The Blessings of Keeping a Journal

Earlier this afternoon I was talking with a friend who has tolerated me for almost forty years. I reminded her that she had met my sister Deb when Deb came to visit shortly after I moved to Eugene. I couldn’t remember the year. 1984? 1985? It’s not that I have forgotten everything; I just have bad organizational skills and can’t retrieve information. Names and Dates. I remember that my mom died on a Tuesday in November in 1972, but I don’t remember the specific date except Richard Nixon was re-elected that date. I remember I had my Kidney removed in 1988. I’m guessing it was May, soccer season. If I do the math, I can figure out when my dad died. It was July.

I am blessed with being able to look things up. At least the early years are printed. Typing was the closest thing I had to a computer. Being hard-wired for hard-copy, I printed my journals. Not only did I print my journals, about two hundred pages a month, but I indexed each month. Talk about time consuming, especially when I had photographs and text that had to be fixed.

And then I became a full-time teacher and gone was the time. It was no longer a matter of no time to clean a document up, but I had no time to write. A forty hour job easily became a sixty to eighty hour a week job. If I had only taught English, my sole credential, forty hours might have done the job, but I had to teach everything. Don’t get me wrong, I was willing and managed to do so for five years, but some things had to give. Bowling and my Journal.

It didn’t take me quite as long to develop a journal routine. Email has really saved the day in that respect since I include emails from everyone into my journal. Most people know. Unfortunately, some take the brunt of my need to write and get rather long-winded emails. Given the chance, I’ll babble. Most of my babbling happens in journals, though blogs sometimes get that treatment when I don’t know when to just shut up or at least stay on the same subject for a paragraph or two.

There is a blessing I feel for having so much of my life written down and that I kept my journals. It took me so much work and discipline to stick with it that it’s the least that I can do to celebrate my persistent nature, though it does help to be obsessive-compulsive.

I remember that my sister Deb visited Eugene, though in retrospect, I think my Dad sent her to check up on me and to report whether I had been abducted by some cult or something and would need intervention.

He was sort of right, but I wouldn’t consider the Wings organization a cult.

But my sister’s visit came before I got my act together. Perhaps I’d remember the year, but since I don’t remember even the year I moved to Oregon, which was the tidal wave in  the events in my life. Overall, in my 57 years, I have been lucky that colossal collisions with the shitty moments in life have been few. Life’s been easier a lot more days than harder, and I have proof. Lots of it.

While standing in front of a narrow bookcase at my early journals, September 1984 jumped out at me. For a brief moment, I got to be with my sister Deb. Saturday, September 1, 1984. 9:53 p.m. (Yes, I am that anal) “Quite a day!” (This is a handwritten entry, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that exclamation point was the only one written in many months. I wrote slowly and hated making mistakes. I would just put a few neat lines through the offending letter. “Deb and I went to Saturday Market and had a good time walking around. I came home with two kittens! Deb wants to call them Bonnie & Clyde. Clyde is a black male and Bonnie is a grey female. They were born the Tuesday after July 11th. Cancer babies. (Before I moved to Eugene, I had no idea what my sign was. Three months later, it became my guiding light.)

It turned out that Bonnie was really a boy; obviously I hadn’t had any feline experience to help identify genders, but Bonnie became Stanley and Clyde became Oliver.

It had taken me a few tries of journaling in a spiral, to finally resort to three-ring binders. To be able to read a letter that my sister Barbara wrote to me thirty-three years ago is such a treat. Yes, I keep everything.

Sometimes I read things that surprise me. I almost named the kittens Ying and Yang. I called them Ying and Yang for a day or two. Then it became Hardy and Laural. Eventually they would become Stanley and Oliver. Mostly I called them grey and black. Ying and Yang were names that settled on a pair many years later, which is still misspelled; they are my current cats. I wonder if Oliver had a different name, he would have been protected from River Road, but a black cat on a busy road didn’t stand much of a chance.

I hope my journals have gotten better over the years, but there are times when I haven’t the slightest idea what I was talking about. I’ve got an entry from September 5, 1984 where there was a person that I had to talk to on the phone, but I don’t say who it is! Maybe the memory will float to the surface, but probably not. The mysterious she.

Sometimes I am surprised that I even made it out of my twenties and thirties. I didn’t always take care of myself. This isn’t an unusual story by any means, but I do feel pride in persevering and hope this will help motivate me to keep pushing on. After all, the alternative isn’t so great.

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