different? I ask this again, for the n+1th time.
Is my crumpled up little forgetable life, tucked away in this apartment among these dusty collections of self-help books and journals and messy dishes and laundry on the floor my life? Is this really what my existence is for? That’s it? It’s a joke!
The sort of joke where people say, don’t joke about that, it’s not funny.
That’s where I’m at today. This mood will pass. Of course it will. I’ll be cracking open a brand new journal and uncapping a spanking new pen any minute now!
Apologies for the long note. In case you are subscribed to me and it’s taking up space that could have been filled with something uplifting. Apologies for being a downer. No one likes a downer. I learned that in high school.
It’s okay. It’ll be okay. I’ve got my new moon calendar going… things are going to change this time. I’m different. I’ve learned from my mistakes. I know better how not to do it. Success only happens when you’re willing to fail one more time. I have to make myself willing, again, faithful and hopeful and willing to try. A man can fail many times, but he’s not a failure until he gives up. (From a recent fortune cookie.)
Okay GODS! oh spirits! oh crinkly strings of teensy tiny vibrating nothingness that make being BE! HEY YOU! Something BIGGER THAN MYSELF! Down here. Help me. Help me find a way to matter, to myself, at least.