I recently found my 100-page diary (titled Night and Day), which I maintained in a password-protected Word doc from the summer of 2006 to the summer of 2009. It’s solid-gold humiliation material. So much moony behavior; so deadly serious most of the time, too. I was very dramatic about boys, of course, and there was a lot of hyper-piety in there, too, along with some vapid musings about what I was reading and thinking about. It’s tremendously entertaining and it wants to make me bite all my nails off.
Ten years hence, it is nice to be older, to be relatively self-aware. I no longer look at myself as this grandstanding literary heroine. I feel very subdued and normal and problematic. But I still wonder if I will feel a similar sense of shame when I am 38 and I stumble on this blog.
My life is so good right now, and I wouldn’t change anything about its domestic arrangement, but I was thinking about how fun and lively it was when it was just the nuclear family: the four siblings and Mom and Dad, at home together all the time. We had a really good time together, the Original 6. We were noisy and all-consuming and imaginative. We spent a lot of time outdoors, and if we were indoors, we were dressing up in costumes and building sofa forts and Lego universes. Mom and Dad gave us this childhood that I recall as this unbroken reel of happiness. I shared a big bedroom (the Harem) with Kelsey and Grace during my last years at home, and it was the most fun and the most annoying all at once. We were always in each other’s business.
(I’ve been digitally archiving piles of family photos, and it’s making me feel nostalgic.)
This rush of nostalgia helps me understand, for the first time, how sad my family was when I went to college. Being the eldest, I was the first to go; I was elated and I couldn’t even fathom why they were so gloomy. But I understand a bit of it now. They weren’t going to miss me (I was a skinny tyrant) — they were mourning the loss of wholeness of the family.
It is necessary and good that children grow up and want to leave home. Can you imagine the hellishness if we all still lived with our parents and tried to replicate our childhood relationships with them and our siblings, forever? I recognize this fully. But I still like to indulge in that sweet sadness of remembering what was. It is good to remember and to be happy for what you shared together.
In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.
WEEK 1: MORNING PAGES
I’m married to a full-time poet and musician and most of my closest friends are legitimate artists: painters, writers, dancers, and so forth. This means that I’m often very intimidated when I attempt to exhibit creativity of any kind. I can work on my calligraphy or take fuzzy photographs or scribble halfhearted stories into a notebook, but I dare not call myself an “artist” or even a creative person. I’m surrounded by so many serious–and seriously talented–artists that I wouldn’t dare join their throng in any tangible way.
I talk to Emily a lot about this. Emily is an artist–a dancer, a poet, a costume designer, and a basket-weaver–and she is equally intimidating in her talents. But she’s always encouraged me to artistic pursuits, despite my protestations. A few weeks ago, she sent me a copy of Julia Cameron’s workbook for stifled creative people, called The Artist’s Way. It’s a program designed to help frustrated artists or people like myself, who want to be creative but can’t get over their self-consciousness, to start making art. Some of the chapters are pretty hokey, but some are really encouraging.
One of the tasks that Cameron forces her students to do is write “morning pages.” Morning pages are essentially a brain dump of three handwritten pages right after you wake up. The goal is to get yourself in the habit of expressing thought in an uninhibited manner. This, supposedly, will allow you to loosen your self-conscious chains. For my first week of challenges, I wanted to try to write morning pages every day.
WHAT I LEARNED:
Coming up with stuff to write when you wake up is difficult. But maybe that’s the point?
At first, I wrote a lot about weather, mostly complaints about how cold it was still. But as I kept writing each morning, my thoughts seemed to diverge and I was actually able to write about the things I was thinking. Like, can you call a graphic novel a novel? Or, why is grapefruit so delicious in the winter?
I have a very well-documented and boring life.
I might try to keep doing it.
Next week’s challenge: Daily yoga. Grace, this is all your fault…