Archive for April, 2020

The Gift of Time

April 24, 2020

 

April 23, 2020

Still alive, still healthy, still working (hunkering down in my bookstore…all alone), I have allowed myself to have a few hours of free time devoted to wandering here and there around the home castle and puttering like a honeybee in a hive looking for a job that pleases her fancy.   What’s a diarist to do during coronavirus lockdown besides write about it?  Answer:  re-read your old journals.

Since it was around the anniversary of my brother’s death on my mother’s April 15th birthday, I pulled out this 1998 diary.  Yes, it says “addresses,” but I have frequently re-purposed other bound books.  This one had glossy pages with pictures of horticultural interest.  I am also a gardener and a houseplant collector.

I discover many things when I take a look back at my life.   First, I am grateful for the opportunity to read a portrait of my former self and my life experiences, in my own words, expressed and written when it happened.  Who can remember the past so exactly from memory?  Can you remember what you looked like as a teenager except through old photos?  It is the same with a written record.  Memory changes things, generally a whitewash.  You forget what you said, or did.  You color it brighter or darker than it was.  The details fade.  When I re-read I exclaim “oh,” and “oh,” and I am astonished.  I remember the truth.

Second, I see that I wasn’t such a bad writer.  All journals are “first draft.”  No revisions.  The thoughts spring from deep within your psyche, free flowing, with no censor.  The writing follows no rules as to form or content.  There should be a separate category of literature just for journals.  But there isn’t.  We diarists are the illegitimate offspring of the writers’ world.

My brother died of complications from meningitis overlaid on a lifetime of alcoholism.  He died conveniently on my mother’s birthday as his parting shot.   It took him 55 years to complete death by alcohol and a hedonistic lifestyle.   I laughed out loud at his funeral because the minister (who did not know him) made some mistakes while describing his stellar life. The pages of writing I did about my brother’s death and my feelings about him were the most honest eulogy anyone could have written.   I never hated him.  My love seeps through the writing even though I said some bad things about him.

There were other things in that journal, such as some clear signs that my partner was unhappy with all the work on the farm and would be leaving me for a life of freedom and new horizons.  There was joy, as well.  I re-lived the birth of my memorable buck goat, Hemingway, and his sister, Anais.  (It was a literary names year on the farm.)

The third benefit of looking back in your diaries is you discover the actual date of when something happened.  Now I extract those dates to prepare for the creation of a timeline of my life.  Someday, if I ever retire, I may finish that project.

So, if you are looking for something to do during the pandemic’s “gift of time,” I highly recommend becoming a time-traveler and diving into your old journals for the memories and insights. You will be rewarded.

I Should Have Chosen the Red One

April 20, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

I should have chosen the red one. Instead, on March 13th, I selected this blank book with the Tiffany cover, which is far too pretty and small for a pandemic. We were at about 5,700 people infected with the coronavirus in the US at that time, 640,000 now. I am at 116 pages so far—about half way—and will be done with it before the crisis is over.

I hope that you are writing your story. Coronavirus and You. Cornavirus in your city. A month, week, or day by day account. Write the history, write the truth of it. See it, feel it, taste the experience. Make a record of it for future generations, or for yourself in old age.

Some of our diaries will survive, like the diaries from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the dust bowl of the 1930s, the children’s blizzard of 1888, or the Galveston hurricane of 1900 that killed over 6,000 people. You don’t learn history from the textbooks. That’s all whitewashed and scrubbed clean until it has lost all the flavor and truth it ever had. Primary source. That’s us.

We need thousands of stories. Front line stories: nurses, EMTs, firefighters, or those infected and scared. Who among us has been hit hard, who can barely survive, and who has escaped damage – financial, emotional, social? So many stories, but only you can tell it from where you stand.

While we reach out to connect with friends and reconnect with old friends during this historic pandemic, it is also a good time to reconnect with ourselves—the person we are today who may have become something of a stranger during the normal busyness of our lives.

When did you last have time to be alone with that person without all of the daily distraction of our modern society? To reflect on who that character is in relation to the other characters in your own story, your novel? We are “writing” the book of our life even if we do not keep a diary.

Now we have an excuse. A lost job or a closed business. A lockdown. Maybe you are facing poverty and struggling to survive, yet luckily still healthy and not yet at the primal level of survival. If you can motivate yourself in the face of an uncertain future to get out of bed, off the couch, there’s a gift here—the gift of time to do all those things you said you never had time for, the gift of “slow-time” to look around you and appreciate what you do have.

Although I have been meditating and journaling for years, the coronavirus pandemic is a unique experience. Looking at the specter of the grim reaper, being reminded that our days are numbered, and knowing that tomorrow is never a given, it is a moment to step back and see if I am still heading in the direction I want and if my priorities are straight.

It is also a chance to record an individual perspective on this chapter in history. I am the author of this book and I will tell it like it is for me.


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