Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why I'm Not at the YMCA -- and other tales

There is no truth.  There is only perception.  
Gustave Flaubert

I'm supposed to be at the Y. Sweating. I'm not.

I'm enjoying a morning at home. The Y is open every day, isn't it? How often does one get to enjoy a morning at home? Alone?

This is what I'm telling myself as I sit in my favorite spot - my bed. I have this view to my backyard  if I just lift my head ...

And this view, if I look to my right.

And all my crap spread out on the bed before me. Journal, book, phone, computer, coffee cup.  Lunch. What more could you want?

Well, there is that svelte body the Y reminds me I want.  And the gratitudes I haven't written yet today.  I'm also in need of a new journal for this morning I finished my old one and once again it is time to make a new one.

I've long been an advocate of journal writing, dedicated to the cause, anxious to write in it every day. Not only does it provide an avenue to bitch, but also a place to share my ideas, joys, novel notes, New Yorker covers, stickers ranging from tea cups to birds. An email or letter from someone I want to save. A hatred I want to rid from my brain. An event I want to remember. A plan to improve myself. Another plan to improve myself.

Yes, my journal pages are personal. I don't worry about what I've written for I'm fairly certain no one will ever read them. Anyone willing to peruse the pages would probably die of boredom and if they perchance came upon that one little nugget here and there, most likely they'll have flipped past it while yawning.

For years, before children and with children, I started journals. I don't know how many I had with only a few entries before I forgot about it. Five entries seemed to be a magic number before I no longer remembered the dedication I'd sworn to uphold. Finally, finally about 15 years ago I began a much more defined foray into my thoughts. I'd read where if you did something 21 times in a row, it would become habit.

I passed my newfound knowledge onto my mother as I sent her another pretty blank book to collect her memories and thoughts. "Twenty-one days in a row, Mom. That's all we have to do." (I also used that method to entice her to wear her seatbelt. Twenty-one times, Mom. Then it will become habit. "I just don't like being confined.")

Need I add that when I cleared my mom's house I found most of those journals I'd sent - complete with empty pages. However, there were many a plain old spiral notebook filled with incredible gems of her thoughts and past.

To each her own in the type of journal, but I digress. The point of this story is that I didn't get to the Y because I wrote my three morning pages in my journal this morning and I finished the last available page. Twas time to put it up and create a new one.

I keep old journals on the top shelf of a bookcase in the bedroom.

Up there on the top shelf. That black binded stack. Here's another reason why I know no one will ever read my old journals. None of the men in my family would look up that high. My husband sleeps in this room every night for sixteen years and he probably doesn't even know there is a bookshelf in there. Even though that's his baseball signed by somebody famous on the second to top shelf. (Okay, he probably knows that is there but chances are that is all he sees on that shelf.)

That's my Michigan State football music box. Go Green!

Anywhoo, when I went to add my newly finished journal to the shelf I discovered the stack was crammed to the top. Therefore, I needed to move that stack to this box in my closet (which I'm also certain no one in my family knows is there. See, you all know stuff now that those closest to me don't.)

Before adding them to the box, I spread them out on my bed and leafed through a few of them.

What I found surprised me. Even though it was a healthy stack of writing, the journal I'd completed before this one today encompassed almost two years of time. That the one I had finished this morning only the past year. That the other sixteen covered the three years before that.

I knew that the last few years I'd become remiss. That events in my life had left me cold for words. That those years, although filled with many joys, had been hampered by a few deaths. But still, so few words during a time of such activity and emotion.

I blame my Midwestern upbringing.

Something about stiff upper lips. Something about don't brag and, most certainly, don't whine.

Okay, I get that. But it never occurred to me that that thinking would transfer to my personal thoughts in a journal. That the times that rang high through graduations and weddings I couldn't translate into words on my morning pages. Having too much fun. Or that the events and emotions leading up to and after the deaths of my parents wouldn't convey either. Much too painful.

Perhaps it was my Midwestern upbringing in regard to the bragging. Perhaps I was just a chicken shit for the whining.

At any rate, it is time to make a new journal. Obviously I make my own. Here are my ingredients:

Empty pages - spirals, black-spotted line or blank book
Paper - either scrapbook paper, old wrapping paper, newspaper, whatever appeals on the day

Construction paper for inside flaps
Ribbon for a placemarker
Spray glue

And there you go. A new journal.

Here are my choices today, always based on mood, for my next journal.

Butterflies. For new beginnings.


  1. You are most amazing! Keeping journals all those years, and making them from scratch yourself? So that you know, most of us propose keeping journals, but we hardly do a page or two in any one year. Or so I assume.

    If it were not for blogging, I would not ever write my thoughts down. What excuse do I have since I'm not a Midwestern?

  2. I have journals that date back to 1988. For a while, I have wondered what to do with them; wondered what my kids would think if they were ever to read them. The person they know is not the person I was. I've always been pretty much normal, but do I want to overshadow the person I've been to them with my less mature younger version?

    Since reading a post of Barb's (Live and Learn), I've decided to trash them. They were good for me as yours are good for you. I love how you've personalized them; in actuality, they are part of you.

    I'm rambling...

    Summing up... I get the day that you're having--the quiet, the view out the window, the thoughts, the beverage, etc. Sometimes we need these kind of days more than we need the gym.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

    ps. always liked that quote

  3. I've never been the journal keeping type. It's all I can do to keep a blog afloat.. and that's not exactly a journal for me. You are to be commended. So cool that you also design and construct them. I think you've earned your morning in bed. :)

  4. I feel that my blog posts are much like your journal entries. Who is interested. Sure, there are few gems here and there, but most of the entries are a big yawn, except to me, of course. I do like the blogs ability to word index posts so that you can search through them. But who knows how long these will be archived?

  5. I tried but never kept at it.I was told to do 1000 words a day to become a famous writer, but lasted only a short time.

  6. I laughed about how your hubs prob doesn't know you have a bookshelf. I kept journals from age 15 to 22. Just think--all that would be f'booking, tweeting and instagraming if today. I like the image of all your comfies spread on the bed.
    --Michele R.

  7. Every time I started a journal, I kept it up for at least 21 days, I would quit. (loved The Artist's Way or a similar book for getting me started on morning pages and actually thought I might get to doing some real writing.) But it all seemed like whining and I was afraid someone would read my most secret thoughts...thoughts I wanted no one to have about me.
    I'm a Scorpio, a secret keeper.

  8. I enjoy finding my old writings (pre computer) from time to time. Unfortunately, the Mrs. keep relegating my things to darker and darker places like the attic or bonus room closet.

    Maybe she would let me keep them out if I designed them as well as you do.

    Enjoy your day.

  9. How very cool--not only to make them but to save them and reflect on how you approach writing those daily thoughts/events.
    I wish I was more faithful about this, but I'm not. The best I can do is keep 3 journals, one for each of my sons, where I write them occasional letters about the people they are at that time in life.

  10. There is something about writing longhand on a fresh page that brings out things we didn't know we thought or felt. I haven't done it in a long time, but I have a lovely new journal just waiting for me to get back into the practice.

  11. What a blissful morning! I, too, am a sporadic journal keeper. Will have to test your 21-day theory; I've never made it that far. So impressed that you make your own, which keeps them part of you.

    Thanks for stopping by the window. Happy New Year!

  12. Okay, you are hardcore! I journaled here and there in life, and then they were tucked away...and when I have occasionally pulled them out, I've been embarrassed by what I wrote, by who I was. Yet, of course, I'm terribly glad to have them. No denying who and how I've been. I'm just glad not to be sad or desperate or lonely any more. If I still journaled, the entries would be much more joyous these last years compared to my teens and early twenties.

    I'm so glad the process does so much for you, that you have journaling as not only an activity but even as a kind of companion.

  13. Warm Greetings from the cold Warsaw. Have a look at the new photo album.

  14. Geez, this remarkable post brings back memories of my journal-writing years. A string of excessively stressful years are likely the cause for my ceasing journaling. Yours look amazing, and I wouldn't be surprised that sometime in the future they will be very meaningful to family members. Your writing about writing in them was meaningful to me!

  15. I finally found a way for your posts to show up in my Reader, so I'm now commenting on the ones that are past that I didn't read. I started to keep a food journal back in the early 1980s and wrote (and filled) sixteen journals over the next decade. I keep them in a special place in my bedroom and every once in awhile I'll pick one up and read it. Sometimes I'm embarrassed by what I wrote (how naive I was, ya know) but now and then there's a portrait of a parent now gone that makes me cry. Now everything is done on a keyboard, but I loved the feeling of writing back then. Now my handwriting feels cramped and stilted from disuse. :-)


Let me know what you think. Every word you write, I appreciate.


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