Monday, December 14, 2009

book of days and bagpipes

Some days you must learn a great deal.

But you should also have days when you

allow what is already in you

to swell up and touch everything.

- E. L. Konigsburg

Today, I read Brin’s post called {Book of Days} on one of my new favorite blogs. {My Messy, Thrilling Life}. It’s another post from her archives, but it got me thinking.

She writes:

I've kept a diary since I was 12, which was about the same time my Great Grandmother, Mary Tankursley, advised me to always use moisturizer and keep a diary. These two things, she said, you'll never regret.

I haven't. Throughout my teen and college years, I dutifully wrote in my diary several times a week. The pages are full of big letters and heavily underscored sentences that spell out detailed exasperations with parents, first loves, and school. As I transitioned into my 20s, the writing grew smaller... tighter... stressed... and shorter entries mentioned money and job and boyfriend woes. When I turned 25 and bought Freeman House, diary keeping as I had always known it came to a stop. If you, I thought, plan to continue to ink all your daily frustrations and challenges, you will fill all the books in all the world....

So I did this: I bought a small but thick - blank and fresh - leather bound book. I bought a brown pen. And I made a point, several times a week, to open it and write... or even sketch... not what frustrated me, but what delighted me. Not what tore my soul apart, but what made my soul sing. Instead of detailing a bad day, I went back, back, back in my memories and thought of a good one. When I had a particularly horrible day, I made a list of the most wonderful days of my life. (I refer to that list still, whenever I have a bad day.) Poems, scriptures, quotes, jokes, fortune cookie predictions, paper clippings... they've all been pasted and penned inside. And slowly, over the last two years, this tiny book has filled with the sweetest moments, the loveliest memories, and the happiest thoughts and dreams and wishes a life can hold.

I call it my Book of Days, and it's one of my favorite things.


I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, my habitual journaling has slowed to an almost hault.

I have kept a journal since I was 12. I think I have mentioned this before. I began writing the afternoon my uncle died. I remember laying on my parent’s bed with my mother, who had just returned from the hospital for the last time. We layed together, diagonally across her comforter in silence for a long time. I remember silently crying, my face turned away from hers. I didn’t want to see her cry. But she was. I could feel it, but couldn’t bare to see it.

I don’t think I understood death back then. Still don’t really. But I know the sadness scared me. Still does.

I broke down at the wake. I saw the casket and I lost it. I remember being embarrassed at the thought that I was crying in front of strangers. My mother’s eyes looked tired and sad. My other uncle stood with me at the casket as my eyes dried and I remember thinking how strange it was that he came to my rescue as my parents watched. Or didn’t even see, I can’t remember it now. They probably couldn’t either.

Days later, I offered to watch my two now fatherless little cousins during the funeral so my aunt could mourn without distraction. I’m not sure where it came from, but even at this early age, I did all I could to get out of attending the funeral. And I succeeded.

I stayed back, at my parent’s house with the little ones as everyone else, clad in black and navy and grey, made their way to mourn and grieve and celebrate. I missed the bagpipers, and to this day regret it. I should have went, but fear kept me away. Still does sometimes.

All this to say that it was in that week that I began to find my voice on the page. And although it has often been neglected, it is a voice I cannot lose.

So, as the year winds down and I am reminded of the past as I look forward to the future, I will try to do as Brin has done and keep a memorial of the good.

If you, I thought, plan to continue to ink all your daily frustrations and challenges, you will fill all the books in all the world....

So, I will not do that, and will try not to let this space do that either.

And my book of days continues on.


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